MANHATTAN — Talk about a sweet ride.
A proposal to install vending machines in yellow cabs took home the top prize at the city’s third annual "NYC Next Idea" competition, a battle royale between aspiring entrepreneurs.
"TaxiTreats" is the brainchild of Tomas Grosskopf, of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Brian Shimmerlik, of New York University's Stern School of Business, who hope to improve the passenger experience by offering treats and other items inside the backs of cabs.
"New Yorkers, we’re busy, we’re late to a meeting, we don’t have for breakfast,” Shimmerlik said of the idea, which was borne from a belief that, while it was once a pioneer in the taxi industry, the city has lagged behind when it comes to transportation technology.
The team's machine would "fit seamlessly into the car" and offer a host of items for New Yorker on the go, he said.
While no final decisions have been made, the team is currently considering including sample-size Advil, 5-hour Energy shots, small granola bars, gum and mints, based on their popularity at local stores like Duane Reade and the potential "profit per cubic inch," Shimmerlik said.
Payments would either be made through the machine, or tacked onto cab fares so passengers would only have to pay once.
Shimmerlik said he hopes to be able to launch a pilot program, partnering with one of the taxi TV companies, and would love to see cabbies get a cut of the profits, too.
But don’t expect to be reaching for the Skittles or Altoids just yet.
"We love the students’ ingenuity. EDC’s Next Idea is a great initiative and it is clearly inspiring some great thinking. I don’t know if this is something we’ll ever see in a taxicab, but I congratulate the students on the strength of their ideas and for their success in the competition," said David Yassky, who runs the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.
As part of their prize, the startup team will receive $17,500 in cash to launch their business plan, as well as six months of free office space somewhere in New York.
A total of 270 ideas were submitted from 62 countries.
The contest's international prize went to a team from Canada that developed an app that allows online shoppers to visualize how clothing will fit their bodies. Other finalists included an app for putting rarely used goods up for rent and a nonprofit fashion label that would produce and market products designed by kids.
"With the number of submissions growing each year, NYC Next Idea continues to generate tremendous interest from cutting-edge innovators, encouraging them to start their businesses right here in New York City," New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky said in a statement.
Last year’s winner developed software that was capable of verifying whether or not a digital image had been altered in Photoshop.