Here Comes the Train

Udi Sharir Co-Founder & CTO, Save A Train. Photo Credit Anthony Upton

Udi Sharir Co-Founder & CTO, Save A Train. Photo Credit Anthony Upton

Israeli startup company SAVE A TRAIN is one of the eight finalists in the recent Visa’s Everywhere Initiative innovation contest

Udi Sharir Co-Founder & CTO, Save A Train. Photo Credit Anthony Upton
Udi Sharir Co-Founder & CTO, Save A Train. Photo Credit Anthony Upton

The Israeli startup SAVE A TRAIN grew out of a real need. The company enables connection between railways’ ticketing system and the traveler and enables him to benefit from discounts given even after he has purchased the ticket. SAVE A TRAIN is one of the eight companies to have made it to the finals in Visa’s recent Everywhere Initiative program. The contestants were invited to introduce payment solutions in three categories, using the Visa API interfaces, where the winning groups were even given the opportunity to make use of them. SAVE A TRAIN competed in the Regional Intercity Challenge category.

In Israel there is a fixed tariff between any two railway stations, but in other countries, especially in Europe, a train is priced exactly like an airplane, so that the price fluctuates from day to day according to supply and demand, with promotions and the like. Udi Sharir lived in France for awhile and he noticed that the prices he was paying were always more expensive than what other passengers were paying for the exact same route. “This made me angry and that’s how the idea came about. How to save the train passengers money so they won’t be paying more than they have to”.

And what does an Israeli do when he gets angry? He sets up a startup. That is how SAVE A TRAIN came into being.

“The global railways market is estimated at about $160 billion per year, of which $46 billion are in Europe alone.” says Sharir. “As in the airplane industry, train prices also fluctuate. We know how to predict how many passengers there will be on each journey and we also know how to do a calculation according to an index of the number of passengers per kilometer traveled – which is what interests the consumers. We help the railway operators increase occupancy and we help the passengers save”.

Sharir adds, “In many cases the train companies are still government enterprises and the financial interest is not always the driving criterion for the pricing policy – social considerations also play a part. There are economies that subsidize railway travel to save on building other transport infrastructures.

“We have developed six products, where one of them enables the customer to be reimbursed if the ticket price got reduced after he has purchased it. He receives the refund as a credit toward his next journey, rather than in cash, and therefore the system also facilitates strengthening of customer loyalty. We started working with the Italian railway company, TRENITALIA, and we will soon be working with the Dutch NS railway company.

“Visa will be glad to penetrate the hottest market in the tourist industry, where the online service penetration level is low. This is also a market very few people understand, and it is therefore important for them to find experts in the field who will be able to enter it with a substantial footprint”, says Sharir.

The company is located in Ramat HaSharon, it employs seven employees and has so far raised half a million dollars from private investors.

Oded Salomy, General Manager of Visa in Israel, said: “SAVE A TRAIN was among 8 Israeli companies that reached the finals and competed for the prizes against another 7 young companies from Europe. The competition was tough but the contestants stood out with their innovative ideas, their advanced technologies and solutions, which will be altering the way people buy and use money”.

Bill Gajda, Visa’s Executive VP for Innovation and Strategic partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said: “We looked for, and are continuing to look for a broad range of Fintech solutions. In places like Tel Aviv, Berlin and London there are lots of companies working in these fields.

“Israel is strong in many technologies, nor just in what traditionally is related to security. Israel is emerging as a world leader in biometrics and now a vibrant bitcoin community is also forming there. And even generally speaking there are lots of good Israeli Fintech companies we would like to work with and accelerate their development”.



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