Brown-based startup maps safer routes for cyclists

THE NAVIGATION APP company Pointz closed its pre-seed funding round earlier this month and currently plans to launch its app on the Apple and Google Play stores in November. Above, Chief Technology Officer Trisha Ballakur (left) and CEO Maggie Bachenberg (right), co-founders of Pointz. / COURTESY POINTZ

PROVIDENCE A new navigation app catered to cyclists and created by Brown University students is on track for a public release later this fall. 

Pointz, co-founded by CEO Maggie Bachenberg and Chief Technology Officer Trisha Ballakur, both seniors at Brown University, maps out safer routes for bikes and other micromobility vehicles, such as scooters and skateboards. 

The idea for the app came about during a cross-country bike trip Bachenberg completed during a gap year, when she noticed that the best bike routes were often recommendations from locals. 

“I had a lot of locals redirect me to safe paths that often didn’t have as much car or truck traffic,” Bachenberg said. “Obviously, as someone not familiar with the area, I didn’t know which roads to take.” 

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Pointz aims to put this local insight at users’ fingertips, connecting riders with a “quiet network” of low-stress roads, such as residential streets or roads with bike lanes

The app assigns roads a bike-friendliness rating on a scale of 1-5 using a combination of open-source data and crowdsourcing, and bases this rating on factors such as speed limits and the width of a road’s shoulder.  

In addition to rating the road for safety, users can also flag potential hazards and points of interest. Bachenberg has described the app as “Waze for bikes.” 

Pointz closed its pre-seed funding round earlier this month with a boost from Oregon-based Rogue Venture Partners, which invested an undisclosed amount from its core fund and Rogue Women’s Fund.  

Pointz is the firm’s first investment in Rhode Island, according to Rogue Managing Partner Tom Sperry, and the firm intends to expand its presence in the state. Rogue focuses on startups with high-growth potential throughout the country. 

Pointz connected with Rogue through RIHub’s Rhode Island Startup Weekend, where the team presented in a pitch competition and caught the attention of a Rogue scout.  The app is also a 2021 finalist for Get Started Rhode Island and a member of the MassChallenge Rhode Island cohort. 

Over 300 beta users currently use Pointz, with around 450 people on its waitlist. The eight-person team behind the app consists mostly of Brown students. 

The Pointz team plans to launch the app on the Apple and Google Play stores in November and will continue to work on a premium version of the app planned for release next spring. With the premium version, users will be able to access features such as the ability to save and share routes or connect a bike computer to the app. 

In addition to bike-friendliness ratings, the app display includes features such as distance remaining to a destination, turn-by-turn directions and the distance before an upcoming turn.  

The team has currently created maps for around 60 cities and towns across the country.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com. 

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