Dash Tabor 3

Dash Tabor’s ‘lightbulb moment’ came pre-pandemic as she spent yet another morning journey to work with her face wedged in a stranger’s armpit. Since then, she has drawn on customer research, a supportive personal network and a deep passion to solve the problem of overcrowding on trains, to create the free-to-download TUBR app, which is fast becoming a commuter essential as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.

“I thought there has to be another way,” Dash Tabor, the creator of TUBR, says. “I thought, in the 21st Century we must be able to make it easier for people to move around and stand back from the crowd.”

Dash is one of a rising number of entrepreneurs to launch a business during the pandemic, with her fledgling company's TUBR app already helping hundreds of Londoners returning to offices following more than a year of homeworking. For Dash, helping them feel more confident on their daily train commute has become her primary aim.

TUBR uses cutting-edge technology and algorithms that provide the most up-to-date information on footfall at London tube stations. Users are able to see the areas that are most congested and either choose another route or change their time of travel. 

Plans are already underway to expand the service to other cities, including Manchester, after the company's research showed train users were “very anxious” about returning to public transport post lockdown. Just 10% said they felt “relaxed” about their commute. 

Investing in research from the start is paying off for Dash. After her 'lightbulb moment', she started paying attention to what time she'd leave the house and realised that a mere minute made a huge impact on the experience she had on the Capital's Underground.

She explains: “It sparked a question: why wasn't data solving this problem for me? Why wasn't there an app telling me how to travel to get the best experience for me?”

Dash started conducted surveys, which showed that she wasn't the only one who wanted this problem solved. 

Working with Nikhil Kanta, Chief Technical Officer, and Kelly Pollard, Chief Customer Officer, the trio set about creating their TUBR app.

“Crowding on a public transport system presents a unique challenge because the flow of data can be inconsistent and sparse over a period of time. We set out to solve this problem as part of our solution," Dash explains.

She continues: “I am passionate because I am the user. I am able to build something that can fundamentally change the way we move around cities for the better. We can optimise every minute and fall back in love with the public transport systems that we can't live without. We can enjoy our commute and overcrowding can be avoided.”

Dash admits that she has had to sacrifice a lot of time, energy and savings to the business. 

"We're a little bootstrapped business and have only raised capital through friends and family so far.

"The disadvantages are that it means we can’t grow as quickly as we may wish. On the plus side, I have a team who allow me to really innovate.

"We've built a really unique technical solution to solve the problem that so many haven't tackled yet. And the best part is the technology can be applied to other areas. I have invested most of my savings but the biggest sacrifice has probably been the amount of time needed to drive success to a bootstrapped business.

"Thankfully, I have a very supportive partner who keeps me fed and energised.”

Despite the challenges starting a business in the pandemic has thrown up, Dash is also quick to note the advantages. 

She says: “In some ways the world being remote has been a really positive thing for me. I can reach a lot more people and need less time to travel. In other ways I've found things to be very direct and to the point, which saves time but can also mean less bonding in normal relationship-building ways.

"TUBR, in some ways, has been my shining light through this whole thing.”

Explaining her aims for the short, mid and long-term, Dash concludes: “We want to grow fast and smart, expand to other areas where we've seen demand and transform the way we think about planning our daily travel. We're already looking at new cities, including Manchester. 

"Long term, we see ourselves as a tech company that builds insightful solutions for the world's 'smaller' data problems. We want the app to be your travel assistant for giving you control over the experience you want to have.

"Right now we provide crowding predictions. But as we develop, we'll offer individualised suggestions for when to travel in order to get the experience you most desire.”

The free TUBR app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Key takeaways

  • Investing in research helped identify the extent of the problem of overcrowding at London tube stations and the lack of existing solutions, helping TUBR understand the app's likely appeal and plan for future growth.
  • There can be positive aspects to bootstrapping a business, for example the freedom to retain full control and explore innovative solutions without the pressure of having a loan or large investors.
  • Inspiration can strike at any time - even when you're stuck under an armpit! Don't write off an idea just because you would think that there must already be a solution to it. You might be surprised when you look into it.
  • Find out how your business can access free market research resources from Launchpad on UMi's new platform
Contributed by Nick Owens
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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