Fuel becomes a critical commodity in natural disasters as evacuating Floridians discovered in preparing for Hurricane Irma. As the following article reports, the GasBuddy mobile app came to the rescue by providing more than just price information for desperate drivers.
As Hurricane Irma rushed toward a Florida landfall, GasBuddy Organization Inc., a company previously known only for helping drivers find the lowest fuel prices, raced to put a lesson learned from Harvey just a week earlier into action. A run on gas at stations in South Texas after Harvey struck convinced Walt Doyle, the company’s chief executive officer and a former venture capitalist at Highland Capital Partners, that GasBuddy needed to quickly expand its offerings to help Florida as it readied for Irma. The goal: Re-engineer their mobile app in a single night to help drivers escaping the storm identify which stations had run out of fuel, or had lost their electricity.
“At a time of crisis, people go to their fuel stations,” said Doyle, 50, who was named chief executive officer at GasBuddy at the start of last year. “It’s the tip of the spear. You never really think about it until things are really bad.” Twenty web developers in Boston and Saskatchewan went to work, sustained by rounds of pizza. The result: Florida Governor Rick Scott, in a news conference just before Irma struck the state, praised the company for its usefulness in helping drivers evacuate.
It’s an addition with staying power for future disasters, according to Doyle. “Fuel is almost a currency,” he said in a telephone interview Monday. According to GasBuddy, roughly 40 percent of fuel stations are still out of gas in Florida as millions evacuated days in advance of Hurricane Irma’s arrival this past weekend. The outages have been exasperated by ports closed around the Sunshine State, preventing new fuel shipments from getting into the market.
GasBuddy, which launched 17 years ago, relies on users to say what the price of gas is at stations across the country, handling about 2 million submissions a day, according to its website. Headquartered in Boston, the company has offices in San Diego, Washington, as well as Canada and Australia.
GasBuddy recently launched a payment feature to its mobile app which has now reached critical mass among consumers and gas station operators alike. C-stores and gas station complexes are becoming a sweet spot for merchant loyalty programs with integrated features including payment, geolocation, and targeted marketing offers. Now, GasBuddy has developed a potential game-changing tool that helps storm evacuees find available gas supplies on fast exits out of harm’s way.
Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group
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