Travel startup helps students get home for Thanksgiving

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Two recent UC Berkeley graduates are offering a shuttle from Berkeley to the San Francisco and Oakland airports for as little as $10 to promote a startup they began shortly after graduating.

Co-founders David Litwak and JJ Metzinger met in the campus fraternity Alpha Tau Omega. Their website Mozio, which officially launched in October, aims to help travelers solve the “final mile” problem of traveling to and from the airport by aggregating information about services like taxis, limos, public transit and shuttles.

Litwak, Mozio’s CEO, graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in spring 2011. Metzinger, the chief technology officer, got his degree in computer science in winter 2012.

“Getting home to family and friends shouldn’t be stressful, especially getting to the airport,” the Mozio website reads. “That’s why we are happy to offer university students a discounted shuttle bus service to SFO or OAK.”

The shuttle buses will come to Channing Circle on Piedmont Avenue on Tuesday and Wednesday next week in time for Thanksgiving break.

“We thought it would be a way to give back to Berkeley and spread the word about us,” Metzinger said.

Metzinger said he and Litwak understand that college students and recent graduates don’t necessarily have money to “throw down,” so Mozio set the shuttle price as low as it could.

Mozio began in July 2011 when Litwak quit his job and became the startup’s first and only employee for five months, until Metzinger graduated and started working with him. Litwak said he had the privilege of getting a crash course in just about everything.

“It’s a lot different from a sorority invite,” Litwak said.

So far, the company has raised about $185,000, including money from the chairman of the travel site Orbitz. The goal is to have Mozio equipped to offer easily comparable details of the costs of transportation to and from the 40 most used airports in the U.S. by the end of 2012.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Natalie Gavello is one of the people signed up to take the bus to SFO. She said she liked the idea because it supports Berkeley graduates. She typically takes the bus to BART to get to the airport, but Mozio’s offer is making the trip much more convenient, she said.

“I hope their services continue,” Gavello said.

The inspiration for Mozio was born from Litwak’s own travel experience. He has been to nearly 65 countries and said he has spent every single college break in a different country. He noticed that there were some difficulties with traveling that went beyond what existing travel service sites could help with, like finding a flight or renting a car.

“We want our product to be the tool to figure how to get to and from airports,” Litwak said. “We’re really hoping that when people travel, they use us.”

Contact Shannon Carroll at [email protected].