Raleigh startup Yillio upgrades its app, adopts new strategy

Raleigh startup Yillio, which is seeking to attract a business partner or license the technology behind its mobile app for drivers, has upgraded its offering to include electronic vehicle charging stations nationwide.

Tesla owners with a 250-mile driving range can use the app, also called Yillio, to create a cross-country route that will take them past the charging stations they need to make the trip, said CEO Reid Overcash.

“It adds an additional level of completeness,” Overcash said. The app’s processing speed and user interface also has been upgraded.

Yillio’s app, which first became available as a beta version last year, enables users to easily find restaurants and shopping along a particular route – including features such as information on daily specials offered by restaurants and service stations that are selling the cheapest gas. Merchants can sign up to be included on Yillio for free, but they have to pay on a per-click basis to promote themselves with coupons and photos.

The app now includes about 12,000 electronic charging stations, 180,000 locations that sell gas and more than 1 million “other points of interest,” Overcash said.

Founded in 2012, Yillio has eight full-time employees and has raised about $1 million in funding from “friends and family” to date. But Overcash has concluded that the costs of attracting users have risen so fast that it makes sense to pursue an alternative strategy.

“It is very hard and extremely expensive to grow a mobile user network,” he said. “I mean the costs have gone up to $2 to $5 per user. We would have had to have raised $20 million to $30 million to get this thing really off the ground.”

The new strategy includes licensing the technology, which is patented, or land a larger partner that would want to incorporate Yillio into an existing app.

“We’ve been scouting about and talking to people,” he said. “Nothing to announce at this point, but I think we’ve got some good discussions going on.”

The company also is “talking to a couple of groups about further funding, but I’m hoping that maybe we find a good partner prior to doing that,” he said.

So far, “a few thousand users” have downloaded Yillio.

“We haven’t promoted it,” Overcash said. “We were looking more to attach ourselves to somebody that already has a big user base. It’s more a business-to-business strategy than it is a consumer strategy.”

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii