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Class Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

Entrepreneur's Corner: Sigalert.com
Joel Johnstone, ’88, and Jonathan Berke, ’90


High Tech Travel Tips

A cement truck overturns on I-15, a crane collapses at the I-5/805 merge. These may be traffic nightmares for the rest of us but they are the bread and butter of Sigalert.com. For $2.95 per month or $19.95 per year Sigalert.com provides personalized traffic reports that give each subscriber the fastest route from home to office. And hopefully a way to avoid the latest thrills and spills on their next commute.

Joel Johnstone, ’88, and Jonathan Berke, ’90, started their
two-man company in 1998, working nights and weekends. In 2001, the Carlsbad company where they were employed moved to the Bay Area and they chose to stay in San Diego and develop Sigalert.com fulltime.

They pull their data, which includes crash reports from the CHP and updates from Caltrans’s speed sensors, from the state agencies, and then process it. “The CHP incident reports are filled with cryptic codes, acronyms, and abbreviations. We automatically expand these to make the reports more readable,” says Berke. “In addition, the Caltrans data actually comes from multiple sources, which
we aggregate to produce the information we show on our site.”

Although the company was initially conceived as a call-in service it quickly became web-based. Now their paid subscribers can receive text-message alerts.

In the last 2 years, their annual revenues have quadrupled to $400,000 and they have 10,000 paid subscribers. Last year, nearly 5 million people visited the site and more than 100,000 signed up for their two-week free trial. Even though their subscriber base is growing their major revenue stream still comes from the millions of ads they display every month on their site. These range from 21st Century Insurance to truck driving schools to plastic surgeons. Television stations in San Diego and Los Angeles also buy the service.

So next time you wake up in a sweat contemplating your
morning mega-muddle at the merge, remember there’s sigalert.

— Marnette Federis, ’06, Raymond Hardie

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