By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
When Gretchen Deveaux needed to find a driver’s program for her 17-year-old son, she signed up for Aceable.
“I needed something that was flexible,” she said. “My son is a football player and he is always at practice. I couldn’t take him back and forth to a class.”
So her son enrolled in Aceable’s program and passed a test to get his permit after 12 lessons.
Deveaux, a widow with five children in Houston, liked the program’s flexibility, price and convenience. She’s got a 15-year-old son who is also taking the Aceable driver’s education course. Austin-based Aceable created the first driver’s education program available for mobile phones as an iPhone app.
“He always has his cell phone with him,” Deveaux said. “He just kind of flew through it. I liked that I could check on his progress on my phone.”
Her son has his permit now and he should be eligible at the end of this month to take his driver’s test.
Aceable launched its driver’s education app a year ago, said Blake Garrett, its CEO and founder. The startup, based at Capital Factory, has raised $1.1 million in venture capital and has 12 employees. They created the videos, tutorials, graphics, animations and other materials for their driver’s education courses. This month, Aceable launched a defensive driving course. The native app, Defensive Driving by Aceable is available on iOS and through the Aceable website to all Texas drivers as an alternative to classroom-based and web-based defensive driving courses.
Every teenager takes a driver’s education course, but the experience fell short of what teenagers expected, Garrett said
“I knew we could deliver something different,” he said.
Since Aceable launched its driver’s education program in May of last year, 30,000 people have signed up for it, Garrett said. The program costs $100 and it particularly appeals to teenagers who constantly have their mobile phones with them, he said. The driver’s education program contains 32 hours of instruction and students are limited to two hours a day. After the first six hours, the student is able to get their driving permit.
“It’s just a modern take on what has become an antiquated industry,” he said.
Aceable is only available in Texas but the company has plans to expand to other states this year, Garrett said. Still, they are tackling a big market in Texas with 600,000 people taking defensive driving each year and 300,000 taking driver’s education.
Aceable’s biggest online competitors are the American Safety Council and IDriveSafely.com. But Aceable differentiates itself from the competition by offering an iPhone app and by creating its own program content.
Andrea Kalmans, an angel investor, entrepreneur and mentor at Capital Factory, took Aceable’s defensive driving course after getting a speeding ticket. She liked the app’s convenience and ease of use.
“It really allows you to do it in relatively short stints,” Kalmans said. “I did it when I was having my hair done.”
She also liked the course content.
“The course is fun because they have a nice sense of humor,” she said. “They take what can be dull content and they make it interesting.”
After she completed the course, the company mailed her certificate to her within a few days.
“It’s funny how learning has changed from the classroom to videos to the desktop and now to a phone,” she said.
Dan Henry, an angel investor in Aceable, liked the idea and business model.
“I really bought into Blake, the founder,” Henry said. “He’s the kind of guy I believe that has good idea, good business sense, good ego and the tenacity to make it a success.”
The Aceable team is transforming an industry with great content and they are making it a lot easier for the student, Henry said. They plan to roll out the mobile driver’s education program to 23 other states and then they may branch into other mobile online education program, Henry said.
“I think they’ve created some great tools,” he said.