Plowme.com optimizes routes

Snowed in? This on-demand service will dig you out

Anybody who lives around Boston knows how important a good, reliable snow removal service is. Lately such a service has been hard to find, since the area’s been hit with more than 72 inches of snow in 30 days. (And it’s snowing again as I type this. Yikes.)

Routing snow plows so that they can concentrate their efforts in a smaller area  and help more customers faster (plus make more money) is a problem that Boston-based Plowme.com is attacking. And, based on reviews from some [company]Facebook[/company] friends who used it recently, it’s doing a pretty great job.

Founder and CEO Yeh Diab disputes the notion that this is “Uber for snowplows”  because the focus is more on providers than consumers. Plowme.com wants to help get the most from (and give the most benefit to) drivers based on the routes they already know. Face it, if a driver can plow out 4 driveways within a one-mile radius, it’s a lot more efficient for everyone than clearing a driveway in Newton and driving 10 miles (which can take an hour or more currently) to Natick.

Delivery routes may be profoundly unsexy but are also incredibly important to optimize service delivery. And there are ways to build dense, efficient routes, to cut down excess unnecessary driving that amounts to downtime, Diab said in an interview.

We’re not Uber

Uber is all about real-time demand, whereas Plowme.com “thinks in future time,” Diab said. “Who’s coming here [during the storm] tomorrow.”Plowme.com also provides a way for existing businesses — mostly lawn care or landscaping providers who also do snow removal in their off-season to parlay the system even trade routes with other contractors if that’s optimal, he said.

boston blizzard

The current website, an application built with Rails and PostgreSQL atop Heroku, lets a potential customer key in her zip code. If there is a provider in the area, she can then book the service after supplying a few key metrics like how many cars fit in the driveway.

“If we have no coverage, the zip code is greyed out,” Diab said. “You have to be disciplined, focused on getting people out the day of the storm. It’s a hard logistics problem but it’s better to say sorry at the beginning than after the fact.”

Currently Plowme.com, founded three years ago as an offshoot of Diab’s other company ServiceRoute, has about 300 contractors — all of whom check in at least once a month. It’s handled more than 1,000 calls in the past few weeks.

Right now drivers can check a web-based application on their phones for bookings. Plans call for native apps that will include Uber-like tracking. Right now Plowme.com is helping to create interactions to increase delivery density. Other entrepreneurs including Routific and foxtrot.io  are working to optimize routes after those interactions are set up, Diab added.