Christopher Riley, CEO and founder of TIKD, and Tim Berthold, COO, are shown at their offices in Coral Gables. TIKD is a tech startup that will fight traffic tickets and offer a no-points guarantee. PATRICK FARRELL email@example.com
By Nancy Dahlberg / firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you ever just want to make that speeding ticket go away but didn’t want the hassle of fighting it?
TIKD.com, a new South Florida tech startup, says it will do it for you, save you a little money, and perhaps prevent an argument with your spouse. And it promises you no points on your record, guaranteed, which could save you from a costly insurance hike (and another argument with your spouse).
In this on-demand economy, there’s an app for just about everything. In this case, TIKD.com is a web application so there is no app to download, and the entire process takes two minutes or less, the company says. A consumer can upload a photo of a ticket, get a response on what the consumer will pay TIKD for services — always less than the ticket cost — and TIKD takes it from there. It’s the last payment a consumer will have to make, TIKD says.
As with many start-up stories, this one spawned from the founder’s own experience — in this case, getting nailed in a Coral Gables speed trap. Christopher Riley wanted to fight it but didn’t want to go through the hassle of hiring a lawyer or spending multiple hours in traffic court. Yes, he thought there had to be the proverbial better way – through technology.
“We want to take the stress away,” said Riley. “We hope people will view this as a cheaper, simpler alternative to just paying it.”
"As a tech entrepreneur who has started other companies, Riley put the power of big data to work. In the company’s research stage, TIKD.com parsed government data on traffic tickets, every which way, gaining insight into who gets tickets and how they are settled. It also confirmed what consumers may already surmise: Most tickets that are challenged do get dismissed (and that has spawned a whole industry of ticket lawyers).
Next, TIKD’s tech team built an algorithm that can quickly digest the details of a ticket and predict chances of a dismissal. The consumer uploads a photo of the ticket, answers a few basic questions and within a minute or two will learn if the ticket is accepted and what TIKD will charge to challenge it. “We have a pretty sophisticated model for how we look at the tickets and what we think will happen,’ Riley said.
The consumer pays a price that is typically 15 to 30 percent off the traffic ticket; TIKD assumes the risk and hires the lawyer. In the event that the decision doesn’t go the consumer’s way, TIKD will refund the consumers’ payment and will pay the ticket and all court costs.
TIKD won’t accept tickets from minors, cases with accidents or injuries, or those involving alcohol or drugs. It will also decline certain major infractions: If you are caught drag racing down I-95, TIKD isn’t likely to help you out.
Because this company is just getting started, it’s service currently is only offered in Miami-Dade. TIKD says it plans to expand nationally next year. In its beta testing, TIKD put several dozen tickets through the system; so far all have been dismissed without points on the consumers’ records, potentially saving them thousands in higher insurance costs, according to the company. TIKD has been mainly self-funded by Riley, who plans to raise funds for a national expansion.
Riley’s chief of operations, Tim Berthold, was his classmate at the U.S. Naval Academy. Riley, a former Naval officer with a Harvard MBA, has started other tech companies and is currently also president of Guzman Energy. Berthold, who holds a Wharton MBA, has a background in business development and management consulting; he has consulted with a number of startups and hosts the Miami Hussle Series podcast. They have a tech team in Austin, Texas, have hired a marketing firm, and employ a small group to do back office work in Coral Gables.
TIKD contracts with a network of licensed and experienced ticket lawyers to do the legal wrangling.
Riley and Berthold say TIKD’s market is not the 5 percent or so of people nationally who challenge their tickets. They say it is the other 95 percent, what they call the “just-pay crowd.” In Miami-Dade, the population apparently has more fight in them, so about 80 percent just pay, Riley said. Tickets are public record, so if you get a ticket in Miami-Dade and later in other cities, you’ll likely hear from TIKD, said Berthold, who said the company plans to launch a brand marketing campaign as well.
TIKD has a couple of competitors, such as Off the Record, that match up consumers with ticket lawyers. But Riley said he knows of no rivals with the same business model as TIKD. “Our difference is that we also take on the liability of our customers’ tickets, so the customer always pays less than their fine and only pays once,” Riley said. “We have more incentive to fight and win versus simply avoid points since we take on the fine and court costs.”
"Because TIKD is targeting consumers who would pay rather than fight, TIKD is expanding, not contracting, the market for ticket lawyers, Riley said. “Lawyers in the trenches challenging these tickets see this as an opportunity. To the extent we’re successful getting the just-pay crowd, we are making the market bigger and we are making more business for these folks,” Riley said.
And the police and government who make revenue from these tickets? “They aren’t going to love it,” Riley concedes.
Of course, the impact on revenue will hinge on how many consumers actually use the service. TIKD’s team has run into a road block in initial marketing: People think it is too good to be true.
Jennifer Paccilli fell into that camp — at first. After she received a flyer in the mail that said TIKD would be launching soon, she checked the website about a week later and TIKD was live. “It was very appealing to me that this process with TIKD could be done completely online,” said Paccilli, 34, who had used Ticket Clinic once and found the process cumbersome because it involved phone calls and trips to the post office.
As advertised, TIKD kept her updated every step of the way, including when her case went to court, with reassurances everything was being handled by TIKD. Her expired registration ticket was dismissed, she said. ‘It was so ridiculously easy... I never expected this to be one of the nicest customer service experiences I have ever had.”
Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg
Did you know?
In Miami-Dade County, according to state data on traffic tickets:
Most common moving violation: Red light camera tickets. 161,490 issued in 2015, up from 103,432 in 2014.
2nd most common: Speeding. 89,637 issued in 2015.
Gender that gets the most tickets: Males (about 65 percent)
Age group that gets the most tickets: 25-29 year olds (almost 17 percent)
Average ticket cost: $188
Average tickets per traffic stop: 1.4
Most likely day to get a ticket: Monday