To the extent that anyone has been able to think beyond a few days in the future for the past year, much of the thought has been about how to return to the world as it was pre-COVID, when basic human contact wasn’t a cause for concern and possibly quarantine. But what if we never make it back to that world?
Transportation in the years preceding 2020 was transformed by ride-sharing, but the new health and economic realities thrust upon us leave it an open question if even those now make sense, as our collective trauma might scare all but the most courageous from sharing a car with a stranger.
A new post-COVID world will require some new thinking for most aspects of public life, transportation included. On that subject, I spoke with Stew Langille, founder & CEO of Float Mobility. Stew is no stranger to startups, having served as an executive with Mint.com, and the founder of Visual.ly.
He offers insights into how his company is introducing new and innovative ideas beyond the basic ride-sharing model, how COVID has challenged the business, and how its model accommodates the very real concerns of riders about health and environmental impacts by offering previously unconsidered options.
Mary Juetten: What’s the name of your company and where are you based?
Stew Langille: The company is called Float Mobility and we’re primarily based in San Francisco, but originally we kicked off the company with an initial soft launch with a university in Singapore, where I was living at the time, and have since expanded into the wider market. San Francisco and Singapore are the perfect launch pads for Float: they’re technically advanced societies that rely heavily on app-based services to get around, and they’re are ready for a service like Float to aggregate the many available options and serve it up in a way that helps them stay on top of their spending and be rewarded for smart travel. Float is officially two years old now but the concept has been in the works for a little longer.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Langille: The problem we all face is that the current transportation landscape is unsustainable. The world is not going back to pre-COVID behaviors. Riders have too many options available to them and the majority are still favoring the car as a primary mode of transportation. The car has the heaviest impact on both the urban environment with issues like traffic congestion and extended travel time and pollution. This issue is even more pressing in the post-COVID environment, as people are now afraid to use public transport for fear of possible contamination.
We’re entering an age of economic uncertainty and people are seeking alternatives as the era of the two-car household is coming to an end. People are looking into personal mobility devices (PMD), on-demand car subscriptions, or fractional car ownership.
Float’s overall goal is to improve quality of life for the world’s population by building the future global transportation platform, and giving control back to the user. Float aims to increase accessibility and personal choice by aggregating the many services a user has available to them, such as taxis, rideshare, public transit, bike or scooter on demand rental, or subscription-based car rental, all while providing visibility on the individual’s impact, such as how much money they’re spending on local transport, how much time they’re on the road, what their carbon footprint looks like and being provided a method they can get around safely.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Langille: Our customers are smart, tech-savvy, and love outsmarting travel challenges with the help of technology. They’re conscious of the bigger issues at play and their individual impact, but require the flexibility to fit their preferred mode of transport into their busy lifestyle. Our customers are always on the lookout for new solutions and are attracted to Float’s reward program, where they can make every ride count by getting rewarded with Float Points for traveling their way, whether it’s via taxi, rideshare, bike or scooter, even filling the gas tank — if they’re going to leave the house, they want to make it worth it. Points are then redeemable for cash and other vouchers.
Juetten: How did past projects and/or experience help with this new project?
Langille: I’ve spent the last decade building companies, the largest being Mint.com. It’s the understanding and learning from the success with Mint.com, the lesson being that customers are attracted to customizable data-driven solutions. It goes back to incentivizing the customer to improve their behavior for the better and reward them for being the best versions of themselves; they’re going to want to make those small changes that align with their beliefs. Helping the customer understand they don’t need to compare their behavior to others, who have different circumstances, and to understand that their personal decisions matter.
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Langille: Our core team is a cohesive working unit, with experience building products together. We’re a remote-first team based in San Francisco, Atlanta, Europe, Singapore and Vietnam with over 10 years’ experience coming from companies like Shopify, foodpanda, CNN, Microsoft, Boeing and Visually.
Our CTO is Olu Ameye, the founder of Chiefsoft Works and AutoMedSys, a software development company specializing in system design and software consulting solutions that allows customers to build or buy customized program packaging for business solutions. Olu and I have worked together on various projects over the past 10 years and he is the perfect partner to build the future global transportation platform. Olu’s background is with Boeing and was awarded the Boeing Phantom Works Award twice.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Langille: Yes, $2M to date. We are raising a new round now. We have assembled a great group of investors with deep knowledge in mobility and consumer services. Our Lead Investors are Streamlined Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Simon Rothman, Charles Songhurst, and Xoogler Angels.
Juetten: Startups are an adventure — what’s your favorite startup story?
Langille: There’s not one story but I do remember my first money transfer startup. A family from Poland sent me a hand-written letter about how we made their life better by saving them significant money over Western Union and made the process of sending funds to their family faster and easier. That was a particularly touching moment.
Juetten: Tips to add for early-stage founders?
Langille: Start off with an agile contract-based team which allows you the flexibility to scale up or down as needed. Think big and don’t be confined by the country you live in; there is a lot of amazing talent out there and, with the help of technology, global accessibility has never been easier. One of the top perks having a global team is that you can maximize efficiency by having the team work around the clock with different team members in different time zones. It requires clear processes and communication so that there is a mutual understanding of where any project is at at any given time.
Juetten: And of course, any IP horror stories to share ?
Langille: No issues with anyone stealing IP. I have protected IP in every startup through careful management.
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Langille: The long term vision is to improve the quality of life for the world’s population by building the future global transportation platform to help build the cities we live in. We want to increase accessibility & personal choices for those people living in these cities, while reducing travel time, traffic congestion, pollution, and loss to local GDP. To help empower and educate the everyday commuter that they can have control on their local travel by being able to analyze their own travel behaviour and make smart decisions and in return, be rewarded for sharing their travel data for the greater good, it’s this data that can help to shape the cities we live in.
Thanks to Stew for sharing his story with me; with any luck, as the world returns to public transportation (or public anything) his team’s work will pay dividends. #onwards.
Source by www.forbes.com