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By adaptive - May 2nd, 2016
Commuters and urban dwellers alike face perplexing problems of mobility each day; that is the same commute can be considerably longer or more arduous on a given day than the “normal’ routine.
And in particularly congested cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, DC, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for carpoolers, tolled express lanes, and multi-modal commutes have only added to the options and raised new problems such as where to park or how to get the so-called last mile from public transit to the destination.
Joseph Kopser feels your pain. In fact, it was just such a dilemma that led him down the technological and bureaucratic rabbit hole that led him to co-found RideScout, which recently merged with GlobeSherpa to form moovel North America.
Kopser, president of the newly combined company, shares his journey from wayward commuter to entrepreneur with Robert Gray and discusses making mobility better through mobile tech.
OMM: How did you come up with the idea for RideScout?
Kopser: I never set out to build a company, I just set out to solve my own problem and that was getting to and from work in DC. I had lots of options and I went to try and find that website that I knew must exist that could combine everything and then realized it doesn’t exist.
In the process of figuring out why it didn’t exist, I got frustrated and decided I should just create my own solution. And then my co-founder Craig Cummings heard me talking about it at a party and said we could turn that into a company, so we started learning how to do it correctly from a technology standpoint, from a policy standpoint and from a transportation expertise standpoint.
OMM: How does it work?
Kopser: RideScout (and now moovel N.A.) brings together all the different options a person has for their mobility needs. We thought it was important to combine all modes: public transit of all types--bus, rail, metro, plus carshare and bikeshare and incorporate mapping tools so (users) can see the walking side and their own personal automobile side.
We see transportation as an ecosystem and not just one particular mode.
It’s so fascinating, people don’t appreciate enough how much mobility affects their lives. People start almost every cocktail hour with “Oh, man, traffic was a pain…”, “Parking was awful,” and “Sorry I’m late…” We don’t realize it but (mobility) affects our personality our mood and our health.
The company today wants to engage in the places and daily life of people. That’s why we bought (and merged with mobile payments firm) GlobeSherpa, and we are starting to partner more closely with (parent company) moovel. We realize these are global issues that are global in scope and the more we can combine these techniques to help people the more we have a winning product.
OMM: How many cities do you operate in and are you working with other mobility partners?
Kopser: We provide an information-only system, you can see what’s available in 69 cities in the US and Canada. But it works in any city with a good public transit. I figured out how to get around London by using RideScout.
Where we’re going in the future, we’re using the inner technology of RideScout and partnering with cities to put that tech inside of their current apps and mobility platforms and connecting it to other mobility services out there to provide a much smoother first-mile and last-mile solution.
OMM: GlobeSherpa and RideScout are now one company under the moovel umbrella that’s ultimately owned by luxury automaker Daimler. That’s a pretty big family, but are you working with partners outside the Daimler family?
Kopser: Uber and Lyft until recently did not want to partner with other companies and in the last year both have included an API giving people the capability to put those services inside their apps. We’re moving in that direction, but ironically they don’t want their service to be in the same app showing a competitor.
OMM: It seems like there’s an opportunity for in-app advertising. Is this something you’re exploring?
Kopser: We’re looking at it and trying to figure out the best way to do what we call “transit commerce.” It gives the transit agency a way to realize some of the economic benefit, the value they have, the competitive advantage where tens of thousands or in some cities-- millions of people are riding their platform every day, a captive audience. People are face down, with their face in their phone and none of that revenue currently going through their phone is being realized by transit authorities, yet it very well could.
“O Marks the Spot” in Portland is a joint venture between GlobeSherpa and Google using Bluetooth Low Energy beacons. It allows people to signal where they are and when they do, it allows them to find little prizes along the way and it becomes a scavenger hunt of sorts. What they’re picking up is coupons they can use along the way. That’s what we mean by transit commerce. It’s definitely the wave of the future.
OMM: Statistically speaking, public transit has mixed results. Beyond the convenience factor, do you think your company can boost ridership?
Kopser: It’s definitely an opportunity. Big cities have to have the ability to move people by public transit. The bottom line optimism I have comes from mobile payments, access, and information powered by lowering the barrier to entry to find and pay for public transit.
We are trying right now to communicate to cities by visiting their transit agencies or panels that we have a real solution for them that connects payments and a last mile solution.