Living in The Future, Living in The Past

09.20.14

image

As a San Francisco resident I sometimes take for granted the privilege of living in a city of early-adopters. My parents visited recently and when introduced to services like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Taskrabbit and others they made the comment that “you guys really live in The Future”.

Many of us forget how much things have changed in the past 5 years. For the most part, we do live in the future and The Future is good. The level of convenience and efficiency that these services and others bring is unmatched in any other period of history. Using my smartphone, I have at my fingertips the ability to instantly fulfil my wants. Whether it’s a meal, a ride or a one on one session with a personal coach, we all wield in our back pockets magical instruments. These give us ‘superpowers’ that just one decade ago were exclusively available to the wealthiest elite.

Whether this is good or bad, such is our reality these days. And from what I can tell, as a society we happily accept this new age of ubiquitous availability and convenience with open arms. The children of today will get used to this ubiquity just like we got used to ubiquitous electricity, running water and internet connectivity. That is why, when we hear of the strong resistance to the positive change technology brings, we are perplexed, even upset.  

It was recently announced that the French National Assembly voted into effect the pro-taxi  “Thévenoud law,” trying to curb rideshare companies from bringing innovation to passengers in France. The law hinders growth of companies like Uber, Chauffeur-Privé, LeCab, SnapCar and others by requiring drivers to:Return to their dispatch after each ride (Taxis don’t have to)

  1. Return to their dispatch after each ride (Taxis don’t have to)

  2. Stop using geolocalization services to connect drivers to the closest passengers (Taxis may still do that)

This adds up to similar regulation in other places (including Germany, Spain, Israel and others). No one in their right mind would let the internet-cafe lobby change the regulation and force the FCC to make mobile connectivity illegal. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the type of thing we see in some of these markets

We believe that innovation cannot be stopped or undone. We hope that eventually common sense will win, and that next time my parents visit Paris they would be impressed not only by the art, food and culture, but also by how the familiarity of their favorite services made their stay easy and seamless. Just like you’d expect it, in The Future.

The Astounding Growth (and Growing Pains) of the Rideshare Economy

05.01.14

Only 5 years ago, über was a way to flaunt your German while still being superlative, lift was spelled with an “i” and was primarily associated with one’s morning coffee, and sidecars made us fondly recall our childhood love for the Caped Crusader.

But today when we think of these three words, this is what comes to mind:

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.10.50 AM.png

Throw in services like Getaround, Relayrides, RedCap, and an ever-expanding list of others, and it’s hard to ignore that exciting changes are on the horizon when it comes to getting people where they need to go. By 2020, Frost & Sullivan forecasts car sharing will grow to a whopping 26 million users worldwide, up 1030% from today’s ~2.3 million. 

In other words, we really love ridesharing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.09.08 AM.png

But the über fast growth of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) has not come without its challenges. If you’ve been paying attention to the headlines recently—especially in cities where ridesharing is expanding fastest—you’ve heard about the clashes between the companies, regulators, taxis, and insurance providers. Even though value is clearly being delivered to the consumer, there are forces in place that resist adaptation.

The crux of it: figuring out how to design easy, fair, and affordable ways to ensure driver quality and passenger safety, all while keeping consumers happy.

As this issue gets hotter, TNCs are tackling it head on.

Recently, Uber rolled out a $1 “Safe Rides Fee” similar to Lyft’s $1 “Trust & Safety” surcharge. These support the high costs of delivering on safety commitments to consumers. And in California, Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar have partnered with regulators and insurers to form a P2P Rideshare Coalition.

These are strong signals that safety and fleet quality is a real priority for the public and for TNC’s. In an industry that’s bottle-necked by its ability to bring new high-quality drivers into the network, the time for a solution is now. We believe that the time has come for a creative, technology-based solution to emerge, and help relieve these growing pains.

zendrive seed funding

08.29.13

At Facebook and Google, Pankaj and I were fortunate to build products and platforms that were used by millions of people every day to connect and improve their lives. Now, out on our own, we’re still driven to build a product that will touch a huge number of lives and improve those lives every day: we want to fix driving.

We’ve been working on Zendrive for several months and are excited to announce today a $1.5 million seed round of funding with backers that include First Round Capital, Max Levchin, Jerry Yang, Tim Ferriss and many other tech founders and leading investors. With their help, we’re working on a fun and innovative way to make drivers better and safer.

Talent always comes first in our investment philosophy at AME Cloud Ventures,” says Jerry Yang, entrepreneur and investor. “The combined experiences of Jonathan and Pankaj at Facebook, Google, and Walmart Labs gives them unique insight into building powerful applications using mobility and big-data. Zendrive is an innovative approach to provide meaningful, driving-related data to consumers to promote better driving habits and empower them to make better decisions about auto-related purchases and services.

Data Can Revolutionize Driving

Every year, billions of hours are wasted sitting in traffic, trillions of dollars are spent on gas, high insurance and other costs, and people are increasingly stressed and unhappy about their time behind the wheel.

What if driving wasn’t so painful? What if people had the information available to them that would allow them to understand and improve their behavior, and even be recognized and rewarded for responsible driving? Enter Zendrive.

People have become obsessed with tracking data for self-improvement, from how many steps we take to our REM cycles, yet no one has done a good job at measuring and pulling insights for our personal driving behaviors. We know that people are curious, and love seeing progress and improvement in everything they do. We believe that Insights and data about behavior on the road, when presented in an intuitive interface, can be hugely interesting and empowering.

We face driving-related decisions all the time, some before, some after and some while we are actually driving.  Zendrive’s mission is to use data to inform and improve these decisions. We’re building a mobile product that will analyze data from the trillions of miles driven each year to enhance and transform the driving habits of millions of people every day.

Zendrive Empowers Drivers

Here are just a few potential ways for how Zendrive will be able to improve driving for all ages and lifestyles:

  • Imagine you’re a young programmer in NYC. You weren’t the best driver starting out because you haven’t had much experience, and you had a small accident in the past. But you’ve worked on it and are now much safer behind the wheel. In fact, you’re probably better than most drivers. Yet you’re still charged an arm and a leg for auto insurance. Zendrive will make it easy for you to prove your new A+ road skills, and help you negotiate a better rate or choose a new insurance provider that will charge you less.
  • Say you live in San Francisco and the Bay Bridge is closing for several days starting today, making your normal commute to Oakland impossible. Knowing your commute pattern, Zendrive will advise you the night before to change your commute to deal with this new Bay Bridge block delay, or to leave your house earlier to avoid the resulting traffic jams. And what if making this type of responsible driving decision was rewarded with 50% off on take-out from a local eatery on your way back home as well?
  • Maybe you’re a newly licensed teenager living in a suburb of LA. Without a car, you have no social life, but your parents monitor your car usage as if you’ve just started taking permit lessons. What better way to convince them to let you borrow their car than to show them the data that proves that you are a better driver than the average adult in town (or better than your older sister who gets to use the car every weekend)?

Our ultimate goal is to make roads smarter, commutes shorter, and rides safer. And while we’re at it, driving will become more fun and affordable for everyone. We’ll have more details on availability of our private beta launch in the near future. In the meantime, sign up for our mailing list to be the first to join our beta or follow our Twitter page .