On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Ryan Green, Co-founder and CEO of Gridwise. Ryan and I talk about the future trends of the gig economy, ride sharing, and mobility analytics. We also talk about his experiences helping to navigate his startup through the pandemic.
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Interview Transcript with Ryan Green, Gridwise
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside outside innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today with me is Ryan Green. Ryan is the co-founder and CEO of Gridwise, which is a mobile app powered by gig mobility analytics to help rideshare and delivery drivers do more and do better and welcome to the show Ryan.
Ryan Green: Thanks for having me, Brian.
Brian Ardinger: Hey, Ryan, I’m glad to have you on the show. One of the things we wanted to do this year is to bring on more founders and tell their stories. As I was doing research and looking around, you’ve got interesting story, interesting space that you’re working in. And so, I wanted to have you on the show to talk a little bit more about that.
You used to work at the Naval Academy, then you did some foreign exchange trading at PNC, and now you’ve started a company called Gridwise. Why don’t we talk a little bit about your background, how you got to become an entrepreneur and what Gridwise is all about.
Ryan Green: When I was studying at the Naval Academy, I ended up starting my first company there. I was an economics major, Chinese minor. And then I really got into trading and keeping up with the stock markets and later the currency market.
So, we started a company called FX Connection, that actually taught people how to understand the currency markets. And then our platform connected you with coaches who helped you actually apply that knowledge. And they were very, you know, vetted, very successful traders who traded for a living.
I really learned how to stand that business that like, stand the business up. I didn’t know how to buy a domain when that first started, when I started that company. And so, learning curve at that point, but grew the team out to a few people, started generating revenue, and made some big partnerships with brokerages, global brokerages, and things of that sort.
So, it was really great experience doing that in parallel school and then going into active-duty military. And I ended up shutting the company down as I was in active-duty military as all my partners and I were operating in different parts of the world. And it just became an operational mess. In addition to so many other mistakes we made in this company that gave us so many valuable learning lessons.
But ended up after I got out of the military, I ended up going into banking, doing FX trading, which was related to the company I started before currency trading. And that’s what brought me to PNC and working there. And in between the midst of all of that, when I was in the military, I had a period of downtime where I was tinkering with a few ideas, but this new concept came to our city called Uber and I took a few rides and I was like, wow, this is interesting.
I’m definitely a part of the early adopter cohort of technology. So, I was really intrigued by the model. I ended up signing up to drive. And I became a driver for Uber later for Lyft. It was like really interesting for me to just be able to like tap a button and be able to go out and make some extra money.
And I had experienced what it was like to be the driver. The pain points that really persisted as drivers at that time. And then you fast forward to the time I’m in banking, I’m still an active driver driving less, but taking a lot of rides with Uber and Lyft drivers and just hearing them complain about a lot of the same pain points that I’d experienced firsthand.
From those rides and my perspective driving, during my time at PNC was like where the light bulb lit up. I knew I wanted to start another venture. At some point it was expected to be a little bit farther down the road, but I had a list of about 25 ideas and the concept of GridWise popped up to number one. And I had started working to validate that on my personal time, while I was at PNC. And then I ended up validating demand for the concept and ended up going to start Gridwise and became the co-founder and CEO of the company.
Brian Ardinger: It’s kind of an interesting concept and how I found you is you put out a report, The 2020 Ride Hailing Industry Report, that talks through a lot of the data that you’ve seen with GridWise on how drivers and Uber and all these things are shaping the world. And specifically, how it’s changed in a pandemic environment. Let’s talk a little bit about that report. And what have you learned?
Ryan Green: I would say with us as Gridwise in operating in mobility spaces and focused on empowering drivers, drivers using our application and it gives us a glimpse into supply and demand across the different services, both on the ride hailing side, as well as the on-demand delivery side, whether that’s food, grocery or parcel.
And so, I mean, in looking at this past year of 2020, I mean, it’s what a year it has been. But, you know, in our industry instantly, as COVID really took off in mid-March, you just saw a drastic drop in the industry, just ride hailing activity. And I think the service providers reported seeing anywhere from a decline of 80%-90% of activity on their platforms. For us at Gridwise, we saw a direct decline of about 70% of drivers stopped driving for ride share services.
A good portion of them ended up continuing to drive but ended up moving over to delivery of services. And so, as we saw ride hail decline, we just saw a huge uptake in delivery demand as people started ordering food and in groceries from Instacart and Door Dash and platforms like that.
It was really interesting we saw that there were drivers who would continue to drive for ride hail through this year. And you’ve seen from an emission standpoint, it’s created a great picture where it’s like these vehicles have been more utilized, because there has been some demand that’s persistent in this, and has picked up over the coming months, but there hasn’t been as much of a movement of drivers to go back to driving rideshare.
So, for the drivers who continue doing that, we’ve seen just, you know, more utilization and we’re looking at that from the trips per hour increase that we’ve seen there for drivers and as well as for their hourly earnings, you’ll see that hourly earnings did increase for ride hail drivers. Specifically, for a period of time, it started to decrease or normalize back towards closer to normal levels.
But overall, the drivers across all services did really spike in the summer, but it’s really come down to, it was around $18 an hour, but now it’s back to about $15.50 somewhere around there.
Brian Ardinger: So, with that, obviously things have changed and we’re probably not going to back to a quote unquote, regular normal for a while. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing or how do you see this playing out once maybe they’re post COVID or currently where we’re sitting?
Ryan Green: Yeah. Currently where we’re sitting, I think ride hail has been trending upward. Whereas we saw that 70% decline from our end, we’ve seen that come back up to a 50% decline relative to the 70% that existed earlier this year. But we did see a dip in the end of this year, as I think the second wave of COVID is just started to just continue to grow.
So, there’s still some time to go here. It Is really going to be dependent on what the rollout is like for vaccination, how effective the vaccines are. But as we do get towards more of a new normal, I think what you’re going to see is quite a spike in the demand for ride share.
If you think about public transit or related to buses or subways, it is going to take people time to really get back on those modes of transportation. So, what you’re going to see is just people who weren’t taking rideshare before starting to take it more because it is more of an isolated setting that you’re in.
And I think delivery is going to normalize more so as people are able to get back out a little bit more, I think people are going to enjoy maybe stop at the grocery store to get groceries or go out to a restaurant and be with friends out in public. Things that we’ve missed doing for some time. So, I think you’re going to see a decline and delivery demand and activity, but it’s still going to be much higher than it was pre COVID because I think there’s been a lot of habits formed around those services. It helps people save a lot of time in some ways.
If we think about passenger movement back to the ride share side, one interesting element related to the change in the way that we’re going to be working in the future, the future of work. And so, what we’re thinking a lot about is just that particular aspect, but also just that. We think people are going to be more remote. There’s going to be less commuting going on.
And so, you would always see like a morning rush of rideshare demand happening. But if people aren’t commuting as much as they were, then you may not see that exist anymore. So, it’s going to be a new type of pattern that exists from that ride share demand curve that is going to come into play and something we will have insight into and will be interesting to see how that plays out.
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Brian Ardinger: So obviously that’s affected a lot of your customers and that. How’s it actually effected Gridwise, as far as you as a founder and use a startup yourself. What’s been the impact of this and how have you managed to work through it?
Ryan Green: As this whole situation came into play earlier this year, it turned into wartime at that point where it’s just like, Hey, really our core focus going into COVID was around rideshare and ride hail and so at that point, as COVID was starting to spike in the, in the number of cases there, we had to start really thinking through, it was like, all right, let’s look at the roadmap here. Is there anything that we’re missing anything there’s like, Hey, we saw like delivery is becoming more and more relevant.
And that was on our roadmap to support delivery drivers and build features that provide more utility then, but it was further back on our roadmap. So, we reprioritized everything that was related to delivery and move that to the front of the roadmap, which we did see a decline in revenue and a decline in users that persisted to about middle of the summer.
And the changes that we made in that time period between about March and the middle of June or the end of June, enabled us to really start to, it lagged for a little bit of those changes, the results with them. But we started to see the positive impact of those started to see an uptake of user growth at that point. And then revenue really started to turn back around in Q3.
And since Q3 we’ve seen just, we’re reaching higher highs than we had been at before COVID. So, I think the team has really been able to execute this year to, to make the changes we needed to, to overcome the adversity of the situation and better position ourselves for the return of rideshare. But I would say as COVID, it’s brought so many negative outcomes to the world.
For people who have been more impacted from a business standpoint, it’s really, I think, catalyzed a keener focus on your business and its operations, and really being, you know, delving into the details of all the aspects of your business and making sure that Hey, we’re spending in the right places. And we’re actually getting ROI from here and if we’re not then we need to cut the fat. Why are we doing this?
And whether that’s from a team standpoint or there’s people who aren’t performing the way they need to be, we were more strict on that then, in looking at that, and more strictly than we were before, and through other elements of the business. So, there’s a lot of positives that have come out of this quite negative situation.
Brian Ardinger: Well, I’d love to unpack that a little bit and really understand a lot of companies aren’t as resilient or aren’t as adaptable. Were there particular things that you did or your team did, that made you more capable of making that transition? Because again, it’s a pretty big transition. Obviously, a lot of folks were going through this. Can you give me any examples or things that you did that would be relevant for our audience?
Ryan Green: What did enable us to, to be a little more nimble there were things that were part of our strategy before COVID. And that was really our focus on building a platform that empowers multiple stakeholders within mobility ecosystem and those who interface with mobility. And so really, it’s like we’ve taken a very different approach than a lot of our competitors out there who also have mobile apps that are trying to empower drivers in some way.
Where they’re like, Hey, let’s build an app, open it up everywhere and charge drivers to use it. And we’re like, Hey, let’s build this app. Let’s give it to drivers for free, let’s focus on building everything we can to empower them. And then on the back end it’s like we’re monetizing for more B2B channels. So those B2B channels, one of them was advertising. And we built our own brand network of advertisers, but that was impacted directly right off, right off the bat of COVID. Advertisers started to churn off the platform.
We started because of the future ease and rideshare drivers, but what we ended up is we started to pick back up our user growth and grow because of the delivery segment, we also changed our model to where we focus more on the kind of brand awareness element and the sponsorship packages that we can create, that were kind of more fixed recurring revenue channels. More so than the volatiles cost per click type model.
And so that really changed the game for us to not be purely reliant on, Hey, how many clicks are we going get this month to like, Hey, we’re focused on building broader packages that get people more eyeballs and are actually driving more traffic because we’re providing more static presence in a way where it’s not intrusive to the user experience for the drivers.
But then the second part of that is we’ve been building out an ecosystem of offerings for the driver, so a marketplace of services. And so, all of the services are applicable to ride hail and delivery drivers, but they also enable us to monetize through more secure revenue models.
So, one of things that we launched, our new services that we launched towards the end of Q3 is called Gridwise protection. And that is essentially a service where drivers pay a monthly premium to have their income covered for a certain number of days that they may be out of work because of hospitalization or they become sick let’s say because of COVID.
We saw that over 60% of drivers were still driving if they felt sick because they purely relied on it for income, which is very dangerous to anybody. Right. And so, it was like putting their minds at ease to be able to take off the time because of those situations and actually receive income for that. So that was a big needle mover for us in a big way where we could impact drivers more.
There’s more services that we’re adding such as gas, perks and discounts, and some other things that we’ll add in 2021. And thirdly is from a platform standpoint is standing up a new part of our business, which we’re starting to publicize now and calling Gridwise Analytics. And so, what we’re actually doing is taking a lot of that.
We talked about some of the industry insights and data, is we’re taking a lot of the data that we’re collecting that helps us understand supply and demand across all the major service providers in the US. And we’re aggregating that data and anonymizing it to where we are packaging analytics that we provide to industry stakeholders who are operating within the mobility space, or even tangential to it in the real estate course, real estate space, or retail, financial services, et cetera.
And so, we’ve started to partner with some companies and researchers and other platforms, automotive companies there. That a part of our business that we’re pretty excited about as we’re taking off in 2021. So those things have really enabled us to overcome, that focus on building that platform and having kind of a multi-pronged approach in terms of our business model and monetization strategy has enabled us to be nimble and overcome a lot of the downfall that had persisted for a lot of companies because of COVID-19.
For More Information about Ryan Green, Gridwise
Brian Ardinger: Well, it’s a fascinating space. And you know, I’m really excited to see where this all goes, not just ride sharing, but you know, like you said, food delivery, a lot of things are changing in the world. So, it’s exciting to have people in that space, actively innovating and trying to make it better. And I appreciate you coming on the show to tell us a little bit more about this. If people want to find out more about yourself or more about Gridwise, what’s the best way to do that?
Ryan Green: Go to gridwise.io. That’s our website there. If you happen to be listening to this podcast and you’re working for any of the service providers out there, then you can go to the website or go straight to the app stores or play stores and find Gridwise there. And I would say to directly connect with me, I think the best way would be to connect with me on LinkedIn and reach out to me there.
Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Ryan, thanks again for being on Inside Outside Innovation, look forward to continuing the conversation and thanks very much for being part of this.
Ryan Green: Likewise, thanks for having me Brian.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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