1616: Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is an investor in mobility companies. He subscribed to FoT in December 2014.

1) What change do you want to see in the world of mobility by the end of 2016?

As an investor, I pick founders and ideas. I try to understand the arc of markets and products and technologies. One thing I don’t do is guess at exact timing. So with that caveat, here’s what I want to see in 2016:

Cheaper: I want delivered purchases to go from being premium priced to being cheaper than in-store purchases. When I have lunch delivered with Postmates, food prices should be lower since I’m not using a restaurant’s retail space and employees (maybe it ends up equal-priced after delivery charges). Likewise, with a service like Instacart, my groceries should cost less, not more since I’m not using the storefront real estate or employees.

In transportation, I love how Uber has aggressively made service cheaper — here in Houston, it’s cheaper to take UberX many places than to drive myself and pay for parking. And though UberPool isn’t available where I live, I love how this drives transportation prices even further down.

Faster: We’re all busy people. I want mobility services to be faster. I want food delivered in 10 minutes, not in an hour. If I can drive to an Apple Store and pick something up and be back at my house in 30 minutes, there’s no reason why a delivery service can’t beat that. Greater speed can dramatically increase usage — just as Google saw search volume go up as they drove search response times down. And it lets me reclaim more time to spend on the things that matter to me.

Broader: Why doesn’t every physical retail store do delivery? Why do my wife and I (mostly my wife) spend so much time transporting our children between school, home and other activities? Why aren’t there better options for road travel between cities in the Texas Triangle, where I live — Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas?

Why is it so hard to ship stuff — especially overseas? (we obviously don’t have Shyp in Houston yet) Why can’t I have something delivered to me on my way somewhere? I don’t know, maybe they fire the package into my car, or, more realistically, I pull over into a parking lot on the way to take delivery. How about curb-side pick-up? This seems like one of the simplest conveniences that local businesses could do better — how hard can it be for an employee of a business to walk outside their premises to the parking lot? (not even sure this falls under transportation or mobility!)

Underlying all of my “wants” is the idea of accelerating mobility businesses.

How can the statement, “It’s never been easier to start a transportation company?” become true?

2) If you had to drop everything right now and build something that had the greatest impact on mobility, what would it be?

If I was starting a company, I’d probably do something combining computer vision and drones. At my software company, we’re beginning to use computer vision to extract information from videos to provide another way to search television (we’re how the Daily Show finds all their TV clips). I recently started talking to Bangalore software company Lightmetrics (http://www.lightmetrics.co/) who is trying to use computer vision to understand what’s happening on Indian roads (talk about a challenging problem!). And obviously computer vision is a key part of self-driving car technology. I’ve always been an avid photographer and have recently gotten into drones (link: http://rake.sh/blog/2015/05/26/flying-the-dji-phantom-2-vision/) and I see opportunities at the intersection of these two fields. Drones will get smarter and their ability to interpret what’s visible to them will be one of the key ways in which they get smarter.

Rakesh Agrawal Bio
I’m an engineer, founder, and investor. More on my background here: http://rake.sh/blog/about/. A few of my investments that relate to mobility: Cruise (self-driving car technology, www.getcruise.com), Homer Logistics (food delivery, http://homerlogistics.com/), Remix Cities (better software for bus route planning, www.getremix.com). And you can follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rakeshagrawal/.

1616 is a compendium of ideas from 16 FoT subscribers about our near-term mobility future. You can read all 16 entries here; you can sign up for FoT here.