Rashid Galadanci of Driver Technologies: The Future Of Travel In The Post COVID World
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Drive-able, fun trips vs long flights — perfect time to try out a dashcam and safety app!
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rashid Galadanci.
Rashid Galadanci is CEO of Driver Technologies which he co-founded in 2018. Rashid was inspired to start Driver to share the benefits of advanced vehicle technologies without barriers to access and improve safety for everyone. He is also a Venture Partner at The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, and a Director at Pigeonly. Rashid holds a B.A. in Political Economy from Dartmouth College and is based in the New York City metropolitan area.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m half Nigerian and growing up my dad was a passenger in a car accident in Nigeria which unfortunately was so severe that individuals in the other vehicle were killed. He and the driver survived and he always credited that outcome to the fact that his friend happened to be affluent enough, and safety focused enough, to import a Volvo, which was incredibly rare in the region. I was left with a lifelong appreciation for both the clearly amazing benefits of advancing vehicle technology and simultaneously, the painful inequality in access to safety capabilities that leads to 1M+ deaths and 50M+ serious injuries every year. A whole lot of related research later I saw that this was not just an emerging market or low-income community issue but rather something that unfairly affects the great majority of the world which does not have access to a brand new Mercedes S-Class or Tesla-type vehicle. The mission of making roads safe and accessible for everyone worldwide led me to start Driver Technologies and through tech like our mobile app and data enhanced safety research, we’ll succeed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most interesting experiences I’ve had since Driver started were two trips to China to meet with automotive, technology, sharing economy and manufacturing partners. I came away with an understanding that the needs of drivers there were exactly the same as drivers here and was just blown away by the scale and pace of growth in the market globally.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This one is funny in retrospect — In the very beginning of Driver, and after a number of months of failed fundraising attempts, I was given the incredible opportunity to pitch the firm to the CEO of Y-Combinator, Michael Seibel. He’s an amazing entrepreneur himself and has probably seen more startups than just about anyone. I was very confident in my pitching skills given my consulting, management and VC background but about 15 minutes into the conversation he stopped to tell me my pitch was terrible. While I was giving him lots of interesting information about the inequalities of car safety, I had yet to actually pitch him a real idea. I was devastated at the time but he taught me the value of telling a focused, concise story and also that the toughest lessons are often the most important. Luckily for us he saw our vision through my rambling and ended up becoming our first investor — definitely check out any youtube video of his thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
Someone once said ‘every day as an entrepreneur is either the worst day of your life or the best day of your life’. That’s very hard to actually believe until you do it but I try to tell everyone joining the team that the task at hand is not just getting the job done but to do it in a positive, sustainable, long-term and resilient manner. We are constantly preparing and reminding ourselves of that attitudinal manta so that the challenges and ups and downs of entrepreneurship can be more bearable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve learned so much from everyone I’ve worked with that it’s impossible to call out a particular person and I’m still learning every day. I think there are rare people who have a vision from a very young age and deliver on it but other than that I’d highly recommend getting as wide a range of experiences as possible before jumping into your own venture. That said, most recently I learned an incredible amount from Liz Luckett at The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund. Liz showed me through her investment thesis and sage advice to startups around the world, that you can create an incredibly valuable, venture-scalable company by providing real value to every-day and under-served citizens, beyond the 1% in Silicon Valley, and without taking the predatory approaches many companies take to under-served markets.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Driver Technologies is an AI-based mobility tech company on a mission to make driving safe and accessible for everyone. Our hardware-free mobile app Driver, transforms a driver’s phone into a dash cam with forward collision alerts, driver drowsiness and distraction warnings, cloud-based video storage, roadside assistance, coaching and scoring capabilities. Users have full control over their data stored on the DriverCloud and can choose what to share with interested parties such as employers, insurers and family members. The Driver app is the #1 dashcam app in the apple app store and the company recently released a parity android app. Driver is free to end users and can be paired with a range of paid personal, fleet and insurer services.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
We are democratizing mobility safety by bringing the amazing safety and connected-vehicle capabilities of tomorrow to everyone, today. We address a whole range of pain points including:
Aiming to avoid accidents and drowsy/distracted driving
Providing drivers with the video and telematics proof they need to defend themselves if an accident does happen
Allowing drivers to share their safe driving with bosses and insurance companies without having to install intrusive and expensive hardware
Empowering drivers to control what data they share and when
Building the world’s best understanding of driving safety and what we can do as a community to save millions of lives
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
The main pain point is that driving safety technology from a high-end, semi-automous car or truck all the way down to a simple dashcam is expensive hardware to buy, install and maintain. Existing solutions are totally inappropriate for the great majority of drivers who drive their personal vehicles to commute, work in the sharing economy or have a small business fleet. We’re here to change that much like phone-based navigation shook up the hardware and in-car navigation industry over the past few years.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
Drive-able, fun trips vs long flights — perfect time to try out a dashcam and safety app!
High turn-over in jobs means investing in hardware for delivery and shuttle drivers is much too expensive
Safety in all forms is top of mind for employees and guests alike — the last thing anyone needs is an accident when the hospitals are focused on COVID
Business is tighter so finding ways to unlock insurance savings and lower accident rates is key
As COVID rates and rules change rapidly companies will need to be incredibly nimble
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Great travel partners, amazing drives, locations with a complete focus on hospitality and the guest experience, great food and lots of relaxing. Surprise surprise but I’m more of a safe and relaxing trip guy vs the wild adventurer, but I do love to drive everywhere as much as possible both in the U.S. and internationally because it gives you a much closer connection to the region vs flying from point to point and not having the wheels to explore once you get to your destination.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
We are just beginning to develop the community aspect of our journey as a company but we already have a number of strong driver communities that we cultivate on our platform. For example we have a 1,000+ individual community of rideshare and sharing economy drivers we call the “Driver Insiders Group”. They provide us with amazing feedback on our product and ideas and exchange tips, helpful advice and fun, supportive stories with each other as they take on their own entrepreneurial efforts being independent contractors in a tough economy!
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think the main point is that while we are passionate about our products today, the team at Driver is really focused on the long term goal of saving lives and empowering everyone to get the best out of mobility. We know we’re just a small part of a global ecosystem of technologists, governments, non-profits, corporations and of course families and individuals who want to see a “Vision Zero” in terms of car death and injury. As such we have a rapidly growing partnerships team and welcome anyone with similar goals to reach out and see how we can collaborate.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
From a people perspective, I really believe in the value of travel and what the human race can achieve when it sees itself from a global perspective and when people connect outside of their immediate geographic or economic community. And with technology that doesn’t even require leaving your hometown! At Driver we have team members from around the world and from both urban and rural locations in the U.S. and I’d love to support any efforts, local or international, that support that vision of the future. For example, I’m always deeply impressed by work of my friend Amar Bakshi on digital communications portals at Shared Studios https://www.sharedstudios.com/
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!