Note: THE TORCH is an interview series from Entrepreneurs for Impact. We profile CEOs mitigating climate change. Our goal is to highlight their work and inspire others. As we deal with multiple crisis, from COVID and racial injustice to climate change and economic recession, we need some of this positive light in what seem like dark times. Onward and upward!
Why did you create Revel? I decided to start Revel with my co-founder, Paul Suhey, after a trip to Buenos Aires. I noticed so many people riding mopeds throughout the city, which felt really similar to Brooklyn, and wondered why more New Yorkers weren’t using them. Within months of our first conversation, Paul and I launched Revel as a pilot program with 68 electric mopeds in Brooklyn.
Who does your company serve? Revel is available in New York City, Washington, D.C., Austin, Miami, and Oakland. Our riders usually live and work in one of these cities, and are looking for an efficient, fun way to commute, run errands, or meet up with friends. Revel also serves a lot of essential workers, who appreciate the fact that we offer a socially-distant mode of transportation in the era of COVID-19.
What problems do you solve for your customers? Cities across the US are dealing with growing populations, heavy traffic and congestion, and overburdened transportation infrastructure. In many cases, their public transit systems leave out thousands or millions of people who don’t live in central areas, a problem that has serious consequences in the COVID-19 era. Revel helps fill the gaps in cities’ systems by giving communities access to a new mode designed for socially-distant, open air travel.
How does your work contribute to mitigating climate change? Our all-electric mopeds help reduce local air pollution. We’ve also found, based on user surveys and average trip distances, that many of our riders use Revel as a replacement for ridesharing or personal car trips.
What makes your company different than its competitors? The micromobility market is full of scooter companies, but we’re not one of them. Revels are motor vehicles that ride and park in the street, and are licensed by DMVs in each state where we operate. Another thing that sets us apart is the way we work with cities -- we believe in asking for permission, not forgiveness, and work closely with local stakeholders before, during, and after our new market launches. We’re a part of the communities we operate in, and we take that obligation seriously.
How are you rethinking your business strategy to get through the COVID crisis? How do you play both offense and defense? When COVID hit, we realized quickly that Revel could play a real part in helping those on the frontlines of the pandemic. We introduced free rides for all health care workers across our four active markets (our Miami fleet is temporarily offline due to a local order), partnered with local restaurants to help them transition to delivery, and expanded our New York City service area to reach more hospitals and essential workers.
Though the health care worker and delivery partner programs have wound down, the response we got from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Over 3,000 health care workers used Revel to get to their life-saving jobs, and we helped 25 restaurants keep staff on payroll by saving them the steep fees charged by some delivery platforms.
What are 2-3 things that your industry needs most to succeed, but is currently missing? Many micromobility companies have come under fire recently for discarding unused scooters and bikes. To me, this highlights the importance of working with local stakeholders to make sure that vehicles are fitting in well and getting good use in the communities where they exist.
Another weak spot for some mobility companies is their reliance on the gig economy. Revel has always rejected this model, and it's paid off over and over again. It’s been easier for us to grow and adapt, especially during COVID, with a dedicated, talented, fairly compensated staff supporting us.
How are you finding growth capital this year? As the founder of a high-growth company, I’m always in fundraising mode, and am in constant communication with new and potential investors.
When it comes to addressing climate change, how do you remain optimistic? What keeps me optimistic is seeing how receptive the cities we operate in have been to Revel, and how they’ve incorporated us into their ambitious, impressive climate reform plans.
This kind of commitment to alternative modes is now more important than ever, with many public transportation systems shut down or operating on a limited schedule, and many people tempted to buy cars to get around in a socially-distant way.
What kinds of apps, databases, or software help you and your team excel? One thing that’s been a game-changer for Revel recently has been bringing all of our fleet management, battery swapping and task maintenance software in-house. Everything is much more efficient when we can rely on internal platforms.
What kinds of personal habits, mindset, exercise, meditation, or scheduling help boost your productivity and increase your resilience to “fight the good fight”? I ride my bike everywhere -- it’s good exercise and it helps clear my head. I also make a conscious effort to carve out time for my spouse and family, and lately have been trying to stop working and log off for the night closer to 7.
What are 1-2 quotations that keep you focused and motivated? I’ve been reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, and a couple quotes have really jumped out at me:
“Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t.”
"Becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn't end.”
What are 1-2 books that you’d encourage other climate change entrepreneurs to read? Daniel Yergin’s The Prize, which is about the history of oil -- If you’re going to fight the good fight for climate change, it’s important to understand what you’re up against.
What are you excited about now? Success or failure in business has a lot to do with timing. Right now, electric mobility is at the precipice of having a really big decade, with factors like battery pricing and advances in battery technology aligning in a way we didn’t see ten years ago. The ambition was there ten years ago, but the technology wasn’t, and now in 2020 we no longer have that roadblock.
We’re already starting to see electric mobility take over -- for example, with car manufacturers announcing that all their new models will be electric vehicles -- and this is just the beginning. It’s exciting for me to see the industry move in this direction, and it’s exciting to be a part of this sea change through Revel.
Who is inspiring you now? Who can other climate change entrepreneurs learn from? I think Bill McKibben brings a really important perspective and voice to the conversation about climate change.
What question did we forget to ask, but that deserves an answer? How do you impart your values on your company, from its structure to its everyday operations?
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