Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Editor's note: Today, we hear from Joseph Kopser, Army Veteran, Bronze Star recipient as well as Co-Founder and CEO at RideScout, a mobile app that aims to streamline transportation by showing real-time information on public, private and social options in one single view. See what other companies that have gone Google have to say.
Several years ago, I was on active duty in the Army, serving as Special Assistant to Army 4-Star Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr. at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. I lived less than 10 miles from my office and everyday I faced the question, “what’s the best way to get there?” I could take the bus, I could carpool, I could walk, and I could even take a taxi, but there wasn’t one service that helped me pick my best option for that particular day. Furthermore, I saw so many people, likely going to the same place as me, with four empty seats in their vehicles.
My frustrations spurred a discussion with a few Army buddies of mine, and in 2011, Craig Cummings and I decided to do something about it. Together we launched RideScout, a mobile app that helps people figure out the fastest and most cost-efficient way to get from one place to another. It takes real-time information and schedules on cabs, buses, trains, ride shares, and emerging services like car2go and Sidecar and pulls it into Google Maps so people can easily compare the options. Not only does RideScout help people get where they need to be faster, but it also reduces the number of cars on the road, increasing transportation efficiency and reducing harm to our planet.
Soon after RideScout got off the ground, I moved to Austin to teach leadership and military strategy at the University of Texas. Craig and I realized we needed a platform to help us collaborate and build the company collectively, despite the physical distance between us. We chose Google Apps from the get-go because its cloud-based platform allowed us to do exactly that. Now, RideScout has employees in Austin, D.C., and contractors in other cities working all hours spread across different time zones. We also use a lot of tablets and portable laptops, so storing everything in the cloud and being able to access it — regardless of our device — is essential.
Google Docs has been a crucial tool for the team, especially the product developers as we’ve gone through our app development iterations. We hold dozens of quick brainstorm sessions every week to go over product requirements and designs, and with Docs we can stay in sync throughout the process because we’re all looking at the same information at the same time. As we matured, we started seeing the same kind of collaboration happen in Presentations, and even with Drawings — they all became living documents with people commenting and editing simultaneously. I think of Docs and Spreadsheets as whiteboards, where RideScout employees can throw out ideas and iterate on them as a team in real time.
Security also was an important consideration for us. We knew we wanted a cloud solution from the beginning, and Google Apps is a platform we could trust to keep our information safe. Because we don’t have to maintain our own servers, it’s just one less thing we have to worry about. And as a startup, taking something off your list of things to worry about is fantastic.
RideScout is scaling quickly. In July we had seven employees and we’ve more than doubled since then. The ability to add a new employee to the system in five minutes or less is extremely important when we’re working on limited resources and stretched to the max to get the product to market. With Apps we’ve got a platform that scales with us, so as we grow and expand to new markets, our employees can worry less about the process of sharing work and focus more on building a great product.