I think the one thing I would have done differently, and the one piece of advice I would give to founders is to move really quickly. When we were first thinking about Via, we went and talked to several dozen experts in the transportation business and tried to understand how they structured their business and what the costs were. The main thing I worked on there was building this very interesting supercomputer to try to run these simulations real quickly. You know, that was part of the strategy was to just get that because when you think about when Via is useful to you—I mean, it can be useful for any sort of transportation around the city, obviously, just like any other form of transportation, but the most important use case in some sense is your daily, whether it’s commute, or if you’re going to school, or whatever it is that you are doing once, twice a day, that sort of use case and that repeat use is really a core part of our business. Can you really not just start tomorrow? But the project itself was just super interesting. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg News Daniel Ramot: I think that’s a great question. If you think about it as almost a marketplace for seats, we connect to you as a passenger with a seat. Daniel Ramot: D. E. Shaw Research is a super interesting company. And that’s what we’re starting to see in some of those cities we’re operating at scale where there’s a real opportunity to create a very high penetration service. So then, you come to do your studies at Stanford. D. E. Shaw Research—probably oversimplifying it, but if I were to say tries to take a similar approach than D. E. Shaw had taken in finance and apply it to pharmaceutical drug discovery. Oren’s based in Tel Aviv. I came to the U.S. for graduate school. And those six months are super valuable. On the one hand, we had all these, what I would call maybe ride hailing companies that had already been operating for maybe a couple of years. We’re providing these rides at $5, sometimes less throughout Manhattan. One might say it’s a very prudent approach because, at the end of those months, we had a really clear indication and case that this was viable. I saw that you guys have really interesting investors. That approach of working together with cities, together with regulators, or partnering with them, has been very beneficial for us, and I think is what has allowed our business to evolve, to be honest, was the intention from the beginning to evolve also into and have a piece of the business. So, coming from the background that I had which was in engineering and computer science, and then some biology training that I got in grad school, being able to bring that all together into, sort of going back to engineering to building these machines, these supercomputers was just a really great challenge. Oren’s based in Tel Aviv. When we were first thinking about Via, we went and talked to several dozen experts in the transportation business and tried to understand how they structured their business and what the costs were. We’re continuing to sign up cities and transit agencies, and now corporate partners for corporate shuttles, university campuses at a very, very high rate. You have 83North, Hearst Venture, just to name a few. They were not doing anything like what we were planning to do, which was shared rides. There’s this tradeoff of convenience and cost between the convenience and the private car, and the cost of the subsidized public transportation, the bus that makes it extremely interesting if you can get it to scale. Then working as an engineer and a product manager for several years. View Danny Pollak’s profile on LinkedIn, the world's largest professional community. LinkedIn; Transit startup Via raised $200 million in a new round of funding, bringing its valuation to $2.25 billion, ... that provides more cost-effective and equitable transport to communities everywhere,” Via co-founders Oren Shoval and Daniel Ramot said in the statement. Daniel Ramot: Yeah, originally from Israel. It’s really that product capability or the product intuition, and it has to be a product that you’re very passionate about, and that you really believe in and want to build because otherwise, I think it’s difficult to be successful at it. The company, founded in 2012 by Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, has raised over $130 million (£102 million) from … I spent a lot of time—we figured if we were to launch the service initially, one area that was at the time poorly served by public transportation in New York was the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They were doing private rides. That’s a very broad question. I thought we were the only ones who were finding it difficult to launch a marketplace. I think that may be fair, but it’s hard for me to say. I think that may be fair, but it’s hard for me to say. I think the main challenge is to try to understand how the brain works, behavior, genetics. While delaying, there are probably others who have your same idea, and they’re moving. : I would say that while certainly the work I had been doing up until then was much more technical and really about technology and very technology-focused in my day-to-day. Via $200.0M Round: Series E Description: Via develops and provides on-demand public mobility solutions.Founded by Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval in 2012, Via has now raised a total of $587.1M in total equity funding and is backed by investors that include Shell Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, Millhouse LLC, Kapor Capital, and Hearst Ventures. If you go peer-to-peer drivers, folks were bringing their own car and then picking up passengers. Oren was just finishing up his Ph.D. at the Wiseman Institute in Israel in systems biology. Then a lot of funding challenges that cities all over the world are really feeling, and therefore need to make their public services more efficient. So, a lot of investors started potentially taking the service, folks who are investors, VCs from Hearst Ventures and others, private investors, and then reaching out to us and saying, “Can we talk? I want to try to pursue this idea with my good friend, Oren. Google was the 88th before coming to market and look at them today. The van kept showing up. I think one of the things of having those jobs that were pretty good—we had some risk aversion to simply jumping without any indication from the fundraising market, from the financing market whether we could raise money for this. My background, as I mentioned from the Air Force, was mostly physics and math initially. Trying to distill that into a specific question that in the course of a Ph.D. you can ask and hopefully try to answer at least a small piece of it. Oren was visiting one day. So, we decided to launch our own service. How was it? This van-based transportation exists all over the world. We’re using your service. Daniel Ramot: We’ve raised, at this point, about 450 million dollars for Via. Then spent six years working for the Israeli Air Force developing avionics systems, first for F15s and then for F16s. We would actually like to dispatch shared rides, have multiple passengers in each vehicle. You need the supply. People use these Suburbans with tinted windows, and they’re very, very expensive. If you’d told me in 2012 that we would raise 450 million dollars, first of all, I wouldn’t have believed you. Being able to apply concepts that you have learned from your time doing something else to a completely different industry. So, let’s talk about fundraising because for a marketplace, to follow-up on that, to get the net worth effects to turn in the right direction, you need liquidity in the marketplace. Also, you seem to have been the one that took the reigns on the business side. In particular, we were trying to use larger vehicles. That requires a big investment until you get to the right scale where you can start to see a return from that investment, and it requires a huge amount of fundraising and a huge effort. These 13 Largest NYC Tech Startup Funding Rounds of 2020. by Reza Chowdhury. Maybe if I were to think about what is the key skill that a founding team needs? After quite significant efforts in 2017, we really ended up that year with very few partners. The driver passes back the change. So, we started approaching different cities around the world saying, “Would you like to use this in 2017” a couple of years ago. Daniel Ramot is the cofounder of Via which provides on-demand transit on a mass scale. Being able to apply concepts that you have learned from your time doing something else to a completely different industry. Then, obviously, throughout Manhattan where there are a lot of investors. I saw that you guys have really interesting investors. : The business model, I’d say the product is very simple in some sense. I thought I would give it a shot and try to spend a few years learning about that. I’m a big believer, as well, that—I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but knowledge transfer. I would say that’s what really characterizes a lot of my work is always to really think about the product and the system. So, my advice is always—or my question is why haven’t you already launched? People use these Suburbans with tinted windows, and they’re very, very expensive. The funny thing is that if you look at what some of the other players have raised, whether it’s Didi in China, Grab, Uber, and so forth, it feels like a tiny amount of money, which is frankly ridiculous. : We’ve raised, at this point, about 450 million dollars for Via. 2018, we really saw a massive growth. I just thought studying how the brain works is probably the most interesting thing anyone could do. D. E. Shaw, some folks may be familiar with is a very large hedge fund. We knew that we wanted to do something entrepreneurial. : The logo is just so big it feels like it’s punching you in the face every time you see it, but I mean in a good way. The people there was great, and the project was just super interesting. That was the core mission of the company. What were you doing there? While delaying, there are probably others who have your same idea, and they’re moving. After we came up with the idea, I went to my colleagues, and my boss at the D. E. Shaw Research and I said, “Listen. That was where we initially started. And you got your Ph.D., so not bad at all. Alejandro: Got it. Alejandro: Got it. That was a regulatory innovation if you will. That approach of working together with cities, together with regulators, or partnering with them, has been very beneficial for us, and I think is what has allowed our business to evolve, to be honest, was the intention from the beginning to evolve also into and have a piece of the business. : I think, to me, on-demand transit, which I define as different from on-demand taxis where you’re booking a car. But the project itself was just super interesting. It took a while to convince people. I think Oren has the benefit of being a bit of an outsider, looked at me and said, “What is that car? We worked together in the Air Force for about four years. Trying to distill that into a specific question that in the course of a Ph.D. you can ask and hopefully try to answer at least a small piece of it. When it came to dividing the responsibilities, I think we could have gone either way. I have to say we had a number of quite terrible ideas that I’m very happy we didn’t choose to pursue. : I think the entire D. E. Shaw Research is just a great place to work. So, we did quite a bit of market surveys. They’re a little bit more flexible than the bus that you can get on and off anywhere. You pass your cash up to the front. In your case, what did you learn from neuroscience that perhaps you have been applying now what you’re doing at Via? We are engineers—some really interesting complex mathematical problem. Daniel Ramot: You know, today, the business has really evolved, and in some sense, it’s come back full-circle because when we first had the idea, we thought we’re going to build the software. So, I learned a lot about technology and about building these complex systems. I think that’s the best validation. It’s really challenging. We have an entrepreneur today that is going to help us learn a lot. Then we’re introduced to these later-stage investors through either existing investors or other folks that we knew. Add a new link about Daniel Ramot; Delete any non-relevant links for Daniel Ramot; Do you need to know more about Daniel Ramot? So, Daniel, what is the best way for the folks that are listening to reach out and say “Hi”? What kind of challenges did you guys encounter like not having that first move or type of advantage? So, coming from the background that I had which was in engineering and computer science, and then some biology training that I got in grad school, being able to bring that all together into, sort of going back to engineering to building these machines, these supercomputers was just a really great challenge. The Hearst Ventures, for example—this is one example, and there are actually quite a few other examples. I’m not sure that will work. They run the same routes often as the bus. But we knew intuitively it was a great idea, that we were passionate about it, that we wanted to do it. I didn’t have much background in biology, so I had to teach myself and learn quite a lot of biology to catch up. I guess from studying how the brain works, what were your biggest lessons? We both spent all this time in the Air Force. When we came back around in 2017 after launching in New York, Chicago, D.C., and really, really growing it, we felt that we had collected enough data, and we had enough proof points to demonstrate that this was really working. But we knew intuitively it was a great idea, that we were passionate about it, that we wanted to do it. I want to try to pursue this idea with my good friend, Oren. The other piece is our marketplace, the product we launched, fortunately for us had just a tremendous response from riders, from passengers. Alejandro: Alrighty. We assumed that only about half of them would actually give us the money. I’m in New York where we decided to launch the business initially, launch the service. What’s stopping you from launching tomorrow? It was a little bit of a semantic challenge. That was, I think, to me the initial discovery, the obvious one, that I needed to find a question that I was really excited about. I also learned a lot from David Shaw and from others at the company about how to run a company. The way we got there was we were walking around. At some point, the timing just became right for both him and for me, and it was an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up. One might say it’s a very prudent approach because, at the end of those months, we had a really clear indication and case that this was viable. It’s a pleasure to be talking to you. I see the logo of Via; I don’t know how many times a day. I also learned a lot from David Shaw and from others at the company about how to run a company. Everything you need to need to know about the largest NYC startup funding rounds of 2020; broken down by industry, stage, investors, ... LINKEDIN INSTAGRAM. So, I think we had a challenge when it came to the term, but actually, what we were doing, which was providing these dynamic shared rides, which we launched in New York in 2013, we were very much the very first to do that. It was a little bit of a semantic challenge. D. E. Shaw, some folks may be familiar with is a very large hedge fund. I think this sort of tradeoff of risk between kind of de-risking certain aspects of the project, or of the startup, by working through some of these questions; but losing time. I think that’s the best validation. We can also use smaller vehicles all the way from regular sedans to minivans and vans. We both spent all this time in the Air Force. So, getting that logo in front of you all the time, so that you are constantly reminded, “Oh, I can use Via, and then hopefully, that time back to this routine daily use was really a key part of what we were doing. Alejandro: Nice. The advantage we had was that they had essentially created an opportunity or way to run a service using an app, and this class of four higher vehicles in New York. It’s really amazing to think about it. Today, there are others. Extend your search. This wasn’t an easy problem because we were trying to take essentially drivers of high-end luxury limousines. Alejandro: Got it. Obviously, the other ridesharing companies, they were added since like 2009, and you have the other established companies that are more on the offline-type of environment. What were some of those early days like there? I think there are a lot of techniques that we use in science and computer science that we can—obviously, many people have done this and are doing this where you can try to understand how the brain works. Looked like he could have a very promising academic career. : I love it. As I head towards the end of my time with founders during these interviews, I always typically ask the same question towards the end, and that is if you could go to the past and give yourself advice before launching your first business, in this case, let’s say Via, what would that advice be and why? Then Oren did his Ph.D. That’s very important to us these days where we can leverage our technology, our software, our professional expertise, not only to run our own marketplace but also to help cities improve their public transportation system. Alejandro: Pretty cool. This would really appeal to folks who are very cost-conscious.” But it turned out that actually, we were a popular service with everyone. 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