In this episode on The Radcast, host Ryan Alford talks with two of the founders from HopinTech, Erich Ko and Boyd Reid.
What is Hop In? Why did it start? What problems is this company solving? All these questions and more are answered in today's episode on The Radcast. In this episode on The Radcast, host Ryan Alford talks with two of the founders from Hop In Technologies, Erich Ko and Boyd Reid.
Hop In is a Toronto-based, sustainably focused, commuting application company. Their mission is the following: "Hop In is building an ecosystem focused on improving the worker lifestyle by providing a marketplace of innovative solutions to the daily issues impacting the workforce."
Visit their website here to stay on board with everything they're navigating through this software!
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“You're listening to the Rad Cast. If it's radical, we cover it. Here's your host, Ryan Alford.”
Ryan Alford[00:00:14]Hey, guys, what's up? Welcome to the latest edition of the Rad Cast. It is the beginning of March as we blow through the beginning of 2021. It's been a great year. We've had some amazing guests. It has been world class as we bring to you the best in marketing and business podcasting. And I'm excited today to be joined by Erich and Boyd Reed, who are the co-founders of HopinTech. What's up, guys? Welcome to the show.
Erich Ko[00:00:44]Thanks for having us. Glad to be here
Ryan Alford[00:00:45]And appreciate you guys coming on. I know you're both in Canada and staying in a little lockdown as you guys are separated and everyone watching the video will see that more clearly as we have the split screen. But how's everything going for you guys in general?
Erich Ko[00:01:05]It's going pretty well. You know, business is picking up again. I think everyone is thinking about returning to work now and everyone's healthy, right? That's what matters.
Ryan Alford[00:01:15]Yes, that's good. Everybody stay safe and sound. And I guess it's been interesting. I do want to start, let's just start a little bit. Obviously, being in Canada with a lot of our audience in the U.S., we are worldwide, as we mentioned to you at the beginning of the session. But a lot of our audience is in the U.S. and may not know all of your background, you know, being in Canada and all that. Let's just start right there. And, you know, you guys, Erich or Boyd, either one of you guys could go first with, like, your background and what led to starting to HopinTech?
Boyd Reid[00:01:46]Yeah, for sure. You know, Erich and I, actually we've been friends since high school. You know, we got really close over the years. And we've always been talking about starting our own business ever since we've known each other. Really started out looking at starting a bar, to be honest, like any young 20 year olds looking to start a business.
Ryan Alford[00:02:05]Hey, could have worked for either one. I mean, you know, the writing's on the wall. If this doesn't work out, I'm going to be all in for the hops bar. Sorry, I digress.
Boyd Reid[00:02:25]You know, it's great. And, you know, that's something we always talk about over the years when we started getting into the, you know, professional life, we were in our separate careers. You know, something that we were continuously complaining about was our commute. You know, how do we make that better? And, you know, Toronto is quite a mess sometimes when it comes to the commute, whether you're taking public transit or driving in, it's quite complicated sometimes, the closer you get to the city. So we sat down and we also invited one of our other co-founders, Irwin. He is focused more on the tech side. So we started this conversation about how we go about solving this problem. And what we realized over time was, you know, there's tons of transportation options available to people, but it's just not being mobilized for the purpose of the commute. They're all separate municipalities working independently of each other. And, you know, what we really need is a connector. And what we focus on with HopinTech is focusing on the logistics aspect of it. It is about creating routes that are based around the needs of companies and their employees and looking at the transportation options available, whether it's a ride share like Uber or its charter bus company, about a lot of those seats at this time. We use those and mobilize those fleets to kind of fill the gaps left by public transit. And that's how our solution has come about. Kind of it's one of those classic solve your own problems initiatives.
Ryan Alford[00:03:49]Great. How did all the three of you come together? Is it three of you? I'm assuming, I heard a third name there. But how did all of that kind of transpire together? It sounds like you guys got different facets. Specialization is where my brain goes, naturally. But I love to hear how that kind of all came together.
Erich Ko[00:04:09]Yeah, I'll take this one. Like Boyd said, he and I have been friends since high school. I've actually known Erwin, our CTO since, I don't know, I was like 10 years old. He was actually my little brother's friend growing up in elementary school. And, yeah, we all just kind of came together at the right time here, I think. And we were all talking about something. It was the bar first then it kind of moved to something else and then it kept moving in. One day it was like 4:00 in the morning. I woke up and had this idea. So I called them. I was like, guys, we need to do this. We need to talk about this right now. And Boyd's like, okay, let me call you back in about three hours when I wake up. And it's just been kind of going ever since that.
Ryan Alford[00:04:48]Great. So what were we in the evolution of the company? I mean, how long has this process been and kind of where are we at? I imagine there's been some slowing down with covid. Unfortunately, I would imagine with transit and things like that. I don't know. You guys can fill me in, but talk to me about the evolution of the company and how far along we're into it.
Erich Ko[00:05:11]You know, like you'd think that, yeah, a transportation company would probably go down during covid, but we found some really interesting pivots and the one thing we realized is that not everybody can work from home. Right? You have all the food processing plants, manufacturing. Amazon, I know, is making a killing right now and opening a ton of new fulfillment centers. They still need to get to work, right? And if you look at the surveys, the majority of the people around the world are not comfortable taking public transit anymore. It's brought to light a lot of issues, not just with health, but also with general safety and security of riding. So we started offering up these transit systems or these shuttle systems to help the company stay in business and to give a bit of a safer and healthier commute. So we actually partnered with a bunch of health tech companies. We offer symptom tracking on our apps before you can board the bus. It sends aggregate data to the companies so they understand the health of the workforce on a daily basis. And then we actually also do rapid test kits that are brought to your home so you don't have to leave home to get tested.
Ryan Alford[00:06:09]That makes a lot of sense, that’s smart. I didn't even think about the extensions of that. You guys have been smart with pivoting. You know, it's funny when I think of bus riding and I don't know how it is in Canada, but like here in Greenville, South Carolina, and I'm sure someone local is going to, from the DMV as soon as this goes live, ‘Hey! you can't be talking about things like that.’ But the local bus is just not the most popular ride. Like, you know, it's like my whole life has just been like, you know, you try to avoid the bus at all costs. I assume it's similar everywhere, right? I mean, is that part of the challenge, even in Canada?
Boyd Reid[00:06:51]Yeah. And I think that you mentioned it is a problem kind of everywhere. You know, public transit, if you have the luxury of owning your own personal vehicle, that's what you will go with. Like going to be able to get going whatever you want, wherever you want to go without any restrictions. I think that's where the goal is. But when we look at some of the bigger cities in terms of the metropolitan cores, the ownership of vehicles goes down, not necessarily because of them not needing or wanting to have a car, but they just don't need it because there's access to so much more public transit. When you look at Toronto, you have the subways, the streetcars, the buses like, you know, in quite huge volumes. You mentioned you were from Manhattan, so same concept. And so the more you're into the city, you have a lot more public transit options. So to have a car in those situations, it may not be a need per se. But when you come into more suburban or rural areas, having a car is a lot more needed because the buses are not as accessible and you're not able to get around as often. So the same kind of concept then you see, you know, quite uniformly across the world. So that's why we tend to work a lot in these suburbs and rural areas where there's no access to those really strong public transit infrastructures. And that's where we come in with our solutions, which is to fill those gaps with those transportation options. Because it's really hard to get someone to work, sometimes very, very difficult by public transit. And when you talk about, like what Erich mentioned, the people who are servicing those essential workers, they're normally are minimum wage to low income earners. So they tend to not have, you know, one or multiple vehicles for the families. So solutions like ours fit in perfectly to meet that need.
Ryan Alford[00:08:35]There's a lot of boxes to get checked with your solution. You talk about green, you talk about conserving energy and different things. So there's a lot of positivity going on, as I don't need to tell you. But they kind of come to my head because when I was in New York, like it was right when, like the bike, rent the bikes and rent the scooters and all that stuff, this is like 2013, 2014. And it just not only just congested things. People left bikes everywhere, like it made no sense. And if you go to Santa Monica or like some of these other big cities, it's like, you know, it seems like a good solution, but it's just more stuff like around the cities and are dangerous on the streets. There's people, there's idiots, you know, riding these scooters that think they know how to ride a scooter. They're like, you know, like this 45 year old and not that there's anything wrong with 45 year olds. But they're like bunny hopping over curves. And it's like, ‘what are you doing?’ You know? But in all seriousness, it makes a lot of sense. Talk to me about the nuts and bolts for, you know, how businesses find you. Like, you know, it's a Canadian company. I want to talk about expansion here shortly. But being, you know, outside of Toronto, in the Toronto area, you know, how do businesses go about finding you and utilizing your services. What are the nuts and bolts for that sales process?
Erich Ko[00:09:55]Yeah, I think the first thing to understand is that we had to figure out what the root cause of a bad commute was, right? And it's not just because there are tons of cars on the road, but it's why are there tons of cars on the road? And so we found it in economic development and urban planning, actually. Because the way that we design cities, the way that we bring in corporate citizens and residential citizens, eventually, all of that contributes towards congestion and traffic flow, right. So we work directly with them. We work directly with municipalities, with regions, even with provincial or state governments as well. And we kind of understand the problem a little bit more. So we understand how they're building cities right now or how the rural areas are developing, where they're looking to put manufacturing facilities or office parks, and how we can start to construct more efficient lines of transit or shuttles there. Because the other problem is that with transit and city development, it's kind of like a chicken in the egg story. Right? Transit's always waiting for the demand because they don't want to waste taxpayer money building bus lines or whatever it is. Right? But the economic developers, they need transit to come in to be able to get their corporate citizens to come and plant themselves there. So we come in and act as a bit of a catalyst for that. So we work between all of these different bodies. We work with, like the boards of trade, chambers of commerce, the commercial developers and real estate firms. We're actually working on a partnership with a property management firm right now. And, you know, we look at what their needs are, right? What their needs and the needs of their tenants are. And we kind of work around that and get clients that way, I guess.
Ryan Alford[00:11:27]So every contract is very unique, I imagine. It's kind of building it out into what that proposal and/or contract ends up looking like, the terms, et cetera. Yeah, the length of time and all that and the number of people I mean, how many operating buses or what do you call your transporters? Do they have a special branded name or are they just vans?
Boyd Reid[00:11:54]So we work with a variety of different types, like you mentioned, the ride sharing and charter. So for some of the smaller solutions we look at using a ride share kind of model because, you know, they only need to move a few people at a time. But when we're looking at some of the bigger companies, when we look at some of the companies, they need more people like hundreds and thousands of employees. So in terms of moving them, we use charter bus companies and they are the charter bus companies that you would take to travel to Niagara Falls or a trip to a wedding party or something like that. With them, they focused mostly on events. And so I think that's what we're able to provide them with consistent businesses, with working with these businesses, because they need to get to work Monday to Friday. So what we do is we provide opportunities for those charter bus companies to be able to provide their shuttle services. And when it comes to the actual needs of the individual businesses, what we do is what we call a needs assessment. And that needs assessment allows us, but also the company as well, to understand the commuting challenges that their employees are facing. And they can kind of see where we go in terms of plotting routes and how we can optimize the commute to make it a lot easier to get into work.
Ryan Alford[00:13:07]Great. So, you know, I guess I'm slow to the game here. I don't know if it's just my Tuesday cobwebs or what. You guys are aggregating existing infrastructure, be it vans, buses, cars, whatever that might be going unused, which I love even more, even smarter. I mean, I know you guys are smart. Then, do you guys actually own any of your own infrastructure or does it go to the ride sharing companies or is it all using up existing infrastructure that's there? But you guys kind of aggregate it, bring the deals together, bring the technology together. Am I hearing that right?
Erich Ko[00:13:51]Yeah, we don't own any of the infrastructure there. We only own the software. We put things together and there are two reasons why we did that. Number one, it helps us expand really quickly. Like if we're just expanding software, we find the local shuttles we can give back to the local economies by contributing to these businesses as well. And like it's helping us right now. We're selling in North Dakota right now as well. And that wouldn't be possible this quickly if we had to bring buses over, get licenses and everything. Righ?. The second thing is exactly that, what you said, we're using the existing infrastructure and we're just redirecting it. And for us, it's more of a clean tech thing. We want to take single occupancy vehicles off the road. We want to reduce traffic congestion. We want to reduce carbon emissions as a whole on your daily commute. And we actually have some cool initiatives coming as well through that, where we're going to be donating trees and planting trees with some of our partner clients and companies to kind of offset the carbon emissions that we have right now.
Ryan Alford[00:14:49]Wow, that's awesome. I love that. Let's come back to that one. But so talk to me about expansion. So where we started in the Toronto area and surrounding suburbs, I imagine, not knowing or pretending to know every suburb. I guess that's inconsequential that I now know Ajax. But that's not just under my kitchen sink. But in all seriousness, where are we expanding to from here? Or what are the both the maybe near-term and long term kind of aspirations with all this? Because obviously, now understanding, and I apologize for not kind of getting that quicker, but the implications for this are worldwide. So, you know, I like to dream big. I know you guys are.
Erich Ko[00:15:43]I'll go big to small. I mean, yeah, long term we want to be everywhere because commuting is a global problem. We are talking to a few bodies in Asia and few of the countries, a little bit in Europe, although they actually have a bit of a better transit system. Paris has an insanely efficient transit system. But mainly North AmErich a. And getting into Latin AmErich a a bit more right now, I mentioned. So Toronto is great. It's its own body. But all across our province, Ontario, I think it's like three times the size of Texas. So we're working right now from Toronto all the way to the border of Quebec, the other province beside us. We're also expanding out to Vancouver, British Columbia, a little bit to Alberta, which kind of leads us down to the Midwest, U.S. So we're going through North Dakota, looking at a lot of those industrial and manufacturing zones. I think one of our advisers put it really well. He said, you know, unsexy areas is where we're going for. The places that you wouldn't normally think a tech company would be right?
Ryan Alford[00:16:45]Hey, the riches are in the niches. You guys can have that one.
Ryan Alford[00:16:57]In all seriousness, what's it like as far as the technology that's involved in this? Like, talk to me, you know, in layman's terms, we're not talking about zeros and ones here. But what kind of infrastructure and technology are we talking about? And I'm not asking for trade secrets as much as, you know, the software. Because it seems very complex to me. Just knowing the little bit that I know about government and how behind some of their stuff is, combined with just tapping into all of these available infrastructures, it seems complex. Can you walk me through some of the tech side of all of that?
Erich Ko[00:17:48]You know what? I think, and again, in the long term, yeah, it gets really complicated, right? And like the large-scale change that we're trying to evoke here, we’ll get there. But for now, it's pretty simple. Companies need to get their employees to work. There's a connection, obviously, from like transit hubs that are already there and we can just run shuttles back and forth like that. All right. You know, the data that we collect on the rides themselves, that's what's kind of feeding back into our software that we're building and kind of optimizing everything on that end. And that's where we start to scale it out a bit more, work more closely with existing infrastructure and the transit companies themselves and the cities. And we're starting to do that little bit. You can see in the rural areas, like I mentioned, from Toronto to the come back border, it's basically all like rural areas out there. So we're starting to develop it there, develop the technology and deploy it. It's obviously easier in smaller towns than it would be in Toronto or New York or something like that. And then the products, It's funny because we actually didn't build any tech until this year. We started building it in January. We didn't need it. We, you know, we ran the company, understood the operational process and kind of how it would work. And then we built the tech around that and kind of what our clients really wanted. So we do have four products coming out this year, two mobile apps. One for the riders, one for the drivers, and then a corporate dashboard on the Internet for our clients to go and check out all the data on things that we're tracking for them, kind of showing them how their workforce is being more efficient after using HopinTech. And then, kind of our backend internal server. And all of this is, I mean, I'm talking about it, but I can't take any of the credit for it. Like Boyd and Irwin, are architects of this entire thing. They've set up like the stages in which we're going to go and build bus lines. And then eventually they're going to say, ‘Erich , okay, go and tap into our municipal contacts’ and things and start to do this longer process.
Ryan Alford[00:19:44]That's cool. So I do want to bring back up the green initiative with the planning of the trees. So can you expand a little bit more about how that happens and, you know, where and who you might be partnering with to kind of bring all of that to life?
Erich Ko[00:20:00]Yeah, that's the part I'm most excited about these days. You can ask anybody in our team at our Monday meeting yesterday, that's all I was talking about. I don't know if you know the company, Tentree? They sell sweaters?
Ryan Alford[00:20:12]They did this one earlier. Yes. Yes.
Erich Ko[00:20:14]Yeah. So they plant a tree for every sweater that they sell. And so we talked to somebody that, I don't know, he knew the connection. And we're using the same company as them now. Actually, they're in San Francisco. So basically what we'll do is like we have a calculator that we created that shows how many trees you're able to save by using our bus service as a company. Right? And I think we're up to, what, 30, 35 trees now, right Boyd?
Boyd Reid[00:20:38] Somethinglike that. Yeah.
Erich Ko[00:20:39]Yeah. So we're actually going to go and plant about 35 trees to start with, in Madagascar, or like the mangroves, they have different sites that they use as well. And then basically every quarter we're going to partner with the companies, kind of donate on their behalf because they're the ones that are paying for the rides and contributing and again, help to offset the carbon emissions. Because at the end of the day, I think, you know, it's a small step per tree that you plant, but everything kind of counts. Right? And it's just one step towards being clean.
Ryan Alford[00:21:09]I love it. I love it. You know, it sounds like there's a lot I mean, there's ancillary things that happen just naturally. By the way you're using the existing infrastructure. There's a lot of green happening. There's a big story there, which I always appreciate, love to kind of expand on. So as people go along, like, how are you guys kind of documenting all this or how can people kind of keep up with, you know, this story and everything that's happening with you guys? You guys have some channels and different things, you know, for you guys, for how people can learn more and stay up to date with everything with HopinTech?
Boyd Reid[00:21:47]Yeah, for sure. I mean, our social media platforms are very active, like Erich mentioned before the call, you know, social media manager is on top of all these things. So she's posting a lot of updates on not just, you know, what we're doing as a company, but what we're doing in terms of impact as well. On our website, we also have impact calculation. So you can see in terms of the amount we’re servicing, what you mentioned, how much you know, what you would see in terms of reducing the single occupancy vehicles. And what that means in terms of impact on the environment as well. And we're also posting about that on social media. Our website www.HopinTechtech.com. We’re also on LinkedIn. We're very active on there, too, and Twitter. So on all these social media platforms you look for HopinTech, you'll be able to find us. We keep very regular updates in terms of what's happening with the company, whether it's a new client, whether it's our social impact. We also were very much active on the covid initiative that we started. Like Erich mentioned, when the situation first happened in March, when we had our first initial lockdown here in Canada, we decided instead of waiting around, we wanted to make some sort of impact. So we delivered over one hundred meals to front line health care workers. We did about 250 kilometers of free rides to help them get to work as well. And we donated over twenty five thousand masks as well during that time. So all those kinds of updates, and little things we are sharing on social media so people could be aware. We also share information about our partners because not just us as a company, we like to make this like our business model. We like to bring other people in as well and provide leadership and then provide a platform for people to be impacted.
Ryan Alford[00:23:39]I love that. So are we looking for investment? I mean, where do we want to take, you know you know, the business? Is it just, you know, the three amigos kind of going at it? Or are we looking for investment down the road like anything that anybody should hear or know about?
Erich Ko[00:24:01]Yeah. I mean, we've actually been talking to a few firms in the U.S. already. We're actually in the middle of a round, so. Yeah, we're looking for about a hundred grand more. We have a group of investors that are already interested. But, you know, we're really big on the proper backing for our investors. Right? Like, we've turned down quite a bit of money from some bigger firms and private equity firms. And we went with social impact investors. :Like our lead investor is the Syndicate, they’re B Corp certified. And all the investors are aligned. They see what we're trying to do, not just for profit, but also to change the world. So we're looking for investors that are really big on social impact.
Ryan Alford[00:24:47]Yeah, it's great. It's smart to stay aligned with your core values. A lot of people, a lot of startups, you know, get lured by the money because they want to see it be successful. But then you get into some real unfortunate situations when you're not aligned, kind of where you want to go directionally and from a brand and everything else, that's smart, so be patient with that. That's a little counsel, not that you asked for it anyway. But hey, guys, Erich Boyd, really, really appreciate you guys coming on. And I really encourage everyone to follow along with everything with HopinTech. You heard where they are. You will see all of the links on our profiles and the social media content to come. And we really appreciate these guys coming on. You know where to find us. We're at TheRadCast.com, @the.rad.cast. And I'm always @RyanAlford on all the social networks. And we'll see you next time.
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