Meet Aarjav Trivedi, a young Entrepreneur in the Sillicon Valley that tackles a fast moving on-demand transportation industry with his application called Summon. He challenges the fashionable on-demand system with a scheduling ride application that allows you to plan ahead of time for your rides.
Could you explain what Summon is in your own words?
We are an on-demand driver app. We are a consumer service that allows people to get rides from personal drivers and taxi drivers. We have recently launched a new product called Summon Ahead, which is a scheduling ride application. It is essentially like Summon, but you can now plan ahead of time and schedule a ride in advance for any time you need it.
This is extremely handy for when you have fixed times to be somewhere for example if you need to go to the airport, have an important meeting or event going to and back from work so you don’t need to get your phone out every time you want a ride.
How did you come to this on-demand driver app idea?
In 2008 the iPhone had just come out and it’s potential was being explored. I was recently graduated student with a really bad car. One day, I had gone to a bar with an Indian friend to watch the India vs Pakistan cricket match. India had won and so we celebrated all night. But when we wanted to get home, we realized that the buses had stopped.
This was before I had an iPhone and we had no other way to get home. So we started to walk, when a driver saw us walking in the middle of the night and stopped to offer us a ride; he was a Pakistani. We found it funny at the time because we had spent all night celebrating our victory and criticizing the Pakistani and there was this awesome Pakistani helping us out. I reflected back on his story many times and ought to find a solution to this problem.
According to you, what has been the biggest challenge for Summon?
The hardest thing is balancing the supply and demand. In order for the riders to get a good experience you need drivers but if you have too many drivers they get frustrated because there is no demand. I have talked to many entrepreneurs with the same business model and they are confronted with the same problem which is scaling while balancing supply and demand.
What Summon is today, is this how you had imagined it when starting off?
Good question. At the very beginning, in 2008, I was extremely naif. My idea of the world was: if you build something that is good enough, everyone will use it. The first thing I learned is that you really have to work hard to get to where you want to go. Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean it will work. You need know how to market it and sell it.
When we started, there was no good app that connected riders to drivers. There were only apps that would connect riders to taxi companies. So we wanted to solve that problem by connecting riders directly with taxis. We then realized that there were not enough taxis, that is why we expanded to personal driver. And now we are moving towards scheduling rides. The company evolves through time and with the needs of the customers.
Being a tech company, do you feel San Francisco is the right place to be?
We have the experience starting in Atlanta; In 2012 we moved to the bay. If you are a tech company it is always better to be in San Francisco due to the connections and the facility to grow faster. It is 10 times easier to raise money in San Francisco that anywhere else. There is a unique enriching cycle in SF: Successful founders become investors and the engineers look for other companies.
But a failure is never held against you because the experience they got out of it is better than just having a good education on your resume. And once you have failed, you start looking for the next best thing to do. This makes hiring easier and generates more motivated founders or employees. The one down side is that it is easy to get caught up with the idea that it will be successful because you raised money. You need to pay attention to the core of your business.
What are your plans for the near future for you company?
For the consumer side of the business I want to expand by being able to communicate better about who we are and how we are different. My focus is to build a more valuable service when it comes to new ways of transportation such as scheduling rides.
What did you do before starting your business?
I wanted to start my own business but it was hard so I did the next best thing is working in a start up. I worked for a start up that got acquired by Mcafw on research and development. Being able to build the product from scratch but also to sell them was a huge satisfaction for me and wanted to work on a project of my own. That is when I built up the courage to quit my job and start my own business.
How would you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
I don’t think it’s possible to have slippers nowadays. I am not any different on a everyday basis from when I am at work. But being a manager is a pretty unnatural thing in general. All your natural instincts as a human being most of the time end up being the wrong thing to do or to say. It is impotent to put yourself aside and understand that you are dealing with people with very different backgrounds, personalities and qualities. The key is to take into account what is best for the company and for the team and putting aside your own feelings.
What advice could you give to any entrepreneur staring a business like yours?
It is important to shut out almost everything. Of course, advisors are very important and so are investors and press but at the end of the day, your customers are what really matter. As long as you focus on making sure your product is something people like, you are on the right path.