Becoming a Lyft Driver and Unboxing

Although my day job in San Francisco consists of many meetings, trips, and other expenditures of time we’ve dubbed ‘work’, I found myself wanting to learn more during my time in the Bay Area.  I thought it would be great to dive in head first and use some of the technologies and organizations available to those who live in the bay area that are not yet available elsewhere.  

My specific interest to Lyft stems from the idea covered at Singularity University that before artificial intelligence in robots is advanced enough to perform everyday tasks, “the crowd” will take the place.  Essentially ‘The Crowd’ so often mentioned in terms of Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunded, etc, is the surrogate for AI.  No other place is this so prominent than in last mile transportation.  Lyft essentially uses everyday people who own four door cars as drivers and equipment to run a pseudo- taxi company.  Lyft is an iPhone app that connects people who need rides with people willing to give them.  Its not hard to see that when self-driving cars come online in 2016-2020, the human driver will no longer be required in such a business model.

I applied to become a Lyft driver with the notion that while my wife is on call for the next four months at the General Hospital, I would have the occasional evening and weekend where I could take on a second ‘job.’  The purpose is not to make money (although it is a perk) but more to research such a fascinating startup.

After applying (via a few clicks from Facebook), I was quickly contacted by a Lyft employee who gave me pseudo-phone interview.  That must have gone well, because I was immedietly invited to open up the app on my phone an finish the application process.   This consisted of snapping a photo of my ID, my car, and my insurance card, and I was done.  I waited a few days to pass the background check and the 3 year driving history check.  Once this was completed, I was emailed videos to watch, and once complete was invited to take a test drive with my “Lyft Mentor.”  After a 20 minute in person, in-car interview and driving ‘exam’ I was checked off on and received a phone call the next day to welcome me as a driver and get my mailing address for my welcome package.

I was already floored at the service level and speed to on-ramp a new driver.  Like clockwork, I was followed up with, reminded (by text and email) where I was in the process and how to get to the next step.  It was borderline creepy how ‘easy’ it felt to become a driver, but this is the real beauty in the sophistication of the app.

Not to disappoint, I received my welcome package only one day later direct to my house.  I’ll continue on below with specifics and photos, but I can’t over-embellish how incredible the unboxing experience was for me.  Having been through Alpha and Beta programming with Mavizon – I felt I had a decent taste for what good and bad unboxing looks like.  Apple is the king of unboxing in consumer electronics of course, but new technologies require a little extra “umph” for people to get it.  Lyft’s case is even more important as the unboxing is really for people who have not spent a dime with Lyft, but instead will be offering their services to the company at a 80/20 rev share.  Its really important for drivers to get the culture from day one.

Here’s the unboxing:

Box
This is the box as it arrived at my door.
Open Box
Open the box up, excitement ensues. The wrapper on the pink mustache reads something to the affect “attach the stash and you’re ready to go!”

 

The ‘stache in all its glory. Such an iconic thing for Lyft….

 

Amazing paperwork – friendly but informative. Printed on some hella-nice paper too.
The text read with just the right amount of whimsy and information.

 

image_2
Lyft outfits all drivers with a iphone dock and multiple chargers and auxiliary cords. The chargers aren’t just for drivers – passenger are encourage to play DJ and charge their phones….

 

image_7

 

Now to the streets!

 

 

The Quantum Entrepreneur

Recently, I had lunch with an entrepreneur friend of mine in San Francisco.  He had worked for several BIG companies before helping start a little company that recently sold to a bigger cloud storage company.  As we talked, we jumped from topic to topic – and not all in tech.  One minute we shared ideas on organic farming, then we were on robotics, next thing we know we’ve got a laptop open flipping through slides for a small web app i’ve been working on.

Then it donned me:  anyone looking from the outside in would think we were startup wankers.  The types of people who talk talk talk but never actually do anything.

The truth is though this friend of mine (like most of the folks I meet with in the Bay Area) has, is, and will continue to actually DO things.  I like to think that at least I can admit when I have to many ideas and not enough action.  Therefore, we can’t be wankers can we?  You know startup wankers when you see them.  Sometimes called Wantrepreneaurs.  These are the guys who talk about their “stealth mode” startup that is raising money.  They go to a lot of mixers.  They do many trade shows.  They are usually running “lean” and don’t actually have any engineers involved.  They have gorgeous business cards.   Its scary.

I think a better word for the people who actually are capable of delivering on at least a portion of what they talk about is the “Quantum Entrepreneur.”  Hear me out:

_qubit_vs_bit

I’m no quantum computing expert (or any kind of computer expert for that matter).  But the basic idea behind quantum computing is that instead of thinking in 0s or 1s, a quantum computer uses bits that are either, or, both- etc.  This is the difference between a normal computer bit (a 1 or a 0) and a Quantum bit (any combination plus more and sometimes all).

This is essentially how the quantum entrepreneur thinks.  A standard person would tell you that you either have to be an employee or a manager.  You either have to be a corporate guy or a startup guy.  You have to choose between design and engineering.  You have to decide if you are a farmer or a founder.  In reality this is not true.  Our linear minds try to force us to believe it to be but its not.  The Quantum Entrepreneur, like a quantum computer, can rapidly switch circuits.  So fast a standard thinker may write them off as all talk – but be careful, because somewhere in the rapid transitions from farming to technology, to services, to robots, to apps lies something beautiful.

All of this switching topics quickly marches down idea paths that branch off in many directions.  The faster an entrepreneur can choose the best path, or backtrack on the trail to take another, the better.  It just so happens that a quantum approach may actually be the best.  Perhaps its ok to be a few things to a few people.  To bet on a few races at once.  Quantum thinking may not be for everyone, but for many of the meetings I have day to day, I think its the only way to stay sane.

 

Altruism is Currency (Singularity Part 2)

In this second post about Singularity University, I thought it would b nice to lay down some very important facts that frame most of the learning that happens there.  First, the fact that in order to be an entrepreneur you have to be an optimist.

Too often in this world we are convinced by the media, our news feeds, and our surrounding chatter that the world is inherently “bad.”  We read about disease, disasters, and technologies that will destroy all privacy and ruin our lives.  It is true today that there is still darkness in the world, diseases that are not cured, unpredicted disasters, and technology that seems invasive.  It is also true that today global problems pale in comparison to the same problems just 20 or so years ago.  Take for example, the fact that today you only have a .03% chance of dying a “violent” death.  This is down from over 15% chance in the early 20th century.

So why do we still feel unsafe, stressed, and worried about the world we live in?  Meet your Amygdala.  The Amygdala is a pesky part of our brains that made it possible for us to evolve.  This is the part of our brain that is a “hot circuit” for fear.  The same thing that makes us jump when frightened, and allows our bodies to react ultra fast to danger.  Millions of years ago, that danger would be to out run, or out hide a predator.  Today, modern media has exploited this piece of human anatomy as a hot circuit that we biologically can not ignore.  We can’t help but be engaged to “bad” news.  Its the same reason we find entertainment in a horror film.  The problem comes when we overlay this biological fact with the advanced, media-rich world we live in today.  Twitter, Facebook, push notifications on our iDevices, and advertising make it impossible to turn our amygdala off.

amygdala

Understanding this, we can step back and realize these world problems that are so “insurmountable” are not so impossible after all.  In fact, EVERY problem we know today can be solved with a simple formula:   Technology + Capital + People .  In some cases we don’t even need all three.

Maybe we shouldn’t identify our biggest problems today as ‘problems’ at all.  They are the biggest opportunities of all.  The faster we can execute on these opportunities, the better the whole human race will be.  Of course, we’ll find something to do with that amygdala, more bad news is certain to flood our society – but this shouldn’t stop us from moving forward today.

One big question I had when listening to the SU debunk myth after myth about the world’s grand challenges (hunger, water, energy), was ‘what will we do when we live in a world with so few problems, there is not enough work to keep everyone busy solving them?’  It’s not such a crazy thought.  Yes, we will inevitably create new problems by solving others, but surely the trend is a downward one.  It was at this point Neil Jacobstein shared a profound thought: Altruism Is Currency.

I won’t pretend I didn’t check wikipedia to be sure I knew what Altruism means:  Its the “principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others.”  Let that sink in for a second.  In other words, because nothing in this world is impossible, it means that we can begin to spend our time practicing altruism: solving problems for others. As the human race continues to grow through technology, the tools we create along the way can be used to solve the problems of our neighbors.

This turns out to be an incredible way to calm the amygdala.  By giving to others, our brains create more Oxytocin – the chemical that helps to counteract the amygdala.  This is the same chemical created when we laugh or love.   This is perhaps the strongest argument that we solve problems exponentially with technology, because as one problem is solved, we are physically compelled to help others with the technology – speeding up the solutions to the world’s problems.

I’ll stop here for this post, and continue with more SU thoughts in a 3rd post.  For now, I’ll end with a quote that is brought to mind as we realize just how quickly some of the world’s problems can be solved:

Impossible is Nothing

 

A year in review September 2012- September 2013

The roller coaster of 2012-2013 has not disappointed.

I have decided to start blogging again for my own sake. More of a journal really. While I was at Mavizon, the team all encouraged it – they said it would help get thoughts together, and help me share thoughts with everyone at the same time. During that time, I did it to appease them and to help our Google juice in some small way. But after leaving Mavizon, I realized how much value it added. It wasn’t until recently I realized all of those posts had been deleted…thoughts, reflections, mind-clearing gibberish lost forever. For the first time in a long time, I was reminded that we only really miss things when they are gone.

So i’ve decided to do this for my future self’s sake. I know it won’t be frequent or fresh by any stretch of the imagination, but hopefully if I come back to this in a year some of my more tangible milestones will be recorded.

This first post will be dedicated to a quick timeline of what has happened in the past year:

Early September 2012: After a rocky 3 months of preparing to raise a Series A round of capital for Mavizon, I realize there are unforeseen and un-reconciable differences in vision within the founding members (myself included). I decide to step out of the organization into the great unknown.

Late September 2012: I got bored a week into my ‘off’ time. I buy a 1977 VW Westy and begin a light restoration.

October 2012: I think I’ve cleared my mind enough to start looking for what is next in my career. Jen, Woo, Jordan and I bounce ideas around weekly. The old Mavizon team meets regularly for coffee at Quills in Louisville.

Late October 2012: I send out first load of applications, focused on product management gigs. I go to San Francisco (where my search is focused) and I interview at a few small tech companies.  I finish the first wave of work on the bus.

November 2012: Phone screen. Work on bus. Phone screen. Jen and I try to start a near-shore development operation in Costa Rica dubbed “FoundersScout”.

December 2012:  Another trip to San Francisco, more interviews, and my lovely wife, An interviews at UCSF for dental residency. I accept an offer at a mid-size ‘software’ company in Louisville in the healthcare space. Jen and I scrap Costa Rica dev plans, as we both accept offers at the same company.

January 2013: I realize I don’t care about the broken healthcare system. An is matched at UCSF. Reality of a move to San Francisco sets in. Send more applications westward.

February 2013: More interviews. At this point, I realize how valuable my mentors back at Samtec and BlueSky were. I’m asked if I would consider a role at BlueSky or Samtec. I of course would. But we’re moving to San Francisco…

March 2013: Moving plans are beginning. Staying focused on work, and thinking about what is next- Start a new company in SF?  Continue to apply at companies?  Wait until we get there?

April 2013: I find out at some point in here that BlueSky Network would be interested in having some kind of foot soldier on the ground in San Francisco.

May 2013: I officially accept an offer as a Project Manager at BlueSky, a lone wolf position scouting new opportunities and areas of focus for the organization that invests in some pretty great stuff.  We take a trip to San Francisco to find our new home.

June 2013: We load up are car, throw the two dogs in the back and head West.

June, July, August: Some of the most exciting, fulfilling, interesting work I have ever done.