Most corporations don’t merely exist on paper—they exist in a physical location with a workforce that needs to travel there. In the 21st century, this problem is complicated. As cities grow denser, public transportation becomes more relied upon, and new options, such as bike-share programs and ride-share startups, are always entering the mix.
On the latest UpTech Report, I interview Matt Caywood, the founder and CEO of Transitscreen, a company that’s working to help organizations navigate the complexities of getting their employees from point A to point B.
Their main product allows people to glance at a screen and see, in real-time, a full range of current transportation options, including trains, buses, rideshares, bicycles, and cars—information that can affect everything from getting home to relocating your headquarters.
More information: https://transitscreen.com/
Matt Caywood is CEO and co-founder of Washington, DC-based TransitScreen. Matt has a PhD in neuroscience from the University of California San Francisco, and degrees in neuroscience and computer science from Cambridge and Harvard.
Matt is a frequent speaker on transportation, data, neuroscience, and entrepreneurship, including at Harvard, MIT, Northwestern University, the World Bank, Dubai RTA, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and Transportation Research Board (TRB). Matt has pitched world leaders like President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Matt Caywood 0:00
They’re really approaching the promise as a public policy problem, like how do we get more people to ride public transit? How do we get people to use Bike Share? How we’ve got a lot of people moving into the city, you know, people who are living in, you know, newly built buildings and have never used these before, maybe they, you know, were in college, maybe they were somewhere where they drove everywhere. How do we educate them and help influence them to try out these different options.
Alexander Ferguson 0:32
Most corporations don’t merely exist on paper, they exist in a physical location with a workforce that needs to travel there. In the 21st century, the problem is complicated. As cities grow denser, public transportation becomes more relied on and new options such as bike share programs, and rideshare. Startups are always entering the mix. On the latest UpTech Report, I interview Matt Caywood, the founder and CEO of Transitscreen, a company that’s working to help organizations navigate the complexities of getting their employees from point A to point B, their main product allows people to glance at a screen and see in real time, a full range of current transportation options, including trains, buses, ride shares, bicycles, and cars, information that can affect everything from getting home to relocating your headquarters.
Man, I’m excited to have our conversation today and really dig into transit screen and why you started it and the problem that you’re looking to solve in the world. To begin, I’d like you to describe your company and why it exists in a very brief five seconds, what would you say?
Matt Caywood 1:40
We solve the problem of helping people know what and where they can take transportation in mostly an urban environment. So to make it a little bit simpler than that, I used to leave the lab late at night when I was in grad school, and I would have a choice of buses, and I never knew where to go to pick them up or when they were coming and giving me that information. Right as I was leaving the building. That’s the goal transcript.
Alexander Ferguson 2:04
Got it. I love it just you experienced the problem already. And you’re like, wow, okay, this needs to be solved. This started in 2013, you co founded this company. Yeah,
Matt Caywood 2:15
that’s right. And I was a little bit of a government project actually, before that. So I was advising this this kind of government research project in Arlington, Virginia, I was I was also working at a national lab at the time in the DC area. And it like many government projects, it creates some very, really interesting technology, some some, you know, novel technology that didn’t really exist before, and kind of lacked a commercialization strategy. So I ended up being the person who, who kind of found my way to that responsibility. And to commercializing it in for a startup.
Alexander Ferguson 2:47
Wow, this is the first company that you’ve led
Matt Caywood 2:51
from the first real company that I’ve led. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I had I had online, you know, rare book business, not yet.
Alexander Ferguson 2:59
Not the same at all, when it comes to technology software, but you being able to have that start already had the technology, but then bringing it to market? Can you describe kind of that evolution of the past seven years of what you thought the problem was, and the pain that was felt? And how maybe how that’s changed?
Matt Caywood 3:17
Yeah, absolutely. I think when we were working with the government side, they were really approaching the promise as a public policy problem, like how do we get more people to ride public transit? How do we get people to use Bike Share? How we’ve got a lot of people moving into the city, you know, people who are living in, you know, newly built buildings and have never used these before? Maybe they, you know, were in college, maybe they were somewhere where they drove everywhere? How do we educate them, and and, you know, help influence them to try out these different options, right. And so that was the the fundamental policy problem, but the real kind of, you know, where the rubber met the road is when we, meaning myself and my co founder, Ryan, who’s sort of the business development side of our company, at the time, found our way to all these different industries that had problems relating to the new transportation forms that were becoming available in cities, right. So you look at real estate owners who are paying a premium to be located close to new transportation options, or to Metro or the subway, or you know, even Bike Share, and you’re looking at employers who wanted to be in these environments. And so we were really focused on helping them get the maximum value of their investment by by, you know, either using this kind of information, this transportation information, to help sell their properties or to help them, you know, influence the people who are going to be working or living in these buildings,
Alexander Ferguson 4:48
and how has that then kind of evolved with your current client base that you see going forward that the biggest growth area
Matt Caywood 4:57
Yeah, you know, I think we’ve found that that You know, we have solutions that that benefit companies who are, you know, heavily invested in, in the functioning of these transportation networks, right? Look at like Amazon building HQ to in Arlington, right, they needed to be proximate to, you know, on top of services that can move a lot of people for their workforce. And so when we, when we kind of started off, we were thinking, you know, it’s really gonna be, well, actually, we thought it was government early on, we thought government was gonna be paying for the service. And then we realized that that big is a whole different ballgame is really, really a lot more challenging. So we decided to focus on working with real estate customers, and then that led us to evolve to providing solutions for corporate workforces, and really, you know, major employers, you know, they’re all going to be dealing with, with, you know, transportation issues, you know, whether it’s going into, you know, the distributed workforce, and managing all the different transportation options, people will need to go to, you know, little offices, or whether it’s, you know, making sure that that, you know, if everyone starts driving to the, you know, the main headquarters, you don’t have a parking calamity, you know, like, all, you know, transportation is, you know, is very much in flux right now, but but, you know, we’re trying to stay on top of that helped me
Alexander Ferguson 6:16
understand even a bit more of the technology of why it’s different to why somebody just can’t do it themselves, or other other products or services out there.
Matt Caywood 6:28
Yeah, you know, like a lot of these things, many of our, many of our best customers had or have been ones who have tried to do it themselves over time, and found that it really wasn’t their, their core competency, right. And so, you know, we, as a company have stayed, you know, very, very closely tied to the transportation industry, keeping up with all the changes, keeping up with the, you know, the introduction of new micro mobility options, like scooters and bike shares, inside, occasionally, they’re just appearance, and doing this on a global level, right. So not just in us in North America, but also increasingly in Europe, or Australia, or some of these other markets. And for some of our customers, especially corporate customers, that, you know, they have an international footprint, so they need solutions that apply internationally. So it’s partly our deep data expertise, and then also, just the fact that we’re, you know, entirely focused on solving these business problems that, you know, you know, other companies that have maybe consumer solutions just can’t be right and so, so I think it’s, it’s our intense customer focus coupled with our our deep transportation expertise that makes us successful in this industry
Alexander Ferguson 7:36
niching down and focusing on one particular industry, and and problem definitely helps create a solution that can’t be easily found elsewhere. You talk about your focus on on data, where are you collecting all this information? How have you built up this, this ecosystem of them that truly can help differentiate you?
Matt Caywood 7:56
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s been a time consuming process, and definitely an investment. You know, we, we started, you know, I was, I was kind of a data junkie, I was really into, you know, understanding where these new transportation feeds and real time data were coming from. And, and, you know, so we’ve just, we’ve just stayed on top of that, progressively over time, open data, you know, is, is part of the solution. So governments and transit agencies providing data to all comers, some of what we do, you know, we consume practically 3000 data feeds from from all over the world. Right, and, and maybe 300 different formats. And so a lot of those are, are not open data, some of them are, but but there’s increasingly a lot of them that are just coming in, in different ways. And so, just managing that is definitely a big part of the challenge. And something where, you know, we’ve built a whole lot of capacity over time,
Alexander Ferguson 8:50
you mentioned the need, particularly going to corporate where they have offices all over. Are you getting more international? In your delivery? What’s that look like?
Matt Caywood 9:00
Yeah, you know, it’s been largely customer driven. So, you know, they’re, they’re pulling us into new markets saying, Hey, do you have Tel Aviv? Do you have Sydney? Do you have, you know, one of their markets can you give us and, you know, that’s, that’s one of the things we’re, we’re you know, we’re very happy to help because, I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it really just speaks to the fact that we are the solution provider that that people are looking for, you know, with this kind of your national footprint and you know, it also if we have to go and get data in a new city, it makes it really easy for us to you know, to say oh, by the way this this large company that you probably know about is asking it’s not us we you’ve never heard of us but it’s these guys are asking for it gives
Alexander Ferguson 9:40
you credibility to be able to make those requests and move into those spaces that makes it makes sense that kind of growth. Moving forward from here then what what do you see as as the future for you both in the near term with current ecosystem that exists and and the long term of like five years from now that you’re that you’re heading towards, and you see down the pipeline, what’s what’s coming next?
Matt Caywood 10:06
Yeah, so, you know, I think like, like anyone else in this kind of COVID time, right? The biggest question is, how are, you know, how’s the economy going to change, and how are customers going to change as a result of this, right, and you look at the data on companies going back to work, you know, everyone’s got a plan to go back, you know, in some form or another, but maybe there’ll be more distributed work, maybe there’ll be more remote work, you know, and, and, you know, understanding that, that creates, you know, more complexity that makes it harder for companies to kind of manage their footprint, I think, in the long run, is something that we’re we’re very interested in, you know, looking there and looking for solutions with our, you know, our partners and our and our customers that could help them address these kinds of challenges. Certainly, in terms of urban transportation, you know, transit networks are going to be very troubled for a while, you know, after this, and you’re going to see longer headways between, you know, vehicles, you’re gonna see more crowding, perhaps limited capacity, you know, all stuff that that requires real time information, to make it work smoothly, right. Because if you know, the difference between, you know, the classic kind of European transit network where you can show up, you know, at every end, something’s coming every two minutes or three minutes, you know, versus a more of an American kind of experience, where it’s like coming every 20 minutes, you know, if it’s 20 minutes, you really need the information, and you need the information everywhere. And not just in your mobile, like you need a screen, because otherwise, you’re going to end up with having a bad experience, right? And so, for us, like, like, understanding and that, that these things are going to change, and are going to create, I think I think more demand for these kinds of products in the long run, is a very important direction for us.
Alexander Ferguson 11:59
Where can people go to learn more about your company? And what’s a good first step for them to take?
Matt Caywood 12:04
Yeah, so transitscreen.com is our website. And, you know, we’ve got, we work with so many different types of customers, I think, you know, people should should, you know, look at the solutions page and figure out, you know, what, exactly it is that that aligns with with their own interests. But you know, whether you’re coming at it from an angle of real estate or our corporate workforce, or even smart cities, stadiums, you know, you name it event spaces, we can fit into the transportation management needs of a lot of different areas. And we also just recently launched our first API page. So we’ve got a bunch of different API’s for companies that have apps or websites that need real time transportation information, we can provide that on a highly customized basis and kind of meet anyone where they are. So that’s, that’s a new initiative for us and one that we’ve seen a lot for actually recently.
Alexander Ferguson 13:01
Be sure to check out part two of my conversation with Matt, in which he talks more about the challenges he overcame to launching a new startup and shares an interesting strategy he employed that involve using government regulatory restrictions as a way to introduce his product to new customers.