Finding Founder Jonny Simkin talks traffic and how his company Swiftly is going to improve our commuting future
Do you personally know one person who can affect hundreds of thousands of lives every day directly? I do.
Jonny Simkin co-founder of Swiftly is building (growing) a transit data collecting and analytics brain child to improve transit systems, that urbanites like you and I NEED to keep the world turning. Our very own San Francisco economy relies on public transit or thousands wouldn’t have access to things like certain jobs, healthcare, activities, ect. Personally I don’t own a car and WANT these systems to go to the airport, photo clients, my fav taco stand or to explore outside my neighborhood. Jonny, like most founders I’ve interviewed, is an example of a true problem solver. But tackling a GROWING population situation and potentially changing the fate of an entire city and the millions of lives in them takes considerable guts and serious focus. Read how he does it below.
First Thank you for taking your shoes off on a BART platform.
YES! You are welcome. Was a fun and new experience for me!
Could you sum up Swiftly in a handful of sentences and how it solves a problem, not only in SF, but in other urban cities pretty please?
By 2030, over 5 billion people will live in urban areas. If you think traffic is bad today, it’s only getting worse. Public transit and increasing vehicle occupancy rates is critical to creating cities that move efficiently, yet public transit has often utilized technologies that haven’t kept up with the times. The industry has lacked technological innovation. Swiftly is applying sophisticated algorithms and big data to enable smarter public transit. Our core product looks at billions of data points within a city transit network to help transit agencies provide a more reliable and efficient service.
You mentioned a startling concept regarding traffic congestion via car. How positively would your technology effect economies by solving congestion?
Currently, about 2-4% of national GDP is lost in congestion as measured by lost time and productivity. This could be drastically reduced through more efficient transportation networks. Swiftly is working to solve this problem by empowering public transit to take more cars (and congestion) off the road.
Furthermore, if you look at public transit networks today, they often operate on schedule (typically a 5 minute leniency) about 50 - 70% of the time. This is important because the schedule dictates the budget - how many vehicles, drivers, operating hours, etc the agency will have. If the schedule is wrong, the budget is wrong, and many transit agencies spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on operations. Swiftly helps transit agencies quickly monitor performance to find inefficiencies that could be costing the agency money while simultaneously impacting the rider experience.
Do you take public transit? :)
Absolutely. Every day!
Tell us more about the man behind the biz. This isn’t your first company. What did you originally start?
My first company was called SwoopThat. We built one of the largest databases tracking college textbook prices. We used this data to help students more efficiently buy college textbooks (think KAYAK for textbooks) and to help college bookstores more efficiently and competitively source and price their inventory. The primary goal of this company was to bring price transparency to the college textbook industry. This company was ultimately sold to Rafter, the parent company of BookRenter.com, the 2nd largest textbook rental company in the US at the time. In total, Rafter helped nearly 3 million students save over $700 million on college textbooks.
How did you lead into Swiftly? And how did you connect with the Samsung NEXT program?
I created Swiftly because I sold my car and started taking public transit everywhere. I wanted to help make the system more reliable and efficient through modern technology. From this initial vision, Swiftly was born!
Samsung NEXT actually reached out to us via LinkedIn. We took the meeting, decided we loved the NEXT team, and then moved forward with an investment from them.
During our photo shoot you mentioned a new office is on the horizon AND growth of employees! Do you feel comfortable with this rapid growth happening?
Rapid growth is always scary and exciting. But, I’m more excited than scared. We have a rare opportunity to positively impact millions of people per day by creating more efficient transit networks. We’ll do whatever it takes to get there!
What kind of office culture are you going to build for your employees? And when I say office culture, I mean the environment ground up. From the look and feel of the desks, chairs and work nooks to the events or after office gatherings.
Our culture primarily focuses around the notion of a team. We’re all in this together, we’re all fighting for the same thing. So, how can we get there together? Honesty, integrity, communication, open feedback, and diversity of some key elements to the culture we’re building. The design of the office itself will be based on fostering our desired culture, including a more open workspace to facilitate better communication and feedback within our team.
As for the look and feel of desks and chairs, we’ll have to wait and see!
Obviously it’s dog friendly so your new wonder pup Murphy can join in. Lets see a photo of this newest edition to your and your wife’s household!
And before we go shoes off but a great lead in, listening to how carful and articulate you are with growing a strong business, and during a burst of growth in the company size what is your take on balancing personal and professional life? Is that something separate to you? Or almost one in the same?
While I like to separate personal and professional life, it’s pretty tough to pull that off. In a sense, I have two families, one at home and one at work. They’re both important to me and I can’t neglect one or the other. I’m so fortunate to be excited every time I walk into the door of my office and even more excited every time I walk into my front door at home. And, that’s the way it should be!
Answer me quick:
Fav band growing up? Beatles
Super hero power: Ability to fly
Most exciting work moment of 2017: Signing our 40th partner city.
What is the last gift you gave someone? pizza stone
Most used app: inbox by gmail
Podcast or music in your earbuds: Spotify “Metropolis” playlist
What’s in your fridge right now? persimmons
Backpack, briefcase or tote? backpack
If you could pick 2 things to fix about this world what are they? Hunger and disease.
When are you most productive? early morning.
Do you have a vacation planned and where? Japan. I’m there now!
Guilty pleasure food: chicken wings
Summer Wilson - Creative Director and Photographer of Battle Cry
Photo by John Thatcher