Q. What brought you to Austin?
JK. Austin’s reputation. I was nearing my 20 years in the Army. I wanted to transition to a part of the country where Amy and I could put down roots. I applied for and received a position to teach leadership and strategy at the University of Texas. That position introduced me to the people who make the city so great. It gave me the inspiration to kick start RideScout.
Q. How did you start RideScout?
JK. The thinking behind it began in Washington, D.C. when I was working at the Pentagon. I only had five miles to get to work. I had lots of choices on how to get there. But no matter what mode I chose each one came with a certain cost benefit. If I did drive in, I could control my own schedule but I had to deal with this 4,000-pound albatross. So, this idea started rolling around in my brain. I didn’t do much about it until I moved to Austin. I immediately became involved in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. Nights and weekends I was building the RideScout app.
Q. What resources in Austin helped you the most?
JK. Obviously, the University of Texas. Since I was on campus every day I sought out Johnny Butler who taught a class on entrepreneurship. I began auditing his class. That helped me learn the language. Bob Metcalfe and everything he was doing in the innovation and entrepreneurship scene helped me. He connected me to the Longhorn Startup camp. Beyond that just the people and the open world of connections in Austin. I would say something to Bob this is what I’m building and what do you think. And he would give me feedback and tell me who else to talk to about it. Also, the Austin Cofounders Meetup that goes on at Capital Factory every month. I needed a technical cofounder. I tell people I built RideScout in Austin one beer at a time. I’d take everyone out for a beer and get their advice.
A. How did Daimler acquire RideScout?
JK. Daimler’s Mercedes Benz not only invented the automobile. They did a lot of innovation for automobiles including antilock brakes, pioneered the airbag. And they recognized 10 years ago the need for transportation alternatives. They pioneered Car2Go – one of their first ventures into this whole new world of shared mobility and on demand mobility. They acquired RideScout two years ago. Then RideScout acquired GlobeSherpa.
Q. As global president of moovel what is your role?
JK. I’m working to align all the initiatives Mercedes has for smart cities. Daimler created Freightliner Inspiration, the first autonomous 18-wheel truck, Mercedes Benz created the Vision Van, a drone delivery van. There are also autonomous electric passenger city buses. So many innovations along all these lines and more.
Q. How does Austin fit into the smart cities initiative?
JK. We didn’t get the Department of Transportation Smart City grant but that doesn’t mean these things went away. We didn’t get the money, but shoot we still need to do all of this. moovel and Mercedes can participate in smart cities. Austin is also aspiring to be part of the smart state innovations between Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.
Q. How long is it going to take these innovations to get on to the street?
JK. They are already happening. Cap Metro has an app that serves as a ticket along with schedules, maps and other information. Uber and Lyft are gone for now but new ridesharing companies are entering the market. We’re working to create a car pool van system that allows commuters to come into town. Special bus lanes. Mopac has variable tolling lanes that will change the way people get around. These are all going to make incremental changes. There won’t be one thing overnight that will improve everything. All of them will come together. Austin is such an attractive community to people like me and others that want to move here. We always must be thinking of how we get ahead of this problem.
Q. What role do you see veterans playing in Austin’s economy?
JK. We need more creative leaders. I see veterans really being able to play a role in this for three reasons. We build teams well. That comes from the natural way the military operates. We can solve hard problems quickly. When you are in austere conditions you don’t want to contemplate 40 things that might work but one or two things that work quickly. And we’ve been through very stressful situations– once you’ve been in those situations you don’t sweat the small stuff and get too emotional or excited when things break or fail fast. That’s why veterans can uniquely come in and help so many of these companies. Veterans are creative people who want to build things for the benefit of others and society. That’s why I think the Bunker is such a great entity. The Defense Department is creating a Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx outpost here. I’ve been a big proponent of Austin, Texas. This city has some incredibly unique engineers and innovators with ties to the military. There’s no better place in the country to put this DIUx than Austin, Texas
Editor’s note: Joseph Kopser was featured in Silicon Hills News’ 2016 Austin Technology calendar. SHN will run Q&As with the people featured in the calendar. For information on how you can sponsor or be a part of the 2017 Austin Technology calendar, please contact Laura@SiliconHillsNews.com. Thank you.