#Cleanwebcity Interviews: Bandwagon

On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City,” the first senior executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.

David Mahfouda, CEO, Bandwagon


What’s the challenge you’re working to solve?
We’re working to increase the passenger occupancy of vehicles by making it easy for people to share rides.


What’s different about your approach?
We’ve created a turn-by-turn routing algorithm that optimally combines itineraries. Other companies have tried to use things like message boards to help people share rides, but outsourcing to consumers doesn’t work. This makes it automatic.


What’s it like being a cleanweb company based in NYC?
Because our technology benefits so many stakeholders, it’s been very advantageous to be in NYC. With Mayor Bloomberg, everyone is aligned on the value of data and efficiency. We were funded by [public benefit corporation] NYSERDA to increase transit from LaGuardia, and we’ve had overwhelming support from academic institutions. We’re working with Columbia and NYU now on how to change behavior at taxi stands.


Since cleanweb companies often sit at the nexus of traditionally disparate industries and functions, partnerships like the ones you mentioned are often critical. Any advice for what makes a successful partnership?
Be modest in terms of initial goals. We’ve done this and it’s been helpful.


What’s one challenge you’re currently facing?
We’re competing for mind share of the term “ride sharing.” There are two other successful companies that say that they’re doing ride sharing, but they’re really peer-to-peer taxi services.

In terms of funding levels, “cleanweb” is the darling of the cleantech world right now. Do you think the sector is at risk for a bubble, or is this sector fundamentally different from something like solar?
I don’t know much about solar. I know people are talking about cleanweb as a good market sector, but it’s more than that. We’re really talking about facilitated behavior change, or “clean culture.”  The internet has facilitated the biggest cultural shift in recent memory, and that can lead to a shift in the way people think about consumption, reuse, and production. We’re not individual actors – we make decisions collaboratively and we tell stories about the way we make those decisions. Technology is becoming a part of the way we tell those stories and respond to excess consumption. Now, when you use something like Bandwagon, the convenience factor is still the primary driver. But as you get positive feedback from the cultural component, it solidifies new behaviors and reinforces the primary driver. It makes it stickier.