Why I Left Tryp Rides – By Nick Odio
Why I Left Tryp Rides – By Nick Odio
Background: What did I do at Tryp Rides?
I joined Tryp Rides in June of 2019. You can find more about how I joined the company in another article that I wrote titled “How I Joined Tryp Rides”. When I first started with the company Eric Krzysiak (who recommended me for the job) and I were assigned the task of visiting every airport in the eastern half of the country. Not just international airports but municipal and county airports as well. We visited nearly 100 airports across 30+ states in less than 3 months. The objective was to start the application process for getting approval to operate as a TNC at the airports. In hindsight, I’m hard pressed to see how any value at all was added by doing this. A typical “meeting” with the airport went something like this:
- We walk into the airport and ask where we can find the administrative office.
- We approach the receptionist in the admin office and ask to speak with the airport manager.
- He/she 9 times out of 10 tells us that the person we need to see is either out of the office or in a meeting.
- We ask for a TNC airport application. They never seemed to know what we were talking about.
- We ask for the airport manager’s card or contact info.
- We send a picture of the card to our compliance team.
- Oh you thought there was more?? Nope that’s it.
You can only imagine how much I was enjoying this. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do this. Well, I got paid sometimes… Either way, I was on an all expensed road trip around the country with very little responsibility. To put it in perspective, up until the company started defaulting on payments, they were paying for both Eric and I’s gas, hotel, food, tolls, parking, plus a salary. This seemed frivolous so Eric and I did our best to save the company money wherever we possibly could. After all, we had verbally agreed upon shares in this company. We wanted it to succeed. So we took one car, shared hotel rooms, and ate extremely cheaply. Even still, this was a lot of money for a startup to be spending for a job that probably would have achieved the same results by calling the airports from a remote location.
As much as I enjoyed visiting the airports, I worried that by the time we visited them all we would be out of a job. For this reason, we thought it imperative to create space and find other ways to add value to the company. At this time the company had basically zero in person interaction with drivers. Eric and I recognized this as a problem that needed fixing. To solve this we started setting up meetings with drivers and influencers in every city we went to. Here we were basically acting as the face of the company; hyping drivers up on the model, providing insight as to how the company was going to operate, and explaining the “why” behind what we thought we were doing. Having been a driver in 11 different markets throughout the United States, I understand many of the issues that drivers face. This made it easy for me to articulate the alleged vision and goals of the company to these drivers. We also set up meetings with government officials in an attempt to convince them that we weren’t like the “other rideshare guys.” These were never tasks that we were told by management to do. This was us trying to add value.
Going to Miami
A couple of months in we received a call from management telling us that we were going to be launching the South Florida market and to get down to Miami ASAP. We immediately rerouted ourselves from the northeast corner of the nation and headed south. Once in Miami, we were delegated the task of on-boarding drivers prior to our launch event on August 17th. We on-boarded drivers throughout various locations from West Palm Beach to South Miami including hotel conference rooms and lobbies to Dunkin’ Donuts conference rooms. During all of this we were still holding nightly meetings for people interested in learning more about the platform.
An important note: While we were on-boarding drivers, we faced a major issue with processing their payments. We received all sorts of error messages. Come to find out, this was all due to the payment provider that Tryp Rides was using at the time. You can find out more about this in an article titled “Tryp Rides wants to pay 100% of the fare, but had no way to do it” by Taha Abbasi. By the way, they recently partnered back up with this payment provider for international payouts…
I have a pretty extensive network of friends and family in Miami. This allowed me to meet with various social media influencers and businesses including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, and gas stations to discuss and solidify mutually beneficial partnerships. I mediated calls with these contacts and other members of management at Tryp Rides. I put many of my relationships on the line. I put a reputation on the line that I had forged after living in Miami for 3 years, prior to taking the job. I still receive questions from these contacts in Miami who I promised the world to on Tryp Rides’ behalf. “When’s that rideshare company launching here?” “Looking forward to working with you guys.” It’s difficult to tell them that Tryp Rides has, in my opinion, all but failed and that I am no longer with the company. This not only tarnishes my reputation with quality people in my life but has also proven to be utterly embarrassing.
While in Florida, I was one of three people helping with UAT (User Acceptance Testing). We didn’t have enough funding to hire more people. Eric, Taha, and I were handling all this by ourselves. This consisted of long days on the road testing the functionality of the app, jotting down bugs, and spending the late hours of the night and well into the morning creating tasks with Jeremy Adamson in Jira (a software for organizing tasks for the tech team). These were typically 18+ hour days. Never had I seen so many sunrises. Meanwhile, as we were watching the sunrise in America, the development team in Pakistan was watching it set and would continue working deep into the night. They even had bean bag chairs in the office where they would try to catch the occasional nap in between 20 to 30-hour long programming marathons These guys are true marathon machines. These are the same people who Tryp Rides continues to blame their shortcomings on.
At one point we brought on Jenny Pineiro and Christian Gonzalez to help us with UAT. They did an incredible job but when it came time to pay them, the company was non communicative. Tryp Rides asked Jenny and Christian to help with launch activities. Jenny and Christian left their income producing activities and immediately started working to help Tryp Rides. However, Tryp Rides failed to pay them. This put them in a position where they didn’t have enough money to buy gas, food etc. To make matters worse, there was no communication from Tryp Rides regarding when we can pay Jenny and Christian. We kept hearing “money is coming tomorrow”. Taha was down in Florida for a launch analysis trip, when he found out about this situation, he asked management to address it. However, no plan or concrete timeline was provided regarding when Jenny and Christian. So Taha being the morally rich guy that he is, asked me to drive him to his bank so that he could pull out $2,000 from his own personal bank account so that he could pay Jenny and Christian.
I eventually worked my way into the SCRUM master role for our Operations division which consisted of Customer Care, Field Operations, and Compliance teams. I created, delegated, and monitored the tasks of 8 other fellow employees and held multiple weekly Standup calls and Backlog Grooming meetings through Zoom along with bi-weekly Sprint Planning and Review meetings. These were all tools that Taha implemented to help organize the various departments within the company. We needed it. There was very little in house communication and not a lot was getting done. I hadn’t even virtually met the majority of the team until after these mechanisms were put in place. I have yet to meet that same majority in person. To find out more about the policies and procedures that were eventually implemented by Taha to help keep the company organized check out his article titled “How I Introduced SCRUM at Tryp Rides”.
For those wondering how we determined our fares, our project manager, Jeremy Adamson and I built a fare engine in order to determine the most competitive pricing structures for our riders, ensuring that our drivers made substantially more than the competition, all the while remaining profitable as a company. Finding that balance was like finding a needle in a haystack and took an immense amount of bandwidth. To do so, I had to collect large data samples from various Drivers who Eric and I had built relationships with and then input said data into a formula created in Google Sheets. All sorts of pie charts and graphs were created and thoroughly analyzed and eventually, after advising Bob and the rest of the team on the matter, they agreed on the numbers I had come to. It took a pretty substantial amount of convincing on my part to achieve this. It seemed as though management was content with the “go with your gut” approach and just threw out random numbers for booking fees instead of looking at the data and making an informed data driven decision. In my opinion, Bob and David were very disconnected with the driving side of the business. In fact, the only people who had any sort of driving experience and were working at the company at the time of Taha, myself and Jeremy’s resignations were Taha, myself and Jeremy… With the exception of Vincent Versher, who as far as I know wound up losing his apartment during his tenure with Tryp Rides because of their failure to pay wages. Something to think about, as I write this, those weekly Thursday night update calls that they do on Facebook are lacking one major component for a company that claims to be “a company built by drivers for drivers.” A DRIVER!
I then took a lead role at our Customer Care division. I became the last line of defense between customers and the technology team. Anything that Tier 1 support could not answer would be rerouted to me. Not only because I was well versed in every piece of software we used as a company and the app itself, but also because of my in-depth knowledge of our business model and the industry as a whole. I enjoyed finding quick and innovative solutions to people’s problems.
Moving From Miami to NYC
For those of you who have been following the company, you are well aware that Tryp Rides never launched the South Florida market. If you’re wondering why, you can check out the article that I wrote titled “Tryp Rides Provided Uninsured Rides in Miami”. In short, the company had no money to pay for insurance. So we diverted our gaze toward the Big Apple. In NYC we were using another company’s TLC license, allowing Tryp Rides to legally operate in NYC without needing to pay a third party for TNC required insurance.
There was one problem. We didn’t have anybody from the company on the ground in NYC. Strangely, this didn’t seem to bother management. They seemed to think we could launch a market remotely. This was one of many circumstances that led me to the understanding that there was a major disconnect between the people running the company and not just the needs of drivers but also what it takes to launch a market.
Taha Abbasi seemed to be the only executive in the company who thought it necessary that we get a team on the ground in NYC to successfully support the launch. It’s my understanding that he asked the management team including Bob and David to help contribute to the cost of getting people on the ground in NYC since the company didn’t have any money. However, no one agreed to contribute any money to this. Taha ended up funding this with his own money, buying mine and Eric’s flights to Philadelphia where he picked us up and drove us to his home in Delaware. The next morning we took off to NYC. In the span of 24 hours we were notified that we were launching NYC that week, took it upon ourselves to plan the time and location of where we’d onboard drivers, identified all necessary criteria to launch the market, set up housing accommodations and traveled to NYC and began executing. During this whole period, Bob finally contributed $500 towards the whole expense of opening NYC, everything else was covered and paid for by Taha or covered by us traveling on our own dime.
The fact that there was no help from the marketing department on this venture struck me as extremely odd. Not to mention, the only executive member present was Taha. The CEO, COO, CMO, and CFO were all MIA. Prior to this, I simply chalked the shortcomings from management up to being a startup. It was around this time when those shortcomings started to show themselves as what I believe they really are. Irreparable inefficiencies in management.
Similar to Miami, NYC required a ton of UAT in order to get the app to function well enough to scale to the number of users that we anticipated having. For the next few weeks, Eric, Taha and I were back and forth between NYC and Delaware on-boarding drivers, testing the app and working closely with the developers to make sure we were fixing issues as quickly as possible.
I was working with the team in Pakistan very closely during this time. It was an eye opening experience. This team consisted of some of the hardest working and competent individuals I had ever had the pleasure of working with. Which is why I was confused as to why the app wasn’t finished. Between Taha being the extremely qualified CTO that he is and this team of incredible developers spending 18 hours a day on this project I thought for sure the app would be finished.
This is when I began to understand my own naivety. When I asked Taha why the app was taking so long, he began to divulge some information that opened up a can of worms. Let me preface this by saying that it had been several weeks since I had been paid and every time I would ask when I might expect to see some money, I was told that “money is coming tomorrow.” Well, if no one in the company was being paid what made me think that the software development house Web N App was getting paid? For them, it was much much worse. They hadn’t been paid since August! The fact that they weren’t getting paid meant that they weren’t able to scale the team and add the necessary talent. A team of 15 individuals working up to 22 hours a day, forced to work on tasks outside of their wheelhouse, and sleeping in the office was, by that time, supposed to be a team of over 50 well rested individuals who were all working on tasks that corresponded to their expertise.
Now I was curious. If the employees aren’t being paid and the developers hadn’t been paid in months, who else wasn’t getting paid? As it turns out Tryp Rides owed money to a plethora of vendors as well. Multiple background check companies, a third party customer care team, a prominent professional sports team, and an insurance company were all victims to the company’s “IOU List.”
So why didn’t the company have money? This was strange to me as I had seen the company generate a pretty substantial amount of money from the one time start up cost for Drivers. This in conjunction with the million plus dollars in funding. I was completely baffled as to why there was so much outstanding debt. What happened to all of that money? That is still a mystery.
While the company had some luck raising funding in the past, it was finding it extremely difficult to continue doing so. One major red flag that started becoming more and more obvious to me was our seemingly unattainable valuation. It was between 60-80 million dollars which in my opinion, for a company that wasn’t generating recurring revenue, was not only arrogant but borderline delusional. As far as I can tell, these unrealistic expectations were the downfall of Tryp Rides.
Then I saw the investor deck. I can’t even begin to put a number on the amount of discrepancies I thought there to be between what was being told to investors, the reality of the state of the company, and what was being communicated to Drivers and the Tryp Rides community. On one hand, you had the team on the ground in NYC telling Drivers that we weren’t going to onboard more than 60 of them to start; on the other, you had Bob McNulty telling investors that we were going to on-board 10,000 drivers in the month of December alone. On one hand, we had an $0.80 booking fee in NYC and on the other, the investors were being told that the booking fee was $1.95. Come to find out, our head of Investor Relations wasn’t even aware of our pricing structure in NYC because no one had told him. On one hand you had a group of individuals launching markets that realized that until we do this a few times and scale the team accordingly, it’s going to be slow moving. On the other, investors were being told that we’d open up over a dozen markets in 2020. I could keep going but I think you get the idea…
Keep in mind, I was never given the raise I was promised, benefits, I was paying for expenses out of pocket without reimbursement, and had yet to have been given the stock option agreement that was verbally offered to me. Also, I never signed a single contract with Tryp Rides.
The more inconsistencies I started to realize the more strongly I felt about the fundamental changes that needed to be made within the company. In an attempt to rectify these flaws, Taha, Eric and I contacted multiple employees within the company to get their perspective. We then held an all hands meeting to discuss how to move forward. One of my biggest qualms was that I thought the executives needed to be more hands on with the market launches so that they could get a better understanding of where we stood. This would help them convey a more accurate depiction of the company to investors. I also thought it would be best to reassess the valuation. These suggestions seemed to fall on deaf ears. Nothing changed.
For what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only a few days, I mulled over how I felt about staying on with a company that I didn’t align with morally. These misrepresentations had ripple effects across a large number of people. People who had quit their jobs, given up their time, invested money, and even moved to different cities were all being adversely affected by what, in my opinion, was the negligence of one company. It stung because many of these people were individuals who I had gotten to know quite well on a personal level. I couldn’t stick it out any longer and continue living what I perceived to be a lie. I had no choice but to resign.