Dan Getelman: Co-Founder & CTO of Remix
Spotlight no. 9:
Dan Getelman, Co-Founder & CTO
University of Pennsylvania, BAS Computer Science from Engineering; BSE (Science in Economics) in Managerial Analytics from Wharton School of Business
What is Remix in your own words?
Remix is a platform that city planners use to make their cities better.
How did you meet your cofounders for Remix?
Last year I was working as a fellow for a nonprofit called Code for America. There was an internal hackathon in January [that] Sam, one of my cofounders, built a very simple prototype where you can click on a map, draw some lines…I was always interested in public transit, it kind of looked cool. And said, “Let me know how I can help out.”...The core team became the people who put the most time into it.
How did Remix transform from a side project developed during a hackathon into business?
[A]s the year went on, we got a bunch of feedback from actual transit planners and other people and we kept working on it….We launched a free version [of Remix] last year that was used in 3600 cities. At that point figured out, we need to figure out a way to keep working on this.
What brought you to the startup world?
A lot of it was the people I became friends with in college. I was apart of a group called Dining Philosophers, a computer science club that a good friend [Alexey] resurrected. He was instrumental in changing the culture so that people could use their skills to build things rather than to go into consulting. Dining Philosophers did two things: launched PennApps which is now a huge space [but] at the time was tiny. [Two, b]uild a community of people who wanted to build things within Penn. At PennApps I met Jim and Joe, my two cofounders at Lore [my first startup].
What lessons did you learn from your previous venture?
I learned a lot about what I’m good at and not good at [and t]he importance of being able to get feedback early.
What interests you about transportation?
When i was growing up transit was my freedom. That’s one of the beautiful things about growing up in New York, I can get anywhere in an hour. Jarrett Walker wrote this book called “Human Transit”. The whole thesis was having access to anywhere by transit is your freedom. If you can give people better access to transit you’re giving them more opportunity.
How did you know you wanted to work with your Remix cofounders?
I worked with three people who always impressed me the most at Code for America. Both as people…[but] also as developers, designers, and everything else we have to do. We were in a challenging environment to launch Remix. We couldn’t work on this full-time [because w]e each had to balance this between other things [i.e. job assignments for Code for America]....Being able to see that we were able to work together despite those constraints was really powerful. Most people would say that having four cofounders is a lot; that you’re going to have a lot of tension and trouble. But from the time we started working together, we worked really well together.
What qualities do you look for in you cofounders?
One of the things I’m strongest at is software development. [I look for cofounders] or people who can do things better than me, [where I have a] skills gap, [i.e.] sales, press, and design.
What challenges does your team face?
How to get more agencies on the platform. When we demo it, they’re usually excited about it....We’ve gone to public transit conferences. We held our own conference two weeks ago. A lot of transit planners are hearing about us and reaching out to us. The challenge: [how to] make a good product. Public transit is incredibly complex….The existing model is paper maps and 900 tab Excel spreadsheets….What we don’t want to do [at Remix] is create a 900 tab Excel spreadsheet just on the web.
How often in the past were transit officials making new routes, updating routes prior to Remix?
It used to be a process that depending on how much staff you had, many, many months to years to do a major change. They make small changes three and four times a year….[i.e.] adjust a schedule a couple minutes here and there. But for major changes it would take forever to even change. Now you can do with us in about 10 minutes to do the analysis. We’re able to take things that would take weeks [down] to an hour or two.
How quickly are planners producing new routes with Remix?
For some of the bigger places that have more drawn out processes, it’s too early to say how exactly we are able to [help in] mak[ing] changes faster just because their cycles take a long time. One of the things we’ve heard that’s really exciting is that [Remix is improving transit planning in some] smaller cities...There are a lot of cities that haven’t changed their bus routes since the 70s...We’ve heard a few examples where…[small cities were able to use Remix to make] a change [and] put service out on the road that they just would not have the capacity to go through the entire process to make the change before which is really exciting.
What’s next for Remix?
We spend all our time talking to transit planners. [We’re interested in f]inding more ways to work with more of them. Finding ways to help them. Solve more of their problems that stop them from getting good service on the road. Ultimately helping more people.
Thanks Dan for the interview! We can't wait to see what Remix is up to next! .::Ivy Startup Mag::.