Joshua Sear of Empower

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Joshua Sear (founder and CEO) of Empower, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Empower – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

We created Empower to provide drivers with the software, services, and support that they need to build, run, and grow their own businesses. A lot of people don’t realize that while many Uber and Lyft drivers are driving part-time, the majority of all rides are provided by full-time and near full-time professional drivers. These folks are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Many are recent immigrants who are working 12 hour days, 7 days per week to support their families and ensure that their kids have the opportunities that they never had. The problem, however, is that most of these folks are getting absolutely hammered financially and feel completely voiceless.

I want to be clear that I don’t believe that this is what Uber or Lyft intended. But, in their race to grow as quickly as possible and decentralize the taxi industry, they ended up creating a duopoly that controls transportation as much, if not more, than the taxi industry they set out to disrupt. And unfortunately, their business model is hurting drivers. It’s also unsustainable. Drivers have known this for a long time, and riders are also now realizing it, as they experience both higher prices and longer wait times. We founded Empower to change all this.

I used to use Uber and Lyft a lot and after speaking with hundreds of drivers and hearing how they felt unheard, I realized that if we could flip Uber and Lyft’s business model on its head and make the driver our customer and the rider the driver’s customer, we would have a software services company that could be better for everyone. And that’s what we’ve done. By enabling drivers to set their own rates, get 100% of the fare, and compete with Uber and Lyft, drivers make more and are treated like the valued customers they are. At the same time, riders save more and feel better knowing that drivers are getting 100% of the fare. We’re super excited about what we’re building and truly believe that TOGETHER WE CAN EMPOWER!

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

We launched our first market in Winston-Salem just about 10 days before COVID-19 shut down the country. There have been additional resurgences of COVID, which have also been challenges, but we have continued to grow.

What does the future hold for Empower?

Our intent is to continue to increase our market share in DC, NYC, and NC, and expand throughout the country. We also want to provide drivers with complementary software and support services to help them run and build their own businesses.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in McLean?

The local startup scene is growing, especially in the DC area and Tysons Corner. I’m hopeful that Amazon building a headquarters in Crystal City will attract additional engineering talent.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Work with people whom you trust and whom share your values and your work ethic.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series
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