An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Will Coleman (co-founder and CEO) of Alto, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Alto – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Prior to founding Alto, I was a partner at McKinsey & Company, where I led the B2C travel practice and spent a decade advising airlines, hotel, and car rental clients. I’m a complete travel nerd, and was excited when one of my clients at McKinsey came to me to assess the US mobility landscape. After conducting my own research, I felt that Uber, Lyft, and existing taxi/limo companies were not the long-term solution to the mobility landscape. They each had their own set of structural problems, and the model we were looking for didn’t exist. So by the end of May 2018, Alto was born. From there, I started building a team with experts in the travel and hospitality space, including my co-founder, Alex Halbardier.
As an on-demand rideshare service with fully employed and rigorously vetted/trained drivers, we are aiming to transform an industry known increasingly for questionable employment classification practices and inconsistent, unpleasant passenger experiences. Alto’s sustainable business model is designed to improve the experience for drivers and passengers alike.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
When COVID hit this past year, it took a huge toll on our business – we lost a significant amount of our rideshare volume due to the stay-at-home orders. However, as an industry leader in safety, cleanliness, and consistency, we were able to quickly lean in on our differentiators to provide additional safety and cleanliness measures, such as HEPA filters and plexiglass barriers in each one of our vehicles. This allowed us to expand our services in three ways: a last-mile delivery offering, a concierge delivery service for our members, and a business-to-business transportation offering. Because of these pivots, we have recovered nearly all of our pre-COVID volume.
What does the future hold for Alto?
Our goal at Alto is to become available nationally, and we are working tirelessly to determine where our next market launch will be. Just recently, we launched our dedicated 5-star fleets in Houston and Los Angeles. We’re excited to kick things off in those cities, as we see that people there can benefit greatly from our services.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Dallas?
Dallas will always have a special place in Alto’s heart, as it’s our community home base. We’re extremely grateful for the support that we’ve gotten from the Dallas community, being able to work alongside the other amazing local tech startups. Since Dallas is a big city, and is also listed as one of the best tech towns in the U.S., I look forward to seeing the continued growth and jobs that it will create.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to be able to quickly pivot and adapt, if necessary. Especially after the unique challenges presented by COVID-19, we’ve needed to adapt our business to the changing rideshare landscape in 2020 and execute ideas on the fly. Another piece of advice is to put together a great team from the start. Alto would not be where it is today without excellent and hardworking talent that shared the same vision that I had three years ago.