SPLT is an award-winning ridesharing platform that graduated from Detroit’s Techstars Mobility program in September 2015. SPLT CEO Anya Babbitt recently joined the Technical.ly Slack for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) about Detroit’s startup scene and SPLT’s team-building strategies.
Here are five responses that stood out:
1. Why did you choose Detroit to launch a ride-sharing app?
We were fortunate to be selected for the first Techstars Mobility cohort. I made it clear to the managing director of Techstars that I wasn’t going to relocate after the program, the hope of all local managing directors. He predicted we would stay and sure enough, SPLT is innovating in the Motor City. The opportunity to collaborate with automakers is a major move for our business. … Ford was the marquee sponsor of Techstars Mobility and Bill Ford was one of our founding member’s mentors and offered feedback. Dozens of our mentors are tied to the auto industry.
2. Can you tell us a bit about working out of Detroit, especially as someone from the East Coast?
The parallel we see is that there are hustlers in both places except in Detroit people hustle to survive and are rooting for the underdog. In New York, people are hustling to stay in New York. The entrepreneurial spirit is hard to find elsewhere. Detroit entrepreneurs are more collaborative where in NY it’s definitely more competitive. … I challenge folks to find another city in the U.S. with as much history as Detroit that is making a comeback.
3. You’re a mobility-orientated startup in Detroit. How much stock do you put in startups being in cities that have “regional distinctions” like Detroit with transportation, Atlanta with music and air travel, Miami with connections to Latin American, etc.?
SPLT focuses on “Thin Cities” — ones that are marked by poor public transit and where SPLT can really make a difference in the matrix of mobility.and where safety is a concern. Because we partner with corporations who onboard all of their employees, there is inherent trust in the system.
4. We watched a Startup Grind interview where you said something really interesting about prioritizing culture fit over talent, because folks can always learn. How would you evaluate a prospective hire’s ability to learn, in that case, and can you talk about that dynamic?
That’s very true. For us, we won’t sacrifice culture for talent because it only takes one negative Nancy.
The first question I ask when interviewing a prospective candidate is if they have played on a team sport. … Everyone in our company has played on a team sport from varsity-level hockey at Princeton to college basketball to high school soccer. We care not about the sport or the rank but that an individual has thrived on a team. The team is everything and an idea is just an idea without an incredible team.
5. Can you tell us the story of how you met your cofounder?
It started in Austin in the summer of 2014…
I was in the process of selling my last startup and had committed to one of those destination bachelorette parties in Austin. So, I needed my own room to do work in the early hours when the other girls would be getting home. One night, I came back to my room to discover they had left champagne and also an intruder!
A guy under my bed.
Turns out he was there for a bachelor party as well and on a mission to recover the emperor’s hat that the bachelorette had stolen from their party.
Enter Yale Zhang, my technical cofounder! The only one responsible enough to recover the prized hat. And Yale brought in his best friend from high school, our 3rd cofounder and CTO Benjamin McMillan.