Startups

Ridesharing tanked early in the pandemic. Here’s how a pivot helped Gridwise survive

In March 2020, cofounder Ryan Green saw demand for the ridesharing analytics app tank. A pivot grew the startup's revenue by nearly 200%.

Gridwise CEO Ryan Green.

(Courtesy photo)

2020 looked hopeful for Gridwise cofounder Ryan Green.

Fresh off a $3.3 million round led by regional investor Mountain State Capital along with 412 Venture Fund, Quaker Capital and others, the CEO had plans to expand the market for his rideshare driver business platform. Gridwise provided drivers with live information on ride demand, trip rates and tipping trends at certain times and locations — technology that they hoped would put more power in the hands of drivers in an industry that offers few benefits to gig employees.

But when the pandemic hit, demand for ridesharing tanked.

“Where we were at as a company and as a product, our focus was purely on being this tool for rideshare drivers,” Green said of his team’s status in the spring of 2020. “We did not have any capabilities or feature sets or anything that really was focused on providing utility to the delivery segment.”

After doubling his team from 10 to 20 on the news of that funding round, Gridwise’s revenue and customer base plummeted by over 50%. While Green tried to ensure the company didn’t go under, the Gridwise team also started looking at new trends caused by the pandemic to see what potential pivots there might be for its platform. That’s how they came across the idea of making their services available to delivery drivers, a long-term company plan that Gridwise decided to kick into overdrive ahead of time.

“So what we ended up doing was reprioritizing everything on a roadmap to really weed out or push back everything that wasn’t focused on delivery, and bring up everything that was,” Green told Technical.ly. Less than a month after the start of shutdowns in March 2020, Gridwise started launching new features and insights relevant to gig delivery drivers through apps like DoorDash, Grubhub and others. By the end of the third quarter, the company hit an inflection point, Green said, “where we started to see users grow, and revenues start to grow as well.”

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That pivot paid off.

At the end of 2019, Gridwise operated in about 30 cities across the country. Since then, that number has more than tripled (and includes Pittsburgh), Green said. A limited version of the app is also available to drivers outside of those core cities, expanding the company’s service network even more. Having more drivers plugged into the app’s network is good for more than just revenue: In addition to leveraging data from API feeds, Gridwise also collects relevant data from the drivers. The more it has information from, the more it can accurately report insights to others in the network.

Visual of Gridwise’s driver insights. (Courtesy image)

Over the last year, Gridwise found a new way to use that data. In its new analytics business, Gridwise anonymizes the driver data it collects through its app, which the startup can then aggregate into insights on business demand, mobility and more — information that is typically only available to ridesharing or delivery companies — and make it accessible to other businesses or interested parties. This new initiative, Green said, is a big reason for the nearly 200% growth Gridwise has seen in revenue.

Today, the startup is fully remote, though many of its 18 team members are based in Pittsburgh. And after finding even more success in 2021, Green said the team is actively hiring for roles in software engineering, analytics and app management.

In the new year, Green said the company plans to continue expanding its features and services to drivers and businesses using its platform. And while employees are working remotely, Green said the team is in talks with the City of Pittsburgh about the potential advantages Gridwise’s data might have in building a smarter city.

“There’s some new developments or new platform capabilities that we’ll be testing in Pittsburgh in the new year,” he said, but much of that remains under wraps for now.


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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