Five Questions For … Joseph Kopser, Ex-Army Officer, RideScout founder
Austin—Many entrepreneurs developing a consumer product attempt to incorporate that technology in their daily lives. For Joseph Kopser, that meant regular commutes from his home in Austin, TX, to pitch events and meetings in Houston without using a car—a rather unusual choice in Texas.
Kopser was developing RideScout, an app that aggregated various transportation options—taxis, ride-hailing services, buses—and presented users their options in real time. So, getting a first-person look at some of the alternatives to driving his own car made sense to him. “I made it a point of pushing the limits of when you decide to go car-free or car-light,” he says. “I was trying to use all the other resources available.”
In 2014, Kopser sold the startup to Car2Go, a car-sharing service owned by Germany-based Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz. The RideScout operation eventually became part of Daimler’s moovel mobility services division in North America, which was based in Austin. Along the way, Kopser became a transportation evangelist of sorts, advocating for what he says is a better mobility policy.
Last year, moovel moved from Austin to Portland, OR, and a few months thereafter Kopser announced his departure and that he had co-founded a consulting firm called Grayline.
“Just when I get good at something, I [move on],” he says. “Fake it ’til you make it … To an outsider, they might say, ‘This guy can’t hold a job; he’s all over the place.’ ”
But Kopser, a graduate of West Point and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, says there was method to his madness. Each position enabled him to reach success that revealed to him other interesting problems he wanted to work on. “And I had an absolute blast doing each of them,” he says.
This week’s “Five Questions For …” is with Kopser, in which we talk about the importance of being engaged in the community, the joy of science kits, and the “Saturday morning test.” Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Xconomy: Tell me about your upbringing and early influences.
Joseph Kopser: At the beginning of all of this, I just loved solving problems where I think I can help. That came from my childhood growing up in Lexington, KY, [about] a mile from my grandparents. They were Depression-era young adults. They have in them a work ethic like you’ve never seen, a sense of community like you’ve never seen. My grandmother was a candy striper at the hospital forever; grandfather was part of the Knights of Columbus. They were joiners. She said, “I don’t care if you collect garbage or you are a dogcatcher, whatever you do, do it well.”
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