Business

Meet the Finalists: Transportation Execs From Alto, Alpine Advanced Materials, and eCarra

Leading up to our second annual Innovation Awards event on Jan. 21, we’re sharing excerpts from interview Q&As with the 51 finalists, one category at a time. Today, we feature the three Innovation in Transportation honorees.

For information on the virtual awards event, presented in partnership by D CEO and Dallas Innovates, click here. Tickets are just $20. 

Will Coleman

Will Coleman, CEO, Alto

ON INNOVATION: Innovation means doing something that makes other people say, ‘You’re crazy.’ I remember when I first told people about my idea for Alto, and that I was planning on leaving my stable, full-time job to pursue it, and people would look at me and say ‘Wow. You’re crazy. I’m not sure that will work.’  

Innovation means seeing a problem or an issue and thinking of a new way to address it—one that pushes beyond the status quo. The ‘you’re crazy’ test is apt because innovation should push boundaries of what people have come to know or expect.” 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:Back in March, we saw rideshare trips almost vanish overnight. Some rideshare companies reported as much as a 90 percent decline in rides as the [COVID-19] outbreak took hold. As a young company, this could have ended our operations, but our team quickly pivoted. Instead of closing shop, Alto launched The Market by Alto to get essential, everyday products to North Texans and mobilize other local brands working to reach customers during the shutdown and into the future. We also entered the delivery industry, providing delivery quickly, efficiently, and cleanly in under two hours. Additionally, Alto expanded to two new marketsFort Worth and Houstonand has plans to expand to Los Angeles by the end of 2020.  

LESSON LEARNED:This year has reinforced, in a very deep way, the importance of fostering innovation within an organization. I am confident that Alto will emerge from the pandemic as a stronger company than it was before because of our team’s creativity, resilience, and effort. If our team had not been so quick to innovate, we would be in a very different place. As a leader, this has led me to think more about how to balance the growth of our company with the ongoing need for a culture of innovation, including an openness to new ideas and the freedom to take risks at different levels within the organization. 

RATING DFW:North Texas is a great place for innovation and starting a company. Texans have a deep connection to their local roots, and the community support of Alto as a local business has been so impactful as we’ve grown. Also, while Dallas is in no way average as a city, some of its metrics—such as commute time and population densityclosely approximate national averages, making it a perfect environment to literally test drive an idea. 

LOOKING AHEAD:What excites me most is how much room for growth and improvement remains in the rideshare and delivery industries. We’re seeing a growing awareness about the importance of employee drivers and safe passenger experience. These shifts in expectations precipitate true change in the industry, and I’m proud that Alto can be a part of that. 

Roger Raley headshot

Roger Raley

Roger Raley, President, Alpine Advanced Materials

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation is driving positive change to make something better. It’s pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and turning to what’s practical. Innovation is disruptive. It’s taking calculated risks, and it’s also not being afraid to fail. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:We expanded the boundaries of what our flagship HX5 material can do. We’ve tested its capabilities across a wide range of environments and understand how it performs in space, underwater, in the desert, in the air, and in extreme cold and heat, and we’ve learned that it has broad applications and is extremely versatile. We’ve also made our clients’ equipment lighter, faster, and stronger.”  

LESSON LEARNED: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not be afraid to take risks. Putting yourself in unfamiliar territory brings out innovation. It challenges you to think differently, be creative, and find solutions. 

RATING DFW:North Texas is a great environment in which to innovate and grow for several reasons: Texas in general is a business-friendly state that promotes innovation, North Texas has become very diverse, different viewpoints and experiences drive innovative thinking, and we have a lot of great high schools, colleges, and universities which are factories for innovative ideas. 

LOOKING AHEAD: The technological advances that we’re going to see in the next 20 years are almost unfathomable. We’re going to see flying cars, we’re going to see commercialized space flight, and we’re going to see advances in medicine that will allow people to live significantly longer. Probably the most exciting is that it’s not a matter of if, but when, we find life, in some form, in space. When it’s finally launched, the James Webb Space Telescope is going to discover some amazing things. 

Rock Robinson headshot

Rock Robinson

Rock Robinson, CEO, eCarra 

ON INNOVATION: Innovation is based on how willing you are to be wrong. Most days, the approach we take to our software, organizational structure, and future initiatives is ‘This could be all wrong.’ ECarra evolved out of this type of thinking. Our initial idea was called Ridebrand, a rideshare company partnering with local auto dealerships to provide consistent and upscale rideshare experiences. After doing some research, we realized that this was going to be a failing business over time. We realized that combustion engines were bad and someday going to fade away, and we wanted to build not only a platform, but a culture, around something that was going to thrive. Imagine creating an entire business model and brand and throwing it all in the trash before you even get it off the ground. This is innovative.

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: We found that 97 percent of the people who have used eCarra have never been in electric cars before. We also discovered that after riding with eCarra, people determined that they would consider buying an electric car for their next purchase. Since then, we developed the eCarra club, where we help people purchase Teslas, then pay them to share the Tesla on our platform to generate revenue Over the past year, we’ve also saved thousands of gallons of gasoline and prevented millions of grams of carbon going into the atmosphere, all while providing safe consistent experiences to consumers.

LESSON LEARNED: Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth. This is so relevant to me because we must always be ready for change: We must be ready to take a punch in the face and keep on moving... We have had overwhelming obstacles from the beginning. COVID-19 was just another obstacle. We’ve changed and gotten better because of it. It’s helped us deepen the value of our software and create better experiences and services.

RATING DFW:North Texas is now one of the most diversified areas of our country. We started our business with corporate travelit was the easiest opportunity we could jump into. Because there are so many innovative people and companies in North Texas, we were able to take advantage of these opportunities and have grace and understanding as it pertains to being innovative...To date, no company in North Texas has ever rejected our offer to provide our services to their teams.

LOOKING AHEAD:We truly believe this is the decade we get to do something about climate change. We are excited and aligned with the president elects plan to tackle carbon reduction and clean energy with what he calls The Clean Energy Revolution.’”

Click here for more information on The Innovation Awards.

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