Imagine a world where individual vehicle ownership is not necessary at all, because there is a fully interconnected transportation network to get you exactly where you need to go, efficiently and affordably. All with just a tap or two on your smartphone.
That’s the world that Spare COO and UBC computer science alum Josh Andrews and the company’s co-founders envision.
What is Spare?
Spare is a mobility management platform that serves to connect riders to multi-modal transportation offerings like public transit, ride sharing, and other shared transportation options.
Considering the company has recently partnered with ride-share company Lyft, it’s feasible the world they imagine is not as far off as one might think.
The new partnership with Lyft is a giant step forward in helping transit agencies provide passengers with coordinated transportation options in the face of fluctuating demand. Spare says its integration will give riders access to reliable on-demand rides, either on a transit vehicle or through the Lyft network. The end result for passengers is lower overall wait and travel times. Agencies using the platform will receive consolidated reporting, as well as trip management and service performance data, which will help them optimize operations between their fleet and the Lyft network.
Transit planning made easy
Spare’s platform includes data-driven transit planning and operations, analytics dashboards, and a customer relationship management hub to help enable on-demand mobility services. “We want to solve this transportation problem,” said Josh. “It shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive to get where you need to go. And ultimately, people should not have to own and maintain costly vehicles to do so.”
Where it all started: on Imagine Day
“This is like an Imagine Day success story,” Josh laughed. He explains how he met Alexey Indeev at UBC on Day 1 at the university’s Imagine Day event, an annual welcome and gathering for all newcomers to UBC. “Even from the very start, Alexey and I were talking about startups,” he said. “We both had programming skills, we took a lot of computer science classes together and we studied together all the time,” said Josh.
When Josh was recruited to a student engineering group called the UBC Sailbot Team, he also met Kristoffer Vik Hansen, who is now Spare’s CEO.
There were six on the Sailbot team, and together they made and sailed six-foot self-driving boats. Kristoffer was the captain of the team and Josh would also sometimes pull Alexey in to help.
Over time, they grew the club to roughly 60 people, and competitions ensued through the International Robotics Sailing Regattas. After achieving a “perfect score” two years in a row, Josh and his team members decided to attempt a much bigger project with a vessel they named Ada (after the mathematician/computer scientist Ada Lovelace), for a trans-atlantic crossing. Unfortunately, the journey failed after a severe storm and rudder failure.
But what never stopped, and continued to evolve for Josh and his teammates was the development of a keen passion for “moving people places.”
Post-graduation on one particular day in 2015 while waiting for a bus at the UBC Bus Loop, Josh received a call from Kristoffer. A conversation ensued about a company Kristoffer wanted to start. He wanted Josh and Alexey to join forces with him.
"Being involved with others, that’s what really inspires creativity and forward motion." ~ Josh Andrews, COO, Spare
“We had already started decent jobs,” Josh recounts. “But Kristoffer begged us to join him and we became excited about the possibilities.” Although the two were already gainfully employed in tech, they opted to leave their jobs to pursue the startup. Voila: Spare was founded. It was 2015.
The original idea for the newly-formed startup was to operate a transportation system of its own. The trio launched a carpooling platform in 2016 called “Spare Rides,” but the startup costs were heavy. “We started to try and think about a better way to tackle transportation problems and how we might more readily have an impact on future mobility,” Josh said.
So the plan morphed into making overall transportation systems more efficient. They identified the fact that there is currently a lot of waste in the transportation industry. “Cars spend the majority of their lifetime sitting idle,” Josh explained. “And when they are in motion, they are typically being driven by just one person, so there is no efficiency of utilization. When cars are parked in our cities all day, they sit idly just taking up valuable space.”
No cars necessary
To help solve the problem, Spare co-founders began to talk about the development of a system of networks, along with autonomous vehicles, streamlined routing and pooling of resources amongst transportation agencies. “Ultimately, when you combine all these resources, the cost of providing trips becomes quite low, so you can potentially get to a world where people don’t need to buy their own vehicle. That’s the end state,” he said. “Imagine if you could subscribe to a system like that, where it’s as convenient and less costly than owning a vehicle, so you don’t require one.”
As the business evolved, transportation agencies began asking Spare how they could access the technology Spare had developed for their own systems. The platform seemed to have great appeal at the client level. The Spare co-founders recognized this could be the nucleus for their business, and began to look at ways to integrate and share their technology with other agencies.
In addition to the new partnership with Lyft, Spare has international clients in the mobility industry and employs 80-ish people, including many UBC Computer Science graduates. They hire co-op students and are always seeking more talented individuals to join the company. “We love to hire smart engineering talent: people who have a desire to do good in the world,” said Josh.
Friends, fun and forward thinking
“It’s been such a wild ride building Spare, and has been really fun to watch the success unfold,” said Josh. When he looks back over his years in the UBC Computer Science department, Josh truly feels it was his peers and their interactions that influenced him most of all.
Whether it was that first day chatting with his new friend Alexey, or the culmination of their shared experiences that formed the impetus for the startup, Josh attests to the power of interacting and collaborating with others. “Our shared experiences, and developing a community of similar interests had the greatest effect on me,” he said. “Being involved with others, that’s what really inspires creativity and forward motion.”
With their recent Lyft partnership, it seems the company is definitely on the fast track to solving modern society’s transportation issues.