Person of Interest: Ario Keshani, CEO and Co-founder of Split – Smarter Shared Rides

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography. www.jasondixson.com

Photo by Jason Dixson Photography. www.jasondixson.com

DC startup Split brings convenient, efficient, affordable transportation that people can rely on everyday. Split’s on-demand smarter shared rides are powered by a technology that dynamically optimizes routes and instantly combines rides headed the same way. Focused on efficiency and sustainability, Split serves more people with fewer vehicles, resulting in affordable fares, reduced traffic, and safer streets. For more information about Split, please visit split.us.

What is a typical day for you (or your team)…?

My typical day usually consists of meeting with various team members to help set our direction and make key decisions about how to move forward. I also spend more time than I’d like reading and answering emails. But then again, don’t we all!

Hardest part about being a small business owner?

The hardest part is that there are so many little things that we need to work on every day, and I have to remember to keep our focus on the big goals, which are steady, continual growth and improved service. Because we’re a small team, we share all the administrative responsibilities, which can take up a lot of time.

Best part about being a small business owner?

The best part is the passion that our team has for the work, and how dynamic every day is!

How did the idea of Split get started? Was there a particular moment, or incident, that caused you to realize a problem existed and needed to be solved?

Working in transportation for a few years before founding Split definitely helped with the idea generation. It was while watching Uber and Lyft cause significant disruption and bring about a lot of innovation that we started thinking about the next step in transportation. We realized that Uber and Lyft were focusing on making it easier to book a taxicab, but the true innovation was in getting all these people who were going the same direction into vehicles together!

Advice for new entrepreneurs?

If I have one piece of advice to give, it’s to not let the highs and the lows of your business get to you. I can swing from utter joy to complete despair in the space of a couple of hours, and I try hard to remember that, though the minutiae are critical, it is the longer term trend of the company that we should focus on.

If you weren’t involved with Split what would you be doing with your life?

I’d probably be trying my hands at another startup! I love building things, and a startup is the best place to do that!

What/who influences you the most?

I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who stand for something more than just profit. It is easy to chase the almighty dollar; what is harder is to chase an ideal, a principle, with the goal of helping to improve the world. I think that too few leaders hold themselves personally accountable to anything more than quarterly profits, and I respect the few that hold themselves to a higher standard.

For that reason, three people in particular stand out as influencers: Elon Musk, Craig Jelinek and Arthur T. Demoulas.

Elon Musk because he has relentlessly chased two insane dreams (carbon-free vehicles and putting humans on Mars) at his own risk, to the point of nearly bankrupting himself. After selling Paypal, instead of taking the easy way out (i.e. becoming an angel investor or a VC), Musk chose to think bigger and chase two dreams.

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek because he continues to take a $53,000 salary even as he leads a multi-billion dollar business which thrived as other retailers were cutting costs. He typifies the great leader: someone who puts his people above himself. He pays his people an average hourly wage of $20.89 (as compared to $12.67 at Walmart), and he does so not for the media attention, but because he believes that valuing his people is the right thing to do and will result in better quality service for his customers.

Arthur T. Demoulas, CEO of Market Basket, because he stood up to his board and family, who wanted to take a business built around the employees and strip it of its values by cutting costs. His employees, renowned in New England as some of the friendliest and most helpful grocery store employees, stood up for him by striking without pay until he was able to wrest control back. What’s more impressive, his customers also stood up to the new owners by refusing to shop at Market Basket until Demoulas was back in charge.

I need to relax. You’ll find me at/doing…

Playing soccer. I don’t get to do it very often anymore, but there’s nothing that relaxes me more than putting on my cleats and going out for a game of soccer, especially if it’s raining!

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live on the 14th street corridor, just north of U Street!

Biggest DC pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve is that the city completely shuts down as soon as there is the slightest amount of snow!

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