Is the party bus the future of group mobility innovation?

Party Bus Future of Mobility

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With my experiences in business, technology, military, and the public sector, my whole life has been about seeing change across a wide range of areas.  I’m always in search of incremental innovations that improve overall quality of life through better products and services.  Recently, I wrote about the future of mobility services for Grayline.  In addition, I served as keynote speaker for the Capital Factory Innovation Council on the future of mobility.  


So you might find it interesting to know that I think that the party bus (and new innovations by a start-up named Fetii) might provide answers about the future of mobility.  Since the earliest days of building RideScout, I have always been trying to look around the corner of the future of how we get around in our communities.  Better ground mobility will lead to better upward mobility for all.


One example of a clear change in transportation is the blurring of lines between the public and private sectors and the mobility options we have to solve our commuting and traffic problems.  There is no better way to demonstrate that blurring than to look at mobility and transportation inside our communities.   


We know that even prior to COVID, public transportation agencies were beginning to partner with private sector ride and technology companies.  Their goal was to deliver people and goods in a way that has not been seen before.  Automotive industry leaders like Mercedes and Ford have been designing and implementing new technologies and solutions for a very long time.  Today, there is a revolution in mobility platforms competing for attention.


There are many problems with the way that our mobility infrastructure has grown over the years.  The future of mobility work at Deloitte lays it out nicely of how we got to now.


First, large 40 passenger busses too often were seen driving with mostly empty seats.  Part of that problem comes from fixed routes/schedules that do not provide the flexibility needed to meet the demands of the whole community.  


Second, despite their clever new business models, innovations like Uber and Lyft lack the seating capacity to carry enough passengers to be considered a scalable solution.  We need to increase the over capacity/density of how many people can move per square foot of vehicle space.   


Third, standing on the street method of the ride hailing with most taxi companies fails to provide the solution either.  Making the problem worse, as business innovates, in too many of our communities the taxi industry is locked into legacy systems that prevent innovative products from emerging.


Then COVID enters our world forcing us to rethink how close we can be to people.  Social distancing has caused us to look for new mobility solutions.  Then a new technology like Fetii enters the market in 2019 with a contactless way to allow people to order, connect, enter, exit and pay with minimal contact.  As a bonus, Fetii is well positioned to provide that clever blend between small private rideshare services and the larger capacity public buses.  


The solution… the party bus rentals concept brought forward into the 21st century.  


As part of my Catalyst TALKS series, I interviewed CEO and co-founder of Fetii, Matthew Iommi, to learn more about his journey. We discussed the original idea of this disruptive innovation, their COVID pivot and what the future might hold.  Since we know that innovation involves collaboration, I enjoyed our discussion exploring how to look at old problems through a new lens.  


My goal with highlighting mobility systems like Fetii would be to spark a discussion about how the type of innovation is less important than the innovation process itself.  


Whether we are talking about the history of driving cars or party buses, technology and innovation are speeding up the rate of change in society.  Therefore, it gives us an opportunity to find new ideas in the most unusual of places. 


You can watch the full interview here (full transcript below):



And in full disclosure, I like their idea so much I’m signed on as a strategic advisor to help their company scale.


Joseph Kopser:

Matthew, we are live. Welcome to another afternoon of Catalyst TALKS, I’m Joseph Kopser. And I’m with Matthew Iommi, who is the co-founder of Fetii, a group transportation application, that I met recently through the Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. But their application is not limited at all to Texas. And you’re going to see it quite a bit in the future. Matthew, thanks for being here. Like I told you before in the green room, the three things we want to talk about is what you’re working on. Number two, the entrepreneurial’s journey that you took in this future of work that we’re in, as we’re all adapting. And then thirdly, your life in COVID. So first of all, how you doing, and how’s life treating you?

Matthew Iommi:

I’m doing well, Joseph. Not to say that we’ve all come across these newfound obstacles, but I really appreciate being here. And thank you for taking the time to meet with me.

Joseph Kopser:

Absolutely. So tell us about Fetii. What’s this technology that you and Justin have done? And then your biography by the way, is below in the comment section, in the description of this. So let’s just jump right into what you’re working on.

Matthew Iommi:

Great. So Fetii is, like you mentioned, a group mobility application. And it came out from the issue of not having a sufficient solution to transport groups. So, Rick came along and was able to transport these groups by providing them with vehicles that could get them to their destination in a safe manner. And not having to use their own personal vehicles. From there, there wasn’t much innovation in terms of groups. We had innovation in luxury. They could get to their destination in luxury vehicles. They could get to their destination with other people. They could do pooling. But one thing that they weren’t able to do is get these groups together. And one thing about humans is that we like to be social. We like to be with groups. It’s just much better for us, much healthier.

Matthew Iommi:

And so what we came across was the fact, why can’t these groups ride together in an affordable manner, in an on demand manner, without having to split up the groups in multiple vehicles, and have a hassle with payment, and whatnot? So, we came across this problem, and we came up with a solution, which is now Fetii. Essentially what we do is we connect operators of these large scale vehicles, whether it be vans, sprinter vans, transit vans, whether it be a shuttle buses, whether it be buses, or whether it be even large scale vehicles like limos.

Matthew Iommi:

So we created an on demand application for them. We’ve got our affiliate dashboard in which the affiliates, or transit partners, manage their operations and manage their vehicles. Whether they have one vehicle or whether they have a fleet of vehicles. We created a driver app that is synonymous with the user app and [inaudible 00:02:54] communication so that these drivers can know where the groups are. And then of course, the user app in which the users can book on demand, a large scale vehicle for their group. Or schedule one. Or the traditional model of hourly reservations, for their necessities. So that’s kind of the first solution that we brought to it. It was the ability to call these vehicles on demand. Because-

Joseph Kopser:

And let me just interrupt there. I do want to point out one thing, which is, first of all, I loved your idea so much that in full disclosure, I’m helping advise your company. So anybody watching know that I love these guys in terms of what they’re building. But I saw instantly, because I had just returned from Venice, visiting my daughter in college up at SMU, that pain point between calling an individual car, and having too many people in your group to be able to fit in that car. And you’re that group on demand. So you were just getting ready to get into that pivot. So go ahead and finish with that.

Matthew Iommi:

Right. So exactly. So what we had to do was make an affordable …

Matthew Iommi:

So we had to tackle that problem, and the traditional model for event transportation, with what these large scale operators were doing, is typical, hourly reservation. They weren’t able to maximize the efficiency of their vehicle and utilize it throughout the whole period.

They have to take these hourly reservations, block off times to make sure that they can reach these other bookings. And so the tech wasn’t efficient. So that’s a solution we brought. And the second solution was the making the payment process seamless. So right now with large event transportation companies, they require a deposit, hundred dollars an hour. And it becomes to the point where, okay, if I want to go downtown with some friends, and it’s a minimum hourly reservation of three hours at a hundred dollars an hour, do I want to pay $300 to go to downtown and expect the whole group to, to pay me back? Which, let’s be honest, isn’t always the case, right?

Joseph Kopser:

Yeah. The whole idea of getting paid back is pretty tough. But, we’re already at five minutes and like I was telling you the green room, I want to try to pack all this in to 10 minutes, because people are always on the move. So it’s pretty straightforward. I’m going to link to the bottom while you’re answering my next question, your company, and they can find out more in real time. And I’ll also leave this quad chart up on the beginning. But, for those entrepreneurs who might have an idea, that might see something that they can innovate on, what is your recommendation? What has been your entrepreneurial journey? So they can see your journey and match it with their own life experiences.

Matthew Iommi:

Right. So I think the first thing is to go through … Well, first off, it’s to take the leap. If you see something that you want to do, a problem you want to tackle, you have to put your mind to it, and give it its full focus, and think of solutions. I think it’s every entrepreneur, it’s every business owner, it’s even every successful athlete, it’s all about problem solving. What you need to do is you need to be able to come across an obstacle and not let it alter your direction.

If it’s an obstacle that requires a large pivot, then you need to do so. But it’s understanding the problem and being able to come up with solutions to keep going. So, as a serial entrepreneur, throughout the process, it’s obstacle on top of the obstacle, and just pushing through. And I think if you’ve pushed through, you’ll get to the point where you want to be even further.

Joseph Kopser:

Well it’s that resilience and that sticktuitiveness. I think Duckworth’s book called it grit, and not everybody has that grit. But as we’ve got a couple of minutes left. Taking the technology that you have, applying that grit and that persistence that you recommend for all entrepreneurs, you’re now faced in this era of COVID. So take a minute and talk about how you’ve made adjustments and what do you think the future is, as we go forward with COVID.

Matthew Iommi:

Right. So COVID was a unique situation for us in our team in the sense that-

Joseph Kopser:

Especially in group transportation.

Matthew Iommi:

Especially in group transportation. It was unique in the sense that whenever we had an obstacle, we knew what the problem was. And so right away we could get to figuring out a solution. Being creative and figuring out a way to progress. With COVID, it took a little bit more time, because it was hard to identify what the problem was, and how to react to it. Is this a month thing where we need to pivot only for a month? Or is it a few years? Or whatnot. So what we decided, Justin and I, my co-founder, is that we decided to keep our longterm goal. We do believe the psychology of humans is to be social. I would never bet against groups.

Joseph Kopser:

Oh, we’re definitely going back out in groups, we’ve just got to do it safely. You’re right.

Matthew Iommi:

Right. Exactly. So it was figuring out a way to account for that, while also continue our goals. So recently we did partner with A&M to help with their contact tracing system. Using our technology and our UPC technology to do exactly that.

Joseph Kopser:

Yeah. Well, what I love about it is we know for a fact that we’re going to go back. And what I mean go is go back to work as a part of the future of work. It’ll be a new normal. But the fact that your technology allows for people to be able to have that contactless movement on and off of vehicles, and it will allow for some non-threatening, or less evasive tracking and tracing in terms of contact tracing. Do you want to take a minute and, just because we’ve got about 45 seconds left on the interview part, to explain how you might be a part of that contactless, post-COVID solution?

Matthew Iommi:

Right. So the way we partnered with A&M, and we’re looking to partner with other institutions, is fact that say if I got sick with COVID. And I have used the A&M transportation. I’ve gone to classrooms, I’ve gone to the cafeteria. The contact trace, the typical way, is going to ask, “Where have you been?”

And try to determine who was around me, and who may have been affected. In that scenario I gave, I’m not going to remember who was on the bus with me, if it was a random stranger, or who was in the cafeteria, or whatnot. And so with our technology, with our UPC and QR tracking system, the staff at A&M and the team there can go into their backend management system and decide, “Okay, who was there with him when he checked into the vehicle, when he checked into the cafeteria, into the classroom, into the football game?” And therefore, be able to let everyone know, “Okay, you were in contact with someone. You may need to get checked out.”

Joseph Kopser:

I love it. Well, we’re going to wrap up under 10 minutes. Matthew, thanks for taking the time to be a part of Catalyst TALKS. You’re part of the future of mobility, you’re part of innovation, and you’re also a part of our post-COVID world. So thanks for being here with us today.

Matthew Iommi:

It was a pleasure.

Joseph Kopser:



Joseph Kopser of Grayline Group is host of Catalyst TALKS.  A series of live, interactive interviews with thought leaders, subject matter experts and operators with first hand experience in the skills needed to lead the workplace in a changing world.  His talks focus on the technology, agility, leadership, knowledge, and strategy needed to build teams in a changing world.  Joseph is also co-founder of the non-profit USTomorrow focused on workforce readiness.   Joseph’s focus is to work with people adapt to the changing future of work.


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