#50 Professional Soccer Player Turned Entrepreneur: How Cody Ruberto created a ride-sharing company with $3,000 that competes against the giants

This week I had Cody Ruberto, CEO & Founder of U-Ride on the show. He’s got an amazing story about being a professional soccer player and then starting U-Ride, which is a ridesharing company that operates in underserved communities.

He talks about what it took to be a professional soccer player, and then getting injured in his first month of playing. He visited 19 different doctors around the world, many of whom said he would never play again, and got 6 surgeries and finally made it back. From there he started U-Ride in Thunder Bay to help people get home safely at the end of the night.

It is an amazing story to hear how someone started a company with $3,000 that would compete against Uber & Lyft (who have raised $30B, collectively). U-Ride now does 1 million rides per year across 15 different cities in Canada.

You can also follow Cody on LinkedIn.

Thanks for listening to Unsubscribed! – a podcast created by Knak. If you enjoyed this episode, please do subscribe and leave a review on your favourite podcast player. If you have any feedback, or want to chat, feel free to reach out to Pierce on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @marketing_101.

Audio Transcripts

[00:00:00] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
I’m Pierce Ujjainwalla and you’re listening to Unsubscribed. Every episode, I sit down with business leaders to help you question everything you thought you knew about marketing. If you enjoy this show, please do subscribe and leave a review on YouTube or your favorite podcast player. Now, on to this episode. My guest today is Cody Roberto. Cody is from a small Canadian town called Thunder Bay. At 18, he moved to Europe to pursue his dream of being a professional soccer player, which he realized and played in the Welsh Premier League. Injuries forced Cody back to Thunder Bay. where he witnessed people were getting stranded with no ride sharing options. And that’s when he started URide. URide is a ride sharing business that now does over a million rides per year across 15 different cities in Canada. Welcome to the unsubscribed podcast, Cody. It’s great to have

[00:01:04] Cody Ruberto:
you. Pierce, it’s great to be here, buddy. How’s everything going?

[00:01:09] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
It’s going great and I’m super excited to kind of dig in and learn more about your story. You know, what, when did you realize that you wanted to play professional soccer?

[00:01:20] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so ever since I was like a little kid, my whole family was obsessed with soccer. And so I think I started playing when I was like four. And ever since then, yeah, I wanted to be a professional soccer player in Europe. And I think my dad kind of planted it in my head originally, but I just fell in love with the game. And, Fell in love with the process of just trying to improve every day and, yeah, just the going after something extremely challenging where the odds of success are like, you know, extremely low. I don’t, yeah, I just, just loved it.

[00:01:51] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
That’s amazing. And what, was there like a moment in time where you felt like, Hey. I might be good enough to, to actually do this.

[00:02:00] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah. So like, it was kind of a weird journey. So when I was like really young, when I was like 9, 10, 11 years old, I mean, I used to train like three times a day and, and. Was doing really well, but then when I got to like 13, 14, I grew late. So I went from being like a pretty good player in, in Thunder Bay to being like one of the worst players on my team. And then, like, by the time I’m in high school, I’m 14 years old, I’m riding the bench, for my high school team in Thunder Bay. Still wanted to be a professional soccer player. The odds of it. Actually happening seen like zero to none and people kind of thought I was nuts. Um, but I’d already made a decision that, like, I would do everything I possibly could day in day out, just dedicating my life to pursuing this goal. And, um, yeah, I thought, okay, might be riding the bench right now. But, um, if I put in the work. Now, like, what’s gonna happen over the next five years when I’m putting in this amount of work, this amount of effort, and then 10 years and like, how far can we take this? So, um, it was extremely hard to keep the dream alive and honestly, there were years where, it did just seem completely impossible. Um, but it decided to just keep pushing. Again, just keep doing everything I could every single day. And then gradually over time, I improved, made progress and slowly got closer to, got closer and closer to it.

[00:03:19] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
That’s incredible. And, and I mean, as you’re going through there, you’re riding the bench, you know. And I’m sure everyone can can relate to this. I’m sure you had people telling you, Hey, you know, Cody, maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. Maybe you should do something else. How did you, how did you just block that out and continue to focus on your goal? Yeah.

[00:03:43] Cody Ruberto:
So one thing that really helped me is, I just made a decision early on. That this is what I’m going after and I’m going to do everything I possibly can. There’s like, I knew there was going to be days where I felt terrible. I knew there was going to be days where it seemed impossible. But because the decision was already made, it was like. Every day I just had to keep putting in the work. So for example, when I was riding the bench at 14 years old, like I never, I would never sit on the bench. I would just be on the side practicing. My coaches would yell at me, tell me to sit down. I just wouldn’t. I would just keep training on the sidelines. Um, every day before school, every day after school, I’m just doing everything I possibly could. I’d be watching players that were obviously like playing. In the Premier League and said, Yeah, and just trying to learn from them. I would also reach out to people that had had successful careers and just try to learn from them. And then gradually, went from being like probably the worst player on my team at 14 in Thunder Bay to, like, improving a lot. And then we won like in my last year of high school, we won the Ontario Championships and did really well. And like, then from there you go to this next level. I took all the money I had and basically moved to Europe in this academy where you like Pay your own way to be on a team of foreigners. And, my parents were like, really, really upset. I wanted me to go to school and kind of pursue that. And the odds of success in soccer again, we’re slim to none, but went after it. And again, like, first year there. I was the worst player by far on that team. There are 26 of us. Um, and like didn’t, it wasn’t looking good, but just worked my butt off, trained three times a day. That whole year is probably over training, um, a lot, but. Like from the start of the year to the end of the year, the amount of improvement there was, was like insane. Um, and then two of us ended up getting, getting contracts at the end of it. Fortunately I was one of them and then it was the same deal. Like, went into a team, was pretty excited, had improved a lot from Thunder Bay and from there, a month into my first, contract in Italy, I got injured and it turned out it was like this, supposed to be this career ending injury, um, had 19 different surgeons, and doctors tell me I would never play again. And it was just insane. So I got a small glimpse of like some kind of success achieving this dream and then just ripped away at, it was like 19 or 20 at the time. And, um, from there. Man, it was, uh, [00:05:59] Pierce Ujjainwalla: I can only imagine what that was like. Like, yeah. Was, so that first month, right, where you did, you made it, you actualized your dream, like, was it everything that you had hoped for?

[00:06:13] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, it was incredible. Um, it was like, yeah, one of the most incredible experiences of my life, like actually playing soccer every single day and like having a contract and all that was just. amazing, and constantly working, trying to get better again on a team where, um, when I joined that team, this time I wasn’t the worst player. I was probably like in the middle of the pack, but trying to get better, trying to improve, um, being around players that were way more experienced than me. It was, it was great, man. So when it got taken away, yeah, it

[00:06:47] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
was, what was your injury? What happened?

[00:06:49] Cody Ruberto:
So I basically, I was changing directions and my foot slipped and I felt this like. tear in my hip. And, , I thought it was like a muscle strain originally. And then, it turned out, well, then in Italy, I kept trying to like play through it, got to the point where I couldn’t walk after training, and then got the same issue in my other hip. And then, From there, doctors in Italy just told me this is something you’re going to have the rest of your life, like probably going to be many months where you can’t play. There’ll be other times where you can sort of like play for fun, and I wasn’t happy with that answer. So then I flew back to, to originally Canada and then, started seeing doctors. Well, the first doctor I saw who like had invented this kind of procedure, um, that was supposed to help with this thing that they told me I had in Italy. He asked me. Still remember going into his office after he examined me and ran all the tests. He said, what would you do if you, you know, you can never play soccer again. And, um, I was just like, pretty angry. I said, like, what are you talking about? Like, I’m going to play soccer again. He said, no, like, I don’t want to give you false hope. Um, I don’t want you to waste any more time or energy on this. Like, you won’t be able to play again. Uh, you might be able to Go for jogs two, three times a week. If you, you know, keep up with your routines and follow these things, but there’s no chance of you playing or having a career after this and that wasn’t good enough for me. So actually like that was probably up to that date. One of the worst days of my life because like my whole life revolved around this goal, right? And then all of a sudden, you know, it’s getting ripped away from you. So I was kind of mourning for it. a day. Um, went, went home with sulking. I told the doctor he was wrong and I would make it back. But yeah, super upset. And then after that one day in the morning, I just got to work. I said, there’s got to be someone in the world that can fix me. And I just went on this journey to meet as many different surgeons and people as possible until I could find someone who thought they could sort of resolve this. And, yeah, it was a crazy journey from there. Float flew across like Canada and the U. S. Meeting with different doctors at 19 different people. Tell me kind of the same thing, like you’re never gonna play again. It’s not worth giving you false hope and wasting your time. And then there was one doctor who had, like, invented this new hip surgery in the U. S. Who thought he could fix me. And then the surgery was ridiculously expensive. It was money I didn’t didn’t have. And, um, yeah, I had to figure out how to get that operation. From there, those first two surgeries didn’t work. with this like top hip surgeon in the world. Um, and then I basically didn’t know what to do. Couldn’t play, was in constant pain. And then there was this other guy in Philadelphia who I went to go see and he was like, invented some surgeries for like outside the hip joint. Um, and basically he told me before going and he said like, I don’t know if this is going to help you. Like. You could get the surgery. I just know that if you don’t get it, you’re never going to play again if you get it, like, maybe it helps, but I have no idea if this is going to work. Like, you’re pretty, pretty messed up. And, I got the surgeries with him again. There was a whole story there where again, didn’t have much money. So I actually ran out of money in Philadelphia down to my last dollar. went like probably a day and a half, two days without eating, trying to figure out how to get this surgery. The surgery got cancelled three times because I couldn’t make payment. It was nuts, but ended up getting it done. And then that surgery, I had a surgery on both hips at the same time. Um, and so now we’re like, four operations in two on each side, and, and then those didn’t work. And then I had this incredible, incredible physiotherapist, who, like, we just started experimenting with all these different things. There were certain things that would give me, like, relief for five minutes, certain exercises, and, something called active release. And, anyways, like, I just started doing more of those things that gave me relief for five minutes and eventually I backed off anything that caused me pain eventually got to the point where I could walk pain free. I took a couple months to get to that point. And then from there started jogging for like 30 seconds, right, like pain free and then a minute, and then five minutes and then 10 minutes, then started accelerating, then started changing directions, and like, then got to the point where I was healthy enough to like make it back to soccer. And I remember, um, Catching a flight back to Italy. When I landed in Rome, I actually just started like bawling on the plane. It was kind of a little bit embarrassing, but it was just like, yeah, one of the, one of the most incredible moments of my life. Cause that was like everything that sort of happened in business, everything that, you know, like building a company is hard and all these different things, but actually the journey in soccer is harder than anything that I’ve done in my life. Up to this point by far. So, um, yeah, it kind of reaffirmed

[00:11:18] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
wild story. Yeah. Like I actually have had hip surgery once and I can not imagine multiple times and, and trying to come back from that. That’s, that is amazing for you, man.

[00:11:35] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah. It actually teaches you a lot about like business. So there were certain things there that like. So I had to figure out usually to get in for an appointment with a surgeon, it takes like a year, year and a half for like some cities in Canada. Right. So you had to figure out how to get in in like a week or two weeks. So like being good on the phone, figuring out how to like kind of navigate and make things happen. And just, yeah, there were so many experiences I can take from that. particular time that I actually use in business, almost, almost every day or every week here.

[00:12:09] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
No kidding. So, so you get, you get all of these surgeries, you work incredibly hard, you do the physio, you go back to it, to Europe to, to play professionally

[00:12:22] Cody Ruberto:
again. Yeah, I went, I was in Italy and I was kind of bouncing up and down in the, uh, like lower leagues there. And then I had the opportunity to go to Wales and, ended up even Wales. It’s pretty funny. I went on trial with this team. I guess they had seen me playing somewhere else and invited me to try out. And then I remember, um, Even looking to sign there, like my goal at the start of every season was to be the worst, be on a team where I’m the worst player, right? And, and then just try to improve, try to get better because it forces you to stretch. So before signing a contract there, the coach pulled me aside after like, you know, being on trial for a couple of weeks. He said, like, listen, I think your attitude’s great. I think you’re a good player, but like. Just want to be honest with you, if you sign, like, you’re probably not going to play a game, you’re probably going to be in the stands most of the time. We already have other, I’m a striker, so it’s like, we got other strikers who, are, you know, going to be starting and, and that’s just. That’s just it. So I want to be upfront with you. You’re playing time isn’t going to be much. I said, perfect. The only thing I ask is, you know, um, at some point throughout the year, if I get an opportunity, you know, if you want to give me that, I’ll be ready for it. And I’ll take advantage of it. Um, and so I signed the contract, and then actually first game of the season. We had a couple injuries, so I was on the bench. I wasn’t in the stands and then in the warm up. It’s like unfortunate for my teammate. Um, he ended up getting injured in the warm up of the first game of the season. And then, so I was starting that game up up front a striker and then ended up scoring two goals had like one of the best games of my career, and then was starting for the team and that was the start of my career and in Wales, but it was kind of wild.

[00:13:59] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
That’s incredible. Good for you. That’s yeah, I can only imagine just the, the perseverance that you did and everyone telling you, no, you can’t do it. It’ll never happen. And just not listening and, and forging your own path.

[00:14:16] Cody Ruberto:
That’s it. No, it was a, it was a crazy soccer was a crazy journey for sure.

[00:14:21] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Okay. Well, so then, you have this career playing pro soccer. You end up back in Thunder Bay. Tell me a little bit about how, you know, your ride came about.

[00:14:33] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so this was like 2017, ended up, getting injured again. So this time, similar hip, hip problems, but like way worse. So the amount of people that have like made it back from these two surgeries is like, uh, you know, probably count them on your hand. And yeah, doctors told me this was pretty much the end of my, end of my career. So I went back to Thunder Bay. And had had a couple operations in the U. S. again. So I’m on six hip surgeries now. And, uh, and then basically every time I go go out end of the night, I see crowds of people stranded with no ride home, um, in like, minus 30. And it was insane. You’d see these crowds of people. There were like very few taxis around. Every time a taxi pulled up, there’d be like 10 people jumping it, trying to get inside. And people used to wait over an hour for rides. If it was a holiday, you could wait three to four hours. So people would start walking home in these temperatures. Maybe like, 30, 45 minute walk home in minus 30, or a lot of people would drink and drive and it was just a huge, huge problem. So I’ve actually had friends who have been killed by impaired drivers. I have one friend who was driving drunk when I was growing up and killed someone. And I just thought this is a problem that shouldn’t exist. And so, I basically had this time off soccer where I like, I knew what I In my head, I knew I would get back to playing. , but have this time off, like, let’s try to fix this problem in Thunder Bay. So I started giving free rides to people and that really didn’t do much. And so, um, I just said, we got to find a solution here. We basically, you couldn’t do ride sharing in our city. And again, keep in mind, I knew nothing about business, nothing about bylaws, about tech, Okay. Anything. But yeah, I just knew, okay, you can’t do ride sharing. So then I’m like, okay, what can we do? There’s an incredible organization called Operation Red Nose in December every year in a lot of communities, they give free rides to people and it’s all by donation. I just think it’s a great cause. And so I reached out to them about just like, hey, can we run this all year round? drinking and driving is a huge problem all year like let’s get this if we get you an app if we get you a platform and figure this out can um can we just help prevent impaired driving all year round all the money will be donated to charity and we’ll just take it from there and it got shut down uh from head office so then we were sort of back to square one and i started reading the bylaw again and then i saw this line in there that said limousines could set their own rates like okay Limousines can set their own rates. Maybe we can do something with it. So I started reaching out to the limousine company. So I called the limousine company in Thunder Bay and just told them this idea, you know, like, hey, can we put your cars on this platform, get up and running and, you know, try to fix this problem here. They hung up on me and thought I was nuts. And then I basically went to, uh, there’s only two limousine companies in Thunder Bay. So, They were like on the last shot. Now, I walked into the office, place called Granite Town Cars and, I went in and talked to them and I said, Hey, like, your cars are parked the majority of time, whenever they’re parked and you’re, you don’t have a booking, can I fill these cars with drivers, put it on the, on the road and we’ll just pay you for every ride that we give, right? And like, if it works out, we can prevent impaired driving here. We can get people home safe. We can fix this problem in Thunder Bay. And if it doesn’t, you know, yeah, You’ll be in the same position that you are right now. And, and if it does work out, it’ll be like a great thing on your end. You’ll be making money and you won’t have to do any work. Um, and so they thought I was nuts too. Uh, but they decided to, to give us a shot and go along with it. And then from there, it was just chaos. We had to figure out how to launch this platform. Didn’t have a lot of money. We started the company with 3, 000 and, and even when it came to getting an app, it was like, you know, building an app, I started reaching out to different. Different companies and people to build this. They told me like minimum two to 300, 000 to build an app, then started looking at companies that had gone bankrupt, started looking at every possible option and then worked out a deal where we basically got a platform up and running for under 3, 000. Uh, and actually started the whole business

[00:18:24] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
with that. And then wait a minute here, because like, if I look at. You’re competitors, right? Combined, I did some research a bit earlier. They have raised like 30 billion. You’re telling me that you built an app that does essentially the same thing for 3, 000?

[00:18:45] Cody Ruberto:
We, we got it up and running. So we basically partnered with a company that already had something built that, you know, hadn’t gone very well and didn’t have a lot of people. And we made a deal where we just like pay them a little bit more money over time, but upfront almost like nothing. And they did the deal and, yeah, so it’s we were able to, like, from that, it was like, we, well, I can even get. Go along, but we got far, like we got up to, it’s probably like before we got any, any kind of, like, we haven’t raised lots anyways, but, um, before we got any, like another additional dollar, uh, we’re doing like, you know, customers are spending around 200, 000 a month. So from 3, 000, and that’s it, just using whatever came in to try to grow the company. A lot of pain and suffering along the way in times where we should have died. But the early days of you ride, it’s pretty hilarious. If you booked. Like, if you booked in the early days, I was basically I had the two operations. So, um, right when we launched, uh, whenever you ordered, I’d be like, I was staying in my uncle’s basement at the time. I used to crutch in and out of their house all hours of the night. It’d be like 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning. I’d wake them up with the crutches, hop in, throw my crutches in the passenger seat, drive, go pick up Go pick someone up. They’d hop in and they’d see this person in a huge hip race. They’d see crutches that they’d have to like move over to get in beside me. They’d be like, are you okay to drive? Like, yeah, yeah, come on in. It’s all good. And then as we’re driving my phone, like we, we couldn’t afford employees. So, um, we had no employees, no dispatchers, and it was a 24 seven business. And so my phone would be ringing constantly in the car with customers that have to pull over. Help a driver with, you know, whatever’s going on or respond to a customer support ticket and then keep driving and then stop the trip early. So the customer doesn’t get overcharged. And, uh, it was just, man, it was insane. The first like six months was just like a blur, just complete chaos. And then trying to squeeze in like physio in between, I was still trying to make it back to soccer, obviously. Yeah, so I’d like go do physio and then leave two or three times between that to go give rides and just get chaos. So this

[00:20:44] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
was this was with the town curse that you were doing this first part, okay? Yeah, and that I know I Know you guys have grown a lot more from that point like did they change the bylaws? How did how did you get around

[00:21:01] Cody Ruberto:
that? Yeah, so they changed the bylaws And then we started working on our own insurance policy to operate like we knew that Get into story maybe another day of like the chaos of trying to grow with this model, but eventually we did switch over to people using their personal cars. We provide them with commercial insurance anytime that they’re in the are on the platform. And that’s when we really started to grow and sort of hit another level here.

[00:21:28] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
And so you didn’t have any employees at first. When did you realize like, Hey, this, this has potential here. Maybe we, we need to pivot to, to getting people driving their own cars.

[00:21:40] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah. So just like for us, the only thing we cared about, like we weren’t really thinking about, you know, all this growth and all these things. The only thing we cared about was just getting people picked up. And so demand was through the roof. When we launched, I basically put a post on my personal Facebook, the night before we launched. Okay. And then that post like went viral in Thunder Bay and we started to get downloads coming in and people booking rides. And then from there, a CBC article came out and then thousands of downloads started coming in. We started getting way more demand than we could handle. And it was just like limousine companies started buying more cars and we started growing that way. Then we started finding other partners. There was like another busing company that had these like, limousine licensed vehicles that we were able to get through there. And then there was another loophole in like the insurance policy where basically people could lease their cars. To this, uh, to this company fall under their commercial insurance so that passengers drivers are protected, and the licensing, and then we were able to go that way, but just demand was going through the roof and we knew we had to do something. And so that’s when we, we started working on this insurance policy and that, that was insane to took us.

[00:22:45] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
And so, Cody, like, you know, you mentioned you did a Facebook post, you got, coverage in CBC, like, uh, did you have a PR firm or an agency? How did you do all of that?

[00:23:01] Cody Ruberto:
Uh, not at all. Just literally, it’s probably not the best way to launch a business that worked out for us. But yeah, I just waited. I knew this was such a huge problem that, if someone came along and tried to fix it, I knew there were like, I knew there would be demand for it. So, um, there were no PR agencies. Just, we also had like no money. So obviously we can’t hire anyone or pay for any ads or PR agency. So it’s just like, I don’t know, put this post on my personal Facebook just about this problem and how I thought it shouldn’t exist and how things have been this way for like 20 or 30 years. And we’re going to try to change it. I think people just connected with it. Right? Most people in my town knew about the problem and, uh, just wanted to support it. I wasn’t expecting CBC to reach out. Um, I guess they just saw the post and then called us. So that was super random. But then we also learned something from that. It’s like the amount you can grow out. Organically with like zero spend is it’s kind of wild and we like figured out how to get More articles coming out and, um, and we used to do these random, like Facebook videos just talking about what was going on and us working on building the company and people connected with it. And we’d start to like these videos would start to go viral. And yeah, had like no marketing budget, but we’re able to grow quite a bit in the early days. So

[00:24:16] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
what was that like at the beginning? You know, you, you post. A Facebook post, you get this coverage, and I’m, you’re just watching all of these downloads come in, like, was it, was it surreal? Was it a surprise? Or did you feel like you knew that that was gonna happen?

[00:24:34] Cody Ruberto:
Um, I knew it was a huge problem. I wasn’t expecting out of the gate this much, uh, like demand for it. And then, yeah, there were only a couple moments. So like most of the time building the company, I would say 95% of the time, it’s like problems and stress and just trying to figure out how to solve the next issue and you’re so. In it that you’re not thinking about, um, you know, like, Hey, this is pretty cool. All these orders are coming. Oh, it’s like you need to fulfill these orders. You got to figure out how to get drivers on the road and fix these problems. And so that was most of the time. One of the coolest moments that I had in the early days though, and I’m like, I’ll never forget this. Um, it was like a month after we, we launched and obviously with us launching the taxi stepped up their game too. So I saw a taxi. Parked in front of a bar, just sitting there waiting, waiting for someone to get out and come inside. And like, I’d never seen that before. I’d never seen it where, like, ahead of time, bat taxis were parked in front, just waiting for you, right? Um, but their level of service was great for the first probably two or three weeks after we launched. And it got me thinking, like, you really can, fix problems that are out there, right? Just because something is the way that it is. Doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. If you’re want to fix it, you can actually, you know, make a pretty big impact. So that, that was super cool to see. That’s like a moment I’ll never forget probably for the rest of my life.

[00:26:00] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Yeah. That’s amazing that you, you really started that change and they had to respond and the result was. More people getting home safely.

[00:26:13] Cody Ruberto:
100%. Take me

[00:26:13] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
back to, you, you have all these orders, or you, you have all these downloads now. You’re like, I don’t know how many there were, but probably more than what you could support with your fleet of limousines. Like, how, how did you approach that in terms of like, now you have. How many did you have? How many downloads did you have in those early days? And how did you approach making sure you have enough drivers to support it?

[00:26:43] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so basically, after the CBC article came out, we, we hit over a thousand. Oh, no, sorry. First 24 hours, we hit a thousand downloads, which for us was like insane. Um, and then from there, when the CBC article came out, we started getting like 2000, 3000, 4000 downloads. And it was just mind blowing. And then the orders start coming in. Um, and. Yeah, we did whatever it took. Like, I used to beg family and friends to go out and drive, like, in the early days, I’d grab a crew of, like some of my best friends, some, some family, we’d get together, we’d go pick up these cars and, like, head out for the night, And then from there, when we started growing and getting bigger, it was like every Friday, Saturday night, especially weekdays were a little bit easier to handle, but every Friday and Saturday night, like we would have to beg people to come online. We would like, if someone had to, you know, stay home and cook and do these different things, like, um, we bought dinner for families so that, you know, to be able to go out and drive I’ve offered to babysit, so that, you know, we can get extra drivers out on the road, like whatever, um, just, yeah. It was a lot of chaos. Um, and there were so many people that cared about this mission. Like all of the community, the support we had from like passengers and people spreading the word about it was incredible. But then all the drivers, like we had a ton of people that knew about this problem and wanted to fix it. And, so yeah, early days wasn’t a good job for people. Um, it was chaos. Uh, but they really like. Tons of great people just stepped up to help build this thing. What

[00:28:15] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
do you think it was about your mission that got people to really connect with it? Yeah,

[00:28:22] Cody Ruberto:
so like one thing I think about just in business is like, I think how painful is the problem, right? So like if you’re, if you’re ever looking to start a business or do something like how painful is this issue that you’re trying to solve? And for us, not a lot of people know this, but like. Yeah, if it’s imagine it’s, uh, two third in the morning, you’re kicked out of the establishment where you’re at. You step outside and it’s the coldest temperature you’ve ever felt. It’s dark. There’s hundreds of people all around you all trying to get home. And there’s no rides. Like, what, what do you do? Right? People, a lot of people hop into their cars and drive after they’ve had a couple drinks. A lot of people, like I said before, walk home in these temperatures. So I think the problem was so painful for people originally in Thunder Bay, um, that. Yeah, it’s like, uh, I don’t know, man. I think that’s why they connected like someone coming along to just try to fix this thing. The whole community. I don’t know how to explain it, but it felt like there was a huge force behind us. Right? Um, and then same deal. We started getting communities across the country, like these smaller towns reaching out and saying, we have the same problem that you have. Please expand to our area. And, um, everywhere we went, we just noticed the same problem exists. And, well, yeah,

[00:29:37] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
I, I experienced the problem first and just last summer before, before you ride expanded to Prince Edward County. I was there with some friends and it was like a time machine. Like I was going back to pre ride sharing apps. I actually forgot what that was like, you know, like, yeah, looking up on Google. You know, it used to be the phone book, but looking up on Google, the, I think there were three different cab companies. And I, this was early in the night. I called them, two of them didn’t even answer the phone. And then the third one was just like, Oh, we’re super busy tonight. Like I have one driver on the road and I don’t think I can drive you guys. So we managed to, uh, so my friend drove his car down there. We left it there overnight. And I thought that we were going to have to hitch a ride back with like the kitchen staff of the restaurant. I mean, I guess always having lived in a bigger city, you kind of take it for granted now what’s available, but I was happy to hear you write expanded to Prince Edward County. It’s great. And it is a huge

[00:31:00] Cody Ruberto:
pain. That’s it. I remember our conversation. You send him your message on on Facebook, and then, yeah, no pump that we have the service there. And the problem is this like, right now we’re in 15 cities like this bottom layer of like forgotten underserved communities where that still have this problem. There’s like 18, 000 of them around the world. So we’ve got a ton of work ahead of us. If you live in a bigger city, a lot of people don’t know this problem exists. Um, but yeah, that’s why we’re like so focused. Whole team’s working extremely hard. And yeah, we got a long, long ways to go, man.

[00:31:34] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
So, so I mean, when you look at starting a business, I think you nailed it, right? This, you want like an acute problem and have the medicine to solve that pain. And you guys have definitely found that. I also think when you start a business, You look at, you know, the competitors, the competitive landscape, I mean, I guess in, in these underserved communities there, there essentially is no competitors, but in the rideshare space, there are some gigantic, you know, 800 pound gorillas. How do you look at competition and what, how does that impact how you run the business?

[00:32:21] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so one thing for us, like, and I think this is, I think it’s true for most businesses, like, we’re just obsessed with our passengers and our drivers. So, in these communities, like, we live in these communities, we grew up in these communities, we know the people, we know the problem, we’ve been obsessed and we’ve dedicated a huge portion of our life to solving the problem for these specific areas. So, um, again, Thank you. We’re just obsessed with that. As far as competition, um, like, yeah, it’s scary when, you know, uh, let’s say it’s like the biggest ride share company in the world, or one of them comes in, and you’re like competing with them right in these areas. We actually had that recently. And the cool thing is, um, in one of our cities, uh, that city has actually grown like within a month of a competitor announcing their launch and actually getting up and running. Um, we’ve grown our ride volume by like 53% in a month. Um, so. We’re like, really, really obsessed with being the best in the world at operating these communities and basically just fixing this problem everywhere. I think that, it’s our core focus. And if it’s not the core focus of a larger company, I think that, um, I think there’s a lot of opportunity to basically expand and be the best in the world in these areas. I think that’s same thing for a lot of, a lot of different like companies and areas, right? There could be like a huge giant in your industry, but are they obsessed with the problem that you’re tackling, right? And are they going to put in the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to solving this problem for this area? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:33:50] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Nice. Um, so what, when you look like a bit further out, you know, I know every day has its challenges and you’re, you’re battling competitors and you’re trying to get drivers and you’re trying to make sure everyone has a good experience. When you look further out, like what do you see as the future of URED?

[00:34:11] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so there’s a lot of things that are And we think that there’s a ton of problems we could solve in these areas. Um, right now we’re hyper focused on being the best in the world at solving the transportation challenges in this bottom layer, right? Those 18, 000 cities, billion people living in these markets. So over the next few years, we’re going to be, we see ourselves expanding to thousands of these smaller communities across the world and fixing this problem there. The other thing is every single city that we launch, we build a local network effect. So you get a huge amount of people in the city downloading your app and having it on their phone. That’s And for us, I think that we can do solve a lot of other problems that these cities are facing. So long term, we want to power underserved communities. We want to like basically be the best place in the world for a local entrepreneur to start, uh, and grow a service based business. And they connect them to all the customers in their city that need their service. So if you’re someone in, uh, You know, a city like Thunder Bay. If you need rides, deliveries, or any kind of service, like getting your driveway shoveled, or your lawn cut, um, we’ll connect you to a local entrepreneur who will take care of that job. So, we think we can create millions of jobs for people. Uh, we think that we can. Power all these underserved communities and solve a lot of challenges they’re facing and just give them access to a lot of the things that larger communities currently have. And then on top of that, there’s this whole other side of you read, which is like we love doing good deeds. We love helping people. Our first core value is make people smile and like from the early days. Even when we had no money and we were like really struggling, no money, no employees, we take a portion of rides each month and like donate it to local charities or buy some families groceries or just do something to try to help and try to do good in these communities. Um, so that’s something like that I’m really excited about. The bigger we get in these communities. I think, yeah, the more we can grow that side of the business to just like helping people giving back. I think like, this is kind of going on a rant here, but like, let’s say you have 100 drivers in a city of 100, 000 people, right? If you can encourage everyone to do one nice thing, or one good deed per day, that’s like 36, 500 good deeds per year. In three years, you’ve done good deeds for the whole community. And like, the other thing that happens too, is when you do something nice for someone else, often they pay it forward and they do something nice for the next person and the next person. So we think that on top of you. Creating all this, these different opportunities, solving these different problems that these underserved communities are facing. We think that we can make them happier, more prosperous places to live. And so that’s something that, uh, you know, for the next 100 years, like I want this to be core, a core part of you running a core part of what we do.

[00:36:41] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
That’s awesome. Um, I’d love to hear, touch a little bit more on your core values, like. What are they at URide, how did you build them, and, and how do you, how do you really build that into the DNA of your culture?

[00:36:58] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so we’re working on it. Um, I’ve actually learned a lot from you about just like implementing. Uh, core values and you’ve done a lot of work. If people haven’t read it, like, you know, go check out the stuff that you’ve done. But our core values right now are make people smile. So, like I said, doing good deeds, helping people, trying to make a difference, making our passengers smile, making our drivers smile, um, no sugarcoating. This one is something that, um, we basically noticed that you’ve got to be able to talk to people directly. And when something’s going wrong, you can’t hide it. It’s got to come to the surface right away. I think those are things that could kill a company over time. So, um, No sugarcoating. If there’s a problem, come up and say, you know, there’s a huge issue here. Here’s what I’ve tried to solve it. Here’s what I’m currently trying. And here’s where I need help. Um, I think that’s like critical. And we sort of added that one in just from experience. And then there’s always a way. So my whole, the whole soccer journey that I told you about, the one thing that I are trying to I told myself, honestly, probably like 50 times a day was there’s always a way. And so for us, we believe there’s a way past every single obstacle that we’re facing, and we just won’t stop until we find a way past every single challenge that comes our way. So those are three core values right now. Things that we’re looking to add in are, um, just being scrappy, doing more with less. I think we were incredible at this in the early days because we had no money and no resources to work with. Yeah. I think that we need to keep that same scrappiness. And I want to see a little bit more of that. So we’re the team’s doing a good job, kind of implementing it. And then our other ones are, um, basically urgency. So move fast, like we had this thing. I told you about like Fridays and Saturday nights, how we had to get cars on the road, right? We, Mm hmm. But just people not getting picked up or having long wait times wasn’t an option for us. And it was almost like a panic when we didn’t have that. So that sense of urgency, that feeling to like solve whatever problems there are, has to be like a key part of you, right? So that that’s another one that we’re working on adding and then being an owner. So treating this as your business, and just. owning your area of the company, making decisions, taking charge, um, treat it like it’s your company. And, and yeah, so those are the core values.

[00:39:14] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
I love those. Yes. Some really good ones in there. Yeah.

[00:39:19] Cody Ruberto:
That’s it.

[00:39:20] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Yeah. This, this has been awesome. Cody, it’s been so interesting just hearing about your story and, and you read, I do want to ask you some quick rapid fire questions that we ask everybody. The first one being, what’s one marketing trend that you would unsubscribe from?

[00:39:38] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so I think like in a lot of small towns, radio is still a big thing. We’ve been testing it and we’ve just had a lot of Like not a lot of results. So radio is something that, uh, we’re not, we’re not running anymore. Yeah.

[00:39:51] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Cool. And, is email

[00:39:53] Cody Ruberto:
dead? No, I think email is, uh, still alive and well. I think that we need to do a much better job with it. But for example, like I get emails from skip all the time and, whenever I’m going to order food, like it pops into my head. Okay. Like for some reason, I just always click on skip first. Um, yeah, I think email is alive and well.

[00:40:14] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Um, at Knak we’re all kind of about, you know, work life balance and, and having hobbies and stuff outside of work. What do you do for fun?

[00:40:24] Cody Ruberto:
What do you do for fun? Um, I love soccer. So I, even like when URide was running, I got healthy, got back to Europe and was But playing soccer, like my first contract of wheels, it was actually after launching you read. So playing soccer. I still love it. Um, I like skateboarding. I like learning things. So, uh, my, my time towards this has been like very limited, but like trying to learn guitar, trying to learn other languages. Yeah. So I actually like driving is my favorite part of all this. So just like. Anyone who’s listening to this, I always try to convince everyone to be a driver, but like, it’s honestly, it feels like you’re going to a bar or restaurant and you get to talk to every single person there. And you learn so much every night. Like there’s like most of us, we sort of like hang out with people that are similar. You might have buddies that are in tech, running companies or whatever. And like, we’re sort of in this bubble when you drive, you get all different people, all walks of life. You learn something new every single shift, you get a new perspective from all different angles. And, uh, yeah, so my. My favorite hobby is actually like just getting behind the wheel and driving.

[00:41:29] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Um, who is one person you admire in the business community and why? Yeah.

[00:41:37] Cody Ruberto:
So someone I followed for a long time, uh, it’s actually like Brian Chesky from Airbnb. And I think that the amount of challenges that they’ve had and like serious problems, you know, they’ve probably had more than, than most companies, but the way that they deal with hardships and the way they address problems like head on, I think it’s been incredible. And the whole scope of their business, the different. Aspects that they’ve had to learn and deal with as they’ve been scaling is just like mind blowing. So he’s someone I definitely follow and look up to. Nice.

[00:42:08] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Nice. Yeah, I just, he had a good podcast on Decoder lately. I don’t know if you’ve checked that one out. I haven’t seen

[00:42:15] Cody Ruberto:
it. I’ll have to check it out.

[00:42:17] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Um, yeah, what, what sort of one piece of career advice that that you’ve learned over time that you think might help others?

[00:42:27] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so I think that just reaching out to people that are further down the line and learning from them is incredible. And it really speeds up your learning and I think it drastically increases your odds of success. So even like Pierce, like I reached out to you. I don’t know what year and a half, two years ago, um, you’re miles ahead in the journey. Um, but yeah, I learned a lot from you. I learned a lot from others. So there’s people that I reach out to that I think like, why would this person even talk to me? Why would they ever return my call? And these people actually come on, took multiple calls with me, will mentor me, will learn so much. Um, so reach out to people who are further ahead. And even if you think this person will never respond to you, you’ll be surprised. Every single person that’s in a position where, you know, you look up to them and this and that, they’ve had so many other people who have helped them along the way, and a lot of them want to give back. So, that’s my piece of advice.

[00:43:23] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
That’s awesome. And the last one. Uh, who else do you think we should have on the Unsubscribe podcast? Oh,

[00:43:30] Cody Ruberto:
man. Um… There’s like, there’s a lot of people I could think of. So, so I have friends that, uh, okay, there’s one friend, Marco Mitrovich, he was like professional soccer player. If anyone on this knows Chelsea, like Chelsea bottom when he was 14 from his club in Sweden, Malmo, he was playing professional soccer ended up having like. five major hip surgery, surgeries, overcame a ton started like a C. B. D. uh, like a year and a hal just crushing it, like ov I was talking to last nig my best friends, one of m he was playing professional soccer, up until last, what was it? Well, like this year he was signing with a new club and, uh, the, he was having these problems breathing when he was playing and teams couldn’t really figure out what was going on. And so he actually got offered like a great contract with a new club. Went to sign the contract. You have to pass a medical during the medical. They found these heart issues and like serious heart issues where he could have like dropped dead on the field, like pretty extreme. So he couldn’t play soccer and he was just like, hasn’t played for the past. Um, might be, I can’t remember like six months to a year now. And he started, uh, on the side, just started sharing all of his knowledge. Like started studying every single thing about soccer. And he created, um, created like a Tik TOK channel, Instagram, all this stuff. And he’s just crushing it. He’s like, getting over 4 million views, I think a month or every two months now. And it’s just like, this whole thing is, his mindset, like most, most people, when they face these types of hardships where like everything you’ve worked for, you’re literally going to sign the best contract you’ve signed in your life and you fail the medical because it’s a heart issue and you can’t play right now. Um, Going, taking that and putting all the energy into building this and helping other players has been like insane. And the business that he’s building on it now is pretty cool. So he’s, he’s another person, uh, Remy Howard. Nice.

[00:45:39] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Nice. Yeah. Yeah. We’d love to, to chat with both of them. Yeah. Cody, this is, uh, it’s been incredible having you on here. I, I love your mindset of like wanting to be the worst. And I, and I feel like it’s such an entrepreneur, entrepreneur mindset that you have that helps you deal with adversity, adversity, overcome the impossible, not, you know, so many people, they get told no, and then they just say, oh, well, you know, I guess that’s the way it is. And I think to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to push through that. You, no successful entrepreneur has stopped at that first, no. And I think that you’ve really demonstrated the perseverance, both through your injury and starting URide. into, you know, becoming a pro and growing this company to, to 15 cities. I love the mission that you have to, to get people home safely. And, uh, I’m not surprised that it’s growing quickly and that you’re doing millions of rides a year. So thank you. You, you mentioned you learned from me. I learn a lot whenever I talk to you and. Really excited to continue to, to watch your journey and we’ll be supporting it from the sidelines. So thank you so much for coming on today, Cody.

[00:47:06] Cody Ruberto:
Buddy, thank you for everything. Like you said, I’ve learned a lot from you and, uh, you actually taking the time to talk to me. You were one of the people that I thought would like never kind of sit down and have a conversation with me. I didn’t know who you were. You didn’t know who I was. And, Yeah, no, I appreciate you giving us the time and helping us with a lot of things, especially around culture. So, um, yeah, keep crushing it, buddy.

[00:47:26] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Thank you. Thank you. And so where can people go to learn more about, about you and URide?

[00:47:32] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, so URide, you can go to URidetech. com. Actually, we just changed it, URide. co. I think that changed today. Yeah. Uh, and then, you could go to URide’s Instagram page, uridetech. com. I’m on LinkedIn, just Cody Roberto. I’m on Instagram, Cody Roberto. If anyone, um, basically wants to chat, if I can help anyone listening to this in any way, um, reach out to me. I’ll even, my email is cody at uridetech. com. And yeah. Just keep, keep pushing. Yeah.

[00:48:02] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
There’s always, and you ride Y or U R I D. Do seal. Yeah,

[00:48:08] Cody Ruberto:
exactly. Do seal. Awesome.

[00:48:10] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Yeah. Right on. Thank you so much, Cody.

[00:48:14] Cody Ruberto:
Yeah, thanks. Take it easy, man. Have a good day.

[00:48:19] Pierce Ujjainwalla:
Thanks for listening to Unsubscribed, A podcast created by Knak. If you enjoyed this episode of unsubscribe, be sure to subscribe to my podcast and leave a review on your favorite podcast player. If you have any feedback or want to chat, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter at marketing underscore one at one. Cheers.

Pierce Ujjainwalla has decades of experience as a CEO, entrepreneur, and career marketing leader. He has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo. He founded Revenue Pulse and then launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email and landing page creation. Visit his personal blog, Unsubscribed, or his Twitter for more of the insight he’s gained as founder and CEO of Knak. Marketing is his jam; doing it better with technology is his passion.

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