UZURV It! - Meet an RVA Innovator Inspiring Us

Innovation is all around us, especially in our hometown of Richmond, Va.

From startups creatively connecting with customers to Fortune 500s reinventing their core processes, our Rhudy & Co. team is inspired by the entrepreneurial approaches in #RVA. This year, we've launched a blog series, "RVA Innovators  Inspiring Rhudy & Co" to share more about these innovators. 

Do you know an RVA innovator we should highlight? Send us a Facebook message with the details.

Do you know an RVA innovator we should highlight? Send us a Facebook message with the details.

Making Uber and Lyft better
Taking Uber and Lyft to the next level, a local Richmond innovator – Matt  Donlon, founder and CEO of UZURV, developed a reservation services app that allows you to “UZURV” your ride in advance.

UZURV is headquartered in the historic Hofheimer Building in Scott's Addition. Originating in Richmond in 2015, the service has quickly grown and UZURV is now in 108 cities across the country. About 23,000 drivers are using it.

“It’s really gone viral,” Donlon said. “Part of that success is that we are investing in our drivers. They have a business card and a code they give to introduce people to UZURV. Customers get their first three rides free and the driver gets residual income – 7 percent of all future reservations just for introducing that customer to UZURV.”

Hatching an idea
And while Uber and Lyft and other ride-sharing disrupters have been challenged in court in several localities, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly passed the legal framework to allow UZURV to be recognized as the first Transportation Network Company broker in the nation, pre-arranging rides with specific Uber or Lyft drivers.

Donlon himself continues to serve as an Uber driver – where he and his partner, Harold Frans, hatched the idea for UZURV and where he can best keep his hand on the pulse of the business. He gave former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton her first UZURV ride to the train station.

We are most successful where Uber and Lyft don’t do well,” Donlon said. “Chesdin Landing is a perfect example locally. UZRUV does great business in those dead zones.

How UZURV works

  • UZURV only handles reservations and does not provide transportation directly. Think of it as the “Open Table” for ride reservations.
  • After downloading the app to your smartphone, you can request a pick up date and time well in advance of your trip.
  • Another cool thing about UZURV is that you can select your favorite driver as well as services and amenities you are seeking in a car service – infant car seat, military base access, etc. You select the service you want to use – Uber or Lyft and the service type (size and/or luxury vehicle) and add an incentive (it automatically starts at $3; you can make it more or less).
  • The only downside for our instant gratification-seeking selves is that you have to wait for a driver to accept the reservation and the only way you will know is by checking back on the app.

With a recent Richmond airport trip requiring a 6 a.m. departure, I wanted to ensure I didn’t have to wait 15 minutes, when I summoned my ride.

Three drivers accepted my reservation and I selected “Kristen,” had an online iPhone “chat” with her to confirm details and describe my house. The process was seamless; she was at my door before 6 a.m. and delivered me to the airport for less than $20.

The app is available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play store. To find out more, go to https://uzurv.com/

Sande Snead frequently ubers to local restaurants especially downtown where parking and walking in heels can add to the value of paying for a ride. She UZURVs for early morning airport departures or destinations further afield.

 

Why I Finally Broke Down and Watched Star Wars

My husband told me he would not marry me until I had watched all of the Star Wars movies.

True story.

That was 1994, and I had watched none of the three out at that point. We went to the local Blockbuster and rented the VHS tapes. Looking back, it’s rather miraculous that I made it through the ‘80s sans Star Wars. But I wasn’t much on science fiction, my parents didn’t have a lot of money for trips to the box office and back in the 1980s the films weren’t easily available.

In fact, one of the reasons historians say the film was such an initial hit in 1977 was that people loved it and went to the theater to see it again and again. Back before digital media, before cable TV, before VHS, you didn’t necessarily know when you’d get to see your favorite movie again.

My favorite guy was definitely a fan of the Force, so there was no escaping the trilogy. To my surprise, I liked it. As much of humanity likes it. Nay, loves it. Fanatically.

In fact, my son who is 11 and who refuses to watch movies “made in the last century” (aka before 2000), loves all things “Star Wars.”

What makes this franchise/brand/series so enduring? And what can we learn from this brand as communicators? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Star Wars captures the imagination. It opens us to something new and exciting, innovating and creative. Innovation can never be underestimated. It should be a top priority as thought partners in communication.
  • At the same time, Star Wars taps into something deeply familiar. Star Wars Creator George Lucas was an admirer of Joseph Campbell, a world-renowned mythologist, who argued that myths often had certain archetypes. While different stories portrayed them slightly differently, you could find the Hero (Luke Skywalker), the Mentor (Obi-Wan), and the Shadow (the dark side) in all great stories. According to some sources, about half of all American movies are based on this “Hero’s Journey” storyline. As communicators, we need to remember to connect our audiences to the familiar in order to be more engaging.
  • Finally, the mythology of Star Wars appeals to the fact that we are hard wired for story. There is actually brain chemistry that changes when we follow a character-driven narrative. It makes us more empathetic. It helps us make connections. So make sure your communications are more than facts. If you want to move your audience, share a story.

Many movies do these three things, but Star Wars does it masterfully.

I’ll be taking in the newest Star Wars saga on opening day, with my husband who bought tickets weeks ago. I’ll probably see most of you there.

Donna Dunn has a vast collection of Star Wars Hallmark ornaments on her tree.

Learn ‘The Power of Connection’ in this TEDxRVA Talk by Talley Baratka

“To create authentic relationships – real relationship with people – you have to be in the heart space to be molded and shaped by somebody else.”

Impact 100 Founder & RVA Community Advocate Talley Baratka These were a few of the words by my friend Talley Baratka at the TEDxRVA Women conference in Richmond last December. I was fortunate to watch Talley speak in person. Her inspiring remarks were straight from her giant heart. Just ask any of my colleagues, friends and clients who were there.

Take 10 minutes to watch Talley’s TED talk and find out why says she was “put here on here on Earth to be a connector of people and to activate a passion for community.”

About Impact 100 RVA

Over the past five years since starting Impact 100 Richmond, I’ve seen area nonprofits benefit from Talley’s leadership and passion to motivate women to give. The premise of Impact 100 – partnering with The Community Foundation – is simple: 100 women each give $1,000 to help one nonprofit with a transformative grant.

But here’s the big news – we are incredibly close to awarding two $100,000 grants this year at our Big Give in May. We need just a few more Richmond women to join us.

The world is watching

And here's some bigger news – Talley’s visionary work is getting noticed.

On March 6, 2014, the National Association of Women Business Owners' Richmond Foundation presented Talley with its prestigious Community Leader recognition as part of its Enterprising Women of Excellence Awards.

The program honors outstanding women in various categories from the Greater Richmond metropolitan area. Learn more.

Talley led Capital One’s philanthropic initiatives for years before joining us to help Rhudy & Co. clients. We are fortunate to have her talents, energy and passion on our team.

Michele Rhudy finds inspiration serving on the leadership team of Impact 100 with Talley and others.  Michele says, "Talley’s a busy mother of three like me trying to keep everything in balance. Somehow, she makes it look easier than it really is.”