Via is a global TransitTech company that was launched in New York, and the brains behind it are Daniel Ramot (an Israeli entrepreneur) and Oren Shoval. Its algorithm works in real-time, allowing many passengers going the same direction to board one large SUV or van. Passengers need to request a ride via their mobile app and Via’s systems will instantly come to pick them and drop them off at their preferred destination. Away from Via, Daniel Ramot’s career and personal life are unique. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about him.
1. He hails from Israel
Ramot was born in Israel but attended elementary school in Turkey. He went to high school at the United World College of SE Asia in Singapore. Growing up in Israel, Ramot always had a passion for inventing things. He later came to the US to attend graduate school where he developed an interest in pursuing neuroscience. His application to schools in the US earned him a spot as a student in Stanford.
2. He was a close acquaintance to his co-founding partner (Oren) for 20 years
Did you know that Oren and Ramot initially worked for the Israeli Defense Forces? That alone has made them become best friends for about 20 years. Their friendship wasn’t all about meeting for coffee and talking about current affairs. Instead, they spent their time brainstorming different ideas.
3. He credits sheruts as inspiration for his biggest breakthrough with Via
One day, Oren called Ramot and shared an idea based on the sherut taxis in Israel. Sheruts are vans owned by private individuals and they follow the same routes as buses. They supplement the public transportation system, though they lack technological backing like Via’s systems. However, they are flexible enough to pick and drop off people anywhere as long as they ply the same route. Oren posed a challenge to Ramot, asking him if they can take advantage of technology (a privilege that sheruts lack) to establish a crowd-ride system. The idea was to route vans so that they don’t have to follow specific routes like buses and trains. Passengers are to summon the vans via their smartphones using an algorithm that automates the most ideal route. At the end of their conversation, Ramot decided that it was the best idea and that if they didn’t follow their passion, then someone else might outwit them. That was how Via was born.
4. He was once an Israeli-based military officer
Before Via, Ramot spent nine years of his post-high school education in the Israeli military. While there, he developed an interest in physics and math which was part of the program that the Israeli Air Force should pursue. Thanks to his background knowledge in neuroscience, Daniel Ramot spent his time developing an avionic system for the Israeli Air Force.
5. He pursued his Ph.D. in neuroscience
It’s unusual for an individual with extensive knowledge and training in neuroscience to venture into public transit. However, Ramot doesn’t view this as a waste of time. In one of his exclusive interviews with Alejandro Cremades, Ramot tries to explain that understanding the human brain nervous system is a critical aspect that drives the economy. He goes on to say that his Ph.D. was to try to take the advantage of the knowledge and experience he had acquired in engineering to bring into neuroscience.
6. He worked for the D.E. Shaw Research company before quitting to develop Via
After graduating with his Ph.D., Ramot realized that it was time to put his engineering and neuroscience knowledge to practice. He approached some of his friends who linked him to the D.E Shaw Research company which is a giant hedge fund. The company is famously known for being one of the first hedge funds to sell computers using computed algorithms. As part of the research team, Ramot’s job description was to use algorithms and automated techniques to discover new pharmaceutical drugs. His most significant achievement while working there was developing an extraordinary supercomputer that was to run biological simulations.
7. The idea of raising $450 million sounded impractical to Ramot
According to Forbes, when Ramot approached investors to help him raise $450 million, he wasn’t sure if that was practical. However, Ramot and Oren were the startups that raised mobility for consumers in New York before extending to Manhattan and other cities.
8. He won the Dan David Prize
The Dan David Prize is a major international award that gives recognition and support to extraordinary individuals like Daniel Ramot, for their contributions towards history and other disciplines that shed light on the human past. Ramot won the award for using his neuroscience and engineering knowledge to transform the ride-sharing industry thanks to technology.
9. He views a one-person ride as a perfect recipe for inflicting smoke on people
One of the primary goals Ramot co-founded Via was to help people understand that one-person rides are harmful to the environment. In one of his interviews, he says that “Driving by yourself or taking a taxi alone is same as walking into a kindergarten and lighting up a cigarette and smoking.” What he means is that these rides inflict smoke on people and congest cities. By creating Via, there will be fewer vehicles on the roads that are releasing toxic aerosols into the air.
10. He used the cheaper pricing model as Via’s selling points
According to New York Business Journal, Via will charge you between $5 and $5.95 each way, depending on the time of day. In Chicago, you may part with roughly $3.95. Ramot and his partner saw it fit to put affordable so that no one feels exploited. Unfortunately, Via doesn’t operate 24 hours a day like Uber and Lyft. That means passengers can only request rides during scheduled times.
At a time when ride-sharing is becoming increasingly popular, it is no surprise that Daniel Ramot should get recognized for coming up with a wonderful idea whose aim is to decongest cities and create a safe place for everyone to live in. Via, under the leadership of Ramot and Oren, is a startup capitalizing on this trend and will continue getting popular as more people embrace technology.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee