Q&A with Adam Vollmer, Founder and CEO of Faraday Bikes: Advice to Entrepreneurs, Hire Great People

This interview is with Adam Vollmer (@oregonadam), Founder and CEO of Faraday Bikes. He will be speaking at the next Uncharted Minds event titled, Disruption in Transportation CEO Roundtable Featuring Scoop Technologies, Getaround, Ridecell, and Faraday Bikes on November 30th. Click here to get 20% off tickets.

Q. With Tesla, the self-driving car is arguably already on the market. How long will it be until the majority of cars in service are automated?

I think this is still further away than most people realize or want to believe. There are 250 million cars in the US and the average car on the road in the U.S. is 11.5 years old. I bet the majority of cars in service still don’t even have bluetooth or built-in MP3 players.

I think the more interesting question is — how will the integration of self-driving cars work out? I suspect that self-driving cars will work very seamlessly when they occupy either a very small or a very large percentage of cars on the road. But, how smooth will the integration go when they are anywhere between 5 percent and 90 percent of the market?

Q. Significant disruption has happened in the taxi industry. What are there other industries that you think will be affected? And why?

I think it’s interesting that Uber etc.’s disruption of the taxi industry has essentially been the disruption of a private industry by another private industry. So much of transportation is inherently public. Especially in light of recent political events, I’m interested to know whether there are traditionally public industries that could be privately disrupted. Public transit and busing for instance.

The emergence of the “tech buses” in the bay area is an interesting example of this — is there a broader market for private buses that could reach consumers other than tech workers? Public infrastructure and public transit are badly underfinanced. Frankly, disruptive transportation startups aren’t helping since they only pull more riders — and revenue — away from the public transit system.

That’s OK, or at least inevitable, so long as we continue to have good, affordable transit options that can effectively serve lower income communities and riders. It’s tough to compete with the value of a bus pass. Carpool startups — Scoop comes to mind — are exciting to me here. So are scooters and bikes, honestly. Personally, I get excited thinking about someone disrupting the bike lane construction industry…

Q. Besides self-driving cars, what other transportation technologies do you think are disruptive?

I think electric cars are incredibly exciting — way more exciting, and way more necessary, than self-driving cars, honestly. Running a bike company I’m excited about the other forms of transport — bikes, ebikes, scooters, escooters, mopeds, hoverboards, skateboards, etc., that are really taking off. But, it’s also quite clear that the car is here for good. Emissions from automobiles account for 20 percent of the CO2 emissions in the U.S. We need to rapidly switch those cars to a cleaner power source, develop the smart electric grid, along with solar and other clean electricity production solutions. That will be required on a massive scale to support an electrified U.S. auto market.

Without widespread adoption of electric cars, I fear self-driving cars could simply make the experience of driving more convenient and less painful, which would only give people MORE of an incentive to drive more, emissions would then only increase. And, boring as it sounds, I think that high-quality divided bike lanes are, dollar for dollar, probably one of the most exciting and impactful transportation disruptions beginning to happen in a lot of US cities.

Q. What inspired you to start a company?

I found an area that was personally exciting and meaningful enough to me that I was willing to work 80 hour weeks on it. Once I built a small prototype and saw that other people were as excited about as I was, I saw there clearly was an opportunity in the market, and that was the start of Faraday.

Q. Is all the excitement around entrepreneurship warranted? Does entrepreneurship deserve all the media attention that it’s currently receiving?

Yes and no. I think that it’s exciting and deserving of attention anytime a talented person makes a big sacrifice and commits themselves to something they really, truly believe could change the world — whether they’re an entrepreneur, a nurse, a social worker, or a teacher.

Q. What’s one piece of advice you would offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Hire great people.

Q. What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?

Working with talented people who believe in the impossible and share a common vision. Knowing that we make a great product that people love. Hearing our customers’ stories.

Q. What’s the most challenging part about being an entrepreneur?

The responsibility you bear for all the people who have put their faith in you.