Numaan Akram is the founder of Rally, a technologist and entrepreneur by heart, who started his career consulting for small to large-sized companies. Numaan was exposed to many industries, particularly media and ad-tech companies.
Numaan created Rally as a response to grassroots rally in DC, and personally built a website allowing social aggregation of trips. Since then, he continued to develop the service by integrating new concepts and cultivated new partnerships through consulting.
In this entrepreneur interview, Numaan shares his passion to strengthen and bring communities together through Rally. He pioneered Rally, the first of its kind, to mobilize communities to attend concerts, watch football or attend rallies together.
His biggest piece of advice to entrepreneurs who are starting a business: Make sure you have the passion, trust your instincts and stay true to your vision, let go and trust your mentor.
When you're done absorbing Numaan's entrepreneurial insights, be sure to follow Rally on Twitter for a close-up on how he's bringing this new concept to life!
What motivated you to start Rally? How did the idea come about?
My co-founder, Siheun Song and I came up with the concept of Crowdpowered TravelTM after coordinating a political rally in Washington, D.C. and ever since then, we have been committed to the mantra that “Travel is better together.” To date, we have reserved 500,000 rides to sporting events, concerts, festivals and religious and political gatherings in 3,000 cities across North America.
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
I am a technologist and entrepreneur at heart, but I have always had a passion for activism. We started this company after organizing a political rally and ever since have wanted to help all types of communities mobilize and gather at their favorite events. This drive to help communities come together has fueled my success to date.
Would you recommend new entrepreneurs use a business plan software so they can focus more on starting a business and less on document formatting?
I would recommend creating a simple deck to convey your thoughts and story. Focus less on style and more on substance. Keep it simple and focused on why your idea is unique, your team is great, and what you are going to do to win. Spend more time running the business vs. pitching it.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We are the category creator of Crowdpowered Travel, providing technology solutions and apps for riders, drivers and operators. Our competitive advantage is threefold: 1) We are the only company that offers apps and technological integration for the rider and bus driver and operator, 2) We have exclusive partnerships with Major League Baseball, The New York Cosmos, as well as NASCAR, the NFL and NBA teams as well as the leading event and ticketing partners in the pipeline, and 3) Our first mover advantage has allowed us to gain significant traction with 500,000 rides reserved to date.
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
We certainly have but we believe that the best companies are honest about their mistakes and do everything they can to make it right for the customer if a mistake is made. In one instance, we had several people who had booked a trip but that trip didn’t generate enough riders to make the bus go.
We realized that the trip was very important to the customers so we contacted them, after the bus was cancelled, and found them alternate transportation, at our cost, to their event.
Operating under a business entity (LLC, Corporation, etc) is important for asset protection. Did you register your business yourself or use an online incorporation service like LegalZoom?
We utilized legal counsel to incorporate. It was very important to protect our IP and assets. I would suggest not taking any shortcuts here.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.
We believe strongly in our mission to bring communities together. As we say here at Rally: travel is better together. There certainly are ups and downs but if you stay true to your vision and goals you can see the light through any trials and tribulations. Nothing is easy but doing something you love and believe in makes it very fulfilling and easier to keep grinding.
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Rally? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
We have been very diligent in our SEO efforts to make sure we rank strongly for all our relevant terms. That has resulted in Rally being on top of of the first page of organic search results for “bus to" for any venue or event. This has led to thousands of organically booked trips where individuals meet other strangers who now become friends due to their common interest, such as a football team or music festival.
We’re huge believers of every entrepreneur keeping their business’ finances under control. How do you keep Rally books in check?
Our goal has always been to be a profitable company. To that end, every dollar of spend is carefully measured and the return on that spend understood. We set quarterly and annual goals for seats, revenue, and profitability and make sure everyone works towards those standards.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business in New York? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
First of all, the best ran companies are started by someone who cares about something deeply and wants to change or improve that experience. So, make sure you have a passion for what you are doing.
Secondly, trust your instincts and stay true to your vision, but be open to change. Many businesses have pivoted and been successful but you always have to maintain your core vision and values.
Finally, surround yourself with great people and advisors and let go and trust them - you can’t do it alone!