Georgetown University alum Jeff Stefanis (MSB ’13) was selected for Forbes’ 2016 “30 Under 30” list in manufacturing and industry for his entrepreneurial achievements, published Jan. 4. Stefanis was recognized for his work as the co-founder and CEO of Riide, a company that facilitates the use of lightweight electric bicycles designed for the urban commuter.
Stefanis and his co-founder Amber Wason launched Riide in 2014 via Kickstarter. The campaign raised $50,000 within the first 24 hours, and a year later it sent the first bicycle shipments to customers in 36 different states.
Riide is particularly noteworthy for its unique subscription program, RiidePass, which allows customers to keep their own Riide electric bike, gives them theft insurance and gives them unlimited maintenance in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The pass costs $79 per month and has a $299 down payment for a 12-month commitment. After two years, customers can own the bike forever or upgrade to the latest model for free and continue paying the monthly rate.
“Our goal with RiidePass is to make Riide accessible to as many people as possible. $79/month is less than a monthly metro pass, a couple private car rides, or owning a car,” Stefanis wrote in an email to The Hoya.
For Stefanis, RiidePass is just one example of how Riide is about more than just the product.
“Georgetown professors like Jeff Reid, Alyssa Lovegrove, Bob Bies, Dr. Andretta and [Associate Director of the Center for Social Justice] Ray Shiu were influential in helping me figure out that each person has a unique way they can promote positive change in the world. For me personally, I believe the best way I can do that is through business. Riide is about more than bikes and urban transportation. It is also about making transportation more accessible, reducing carbon emissions, and helping others lead a healthier lifestyle,” Stefanis wrote.
Raised in small New England towns and educated at George Washington University and Georgetown, respectively, co-founders Wason and Stefanis refused to accept that travelling 1 mile in the District took just as long as a 10-mile journey in their hometowns. Wason’s interest in transportation was driven by her job at the D.C. Department of Transportation, and, according to his former Georgetown professors, sustainable transportation was always an area of interest for Stefanis as well.
“Ever since freshman year he had a variety of entrepreneurship ideas he was exploring, really all of them related to environmental responsibility. He was looking at the bigger issues around commuting and its impact on communities,” Associate Director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative Alyssa Lovegrove said.
Stefanis’ time at Georgetown played a fundamental role in his personal development as an entrepreneur.
“Georgetown, and particularly StartupHoyas, is where I learned what entrepreneurship really is, what it means to be an entrepreneur, and how to be an entrepreneur,” Stefanis wrote. “It was a safe space to learn, fail, get advice, practice, and grow. Jeff Reid and Alyssa Lovegrove have done an exceptional job building a top tier program and were easily the two most influential people in my entrepreneurial journey during college.”
In addition to being involved with StartupHoyas, Stefanis was also a member of the inaugural class of The Compass Fellowship and the MSB’s Entrepreneurship Fellows Program. Upon graduation, he received a substantial grant from the program to help him pursue his business ideas.
Before starting Riide, Stefanis’ first venture was Power Inverted, a company that aimed to bring solar power to low-income families. Although Power Inverted did not take off the way Riide has, Stefanis considers it to have been a powerful learning experience.
“I like to call it a ‘successful failure’ because I learned so much from the experience,” Stefanis wrote.
Since starting Riide, Stefanis has continued to stay involved with Georgetown and its growing entrepreneurial community.
“His story has been great for me in the classroom; I’ve had him come in a number of times to talk about the stage of the business he’s now at,” Lovegrove said. “Other students are really learning from his experience. From an educational standpoint, that’s the best we can do for students, to give them lots of insights into these real life entrepreneurial journeys. They can come away being able to use it in some other context in the future.”
Stefanis and Wason have also recently become a part of 500 Startups, a four-month accelerator program on the West Coast.
“To be candid, I’m not that surprised he was selected by Forbes. He was an absolute star in entrepreneurship while at Georgetown and is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” Lovegrove said.
Cindy Gao (SFS ’17), a former Compass Fellow and Mentor, who met Stefanis in one of her classes, agreed.
“When he came to speak to my fellows class, he was a really exciting, energetic presence and told us all about the interesting work he was doing with Riide,” Gao said.