Co-founded by Ryan Green, Gridwise was developed as a solution to help ride-sharing drivers who worked more than one ride share service increase their earnings by tracking mileage, analyzing revenue, generating tax reports and streamlining how they operated.

“I had actually driven for Uber and for Lyft previous to coming into this idea,” Green says. “I actually started when I was in the military. And I had gained the first-hand experience of what it was like to be a driver and experience those pain points firsthand myself. So that really helped frame what it was like to actually experienced those problems. But even then I think there were some key steps that we had taken to really gain additional validation to help us understand what is the right type of app to build.”

The first approach Green took was launching a landing page to explain the Gridwise concept, and could also be pushed out through social groups and forums to drivers across the country.

Soon more than 500 drivers had signed up and more than 100 had filled out a survey or wrote essays explaining problems they faced, and offered their solutions and strategies to address them.

“That was really validating,” he says. “And it really helped us see that, Hey, we're on the right path here.”

With that feedback, the first service launched wasn’t a mobile app. It was text messaging and emails focused initially on showing drivers what events were happening for the week and projecting traffic to help drivers plan ahead. There was also a text message service that had Green and his co-founder typing messages alerting drivers to changing conditions that could affect drivers in real time.

“All those steps really helped set a strong foundation for helping us best frame the type of solution to build for drivers, and really set the foundation for building out and scaling this mobile application,” he says.

Helping Green out with his venture was his financial services background being in the capital markets group at PNC. He says the job taught him a great deal, especially when it came to financial modeling and understanding at a deeper level how businesses operate.

“I think that's a key part of the narrative for fundraising,” Green says. “It really is showing that you can understand the leverage of the business and can help others see what those are and how those [project] out to the next one, two, three years or further. But it's also important for just operating your business on a day-to-day basis. So that was a big contributor to the experience that I gained from PNC that led to part of the success of fundraising.”

Gridwise raised more than $6 million, which it was planning to use to expand outward into multiple cities. Green says the company set some pretty aggressive milestones and was scaling going into 2020, before the pandemic.

“We had just come off expanding from about four cities to over 35 cities and were growing at about 15 percent month over month in revenue and active users,” he says. “So we're actually exceeding the initial milestones that we had laid out. We really had strong momentum going into COVID.”

Then, when COVID hit the U.S. in March, it effectively shut down ride sharing businesses.

Green spoke at the Pittsburgh Smart Business Dealmakers Conference earlier this year about how COVID affected the company, and how he’s applying what he learned from the challenge to the venture going forward. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.