SPLT CEO Anya Babbitt talked to SEEN about how she’s growing a ride-sharing startup worldwide and how she overcame the challenges of fundraising as a woman.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Name: Anya Babbitt
Job Title: CEO and founder of SPLT
Anya Babbitt is the Founder and CEO of SPLT. She is passionate about creating a more sustainable future where smart cities overcome the challenges of urbanization and growth. An experienced entrepreneur with multiple ventures and exits, Anya led SPLT’s upward trajectory achieving over 35 awards and prizes including the Hult Prize, Accelerate Michigan, Clean Energy Trust Challenge and Google Demo Day, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post and TechCrunch. From a thesis on the Kyoto Protocol at Boston University to today, Anya has aligned governmental, corporate and university forces to her vision to transform the way people meet and move together.
1. What are you currently working on?
Since the recent acquisition of SPLT by Bosch, we have been rapidly expanding our team and our reach internationally, with new offices in Los Angeles, Germany, UK and Mexico. We’re committed to scaling up our platform and reaching customers in these new markets as quickly as possible, building a truly global platform and uncovering new verticals where we can add value.
2. What is your greatest accomplishment?
My passion has always been connecting society and people, giving people greater access to the resources they need to thrive. We are doing just that with our products in health care and transportation. On the health care side, our Non-Emergency Medical Transportation platform created in partnership with Lyft, and currently in use at Henry Ford Health Systems, is helping bring patients to and from home quickly and safely. Our greatest accomplishment will be in the future as we realize the vision of integrations with public transit, busing, e-bikes and other ways of travel so that no one is left behind. Today, our greatest accomplishment is our team.
3. What is an obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
One of the greatest challenges is fundraising. As a female founder of a tech company, gaining credibility and acceptance from more traditional investors took time. The way we overcame it was through finding the right mentors in the Techstars Mobility accelerator program who have introduced us to customers, investors and gave us encouragement. Our team came together and was bonded by this notion of survival — that we were going to build something great together and fight to keep our product alive. In those moments, you realize that the greatest accomplishment is the team, not the idea, because without a great team, an idea is, after all, just an idea. Ben Seidman, our director of business development and first employee, indoctrinates new members of the team by showing the video of Michigan head football coach Bo Schembechler’s famous “The Team” speech to his players during the 1983 season. I highly recommend watching!
4. What motivates you each day?
The biggest motivation is seeing the positive effects that our platform has helped bring into peoples’ lives. This idea of creation — that we are creating things products that haven’t existed before. We have happy users calling or writing messages about how they were able to find new ideas and solutions by talking to their colleagues, or how they are enjoying connecting with new people or how for the first time in at-risk cities, people feel safer.
5. What’s the biggest issue facing women today?
Cheryl Sandberg has been a great inspiration in getting me and others to ask for a seat at the table, to stand up and speak out. I was recently at Vanity Fair’s Founders Fair event and one of the female founders there said it best: “Now that we have a seat at the table, we need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we make sure there are more seats so more of us can sit at the table?’ ”
6. How can we address or resolve that issue?
There are many companies that hire a diversity officer or key token hires and think that it’s fine. It’s an ongoing campaign for companies to be more inclusive to women and minorities. Changing hiring practices to be more skills-based and less experience or education-based is a start. Asking men to be a part of these conversations and female-led events is also important. Inclusion works both ways.
7. What advice do you have for other women?
It’s important for women who are early in their careers to find mentors and role models, especially other women who can guide them on best practices and give support. Kim Cross was that woman for me and we credit Kim and her husband, Terry, for contributing to a lot of our success and becoming our family away from family while in Michigan. Gender aside, find those steadfast supporters and hold onto them.
8. What’s something others may not know about you?
I love anything cotton candy flavored, and I sleep without shades so I can rise with the sun.