Our Mission

Empower’s mission is to transform the “Gig Economy” so that hard-working Americans can earn a sustainable living. This transformation begins with the rideshare industry. To do that, Empower has built innovative software that allows drivers to set their own rates and collect and get 100% of the fare. Empower’s software also enables riders to request a favorite or same gender driver so that they feel safe.

Empower is revolutionizing the transportation industry. Not by providing transportation, but by providing software that puts transportation decisions back into the hands of drivers and riders. Empower provides the information and tools that drivers need to take control of their financial future and the choices that riders need to safely and affordably get from point A to point B. With Empower, both drivers and riders win.

At the end of the day, Empower understands what the rideshare companies don’t: While there are no rides without riders, there are also no rides without drivers. At Empower, we believe that everyone has a voice and we are listening. TOGETHER WE CAN EMPOWER!

Empower Team
  • Joshua Sear CEO

    Prior to founding Empower, Josh was Senior Counsel at SageNet, a large managed network and cyber security services provider. Before that, Josh gained M&A experience, first as counsel for Matterhorn Transactions, a legal tech startup, and then as an associate at a boutique transactional law firm. Prior to practicing law, Josh worked in the Obama White House and for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Josh is a graduate of The George Washington University Law School and The University of Virginia, where he was an Echols Scholar. Go Hoos!

  • Sarena Shen Vice President of Finance

    Sarena brings a wealth of experience in both finance and entrepreneurship to Empower. Most recently, she was a co-founder of Unplugg, a beauty and wellness services platform. Prior to that, she spent 12 years working as an investment banker at Bear Stearns, Deutsche Bank and BTIG in New York. During her time as an investment banker, she helped both large and small clients raise capital across a spectrum of financial products and industries. Sarena earned her MBA from Columbia Business School and her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Kerim Bajraktarevic Head of Customer Experience

    Kerim is a seasoned customer service manager with experience spanning across hospitality and startups. Prior to joining Empower, Kerim was Head of Global Customer Experience at Lime, where he built the entire support organization for gig economy workers and managed multiple off-shore teams. His passion for transportation and mobility started at Shift, an online peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used cars where he led customer and sales support teams. Kerim has a BA in International Relations from the San Francisco State University.

  • Chris Henry Director of Engineering

    Prior to joining Empower Chris spent 4 years as a Senior Software Engineer at Bentley Systems where he led development of a real-time document collaboration application for web and mobile. Before that, he spent 4 years across multiple domains including 3 years working in real-time embedded systems where he helped build a new engine controller for the RS-25 core stage engines on the SLS. He has extensive experience in Azure, real-time systems, C#, and web technologies. Chris studied Computer science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In his free time he enjoys playing board games.

  • Chloe Obert Chief of Staff to CEO

    Chloe graduated from Vanderbilt University in the spring of 2021 with a degree in Human and Organizational Development and Business. Before joining Empower, Chloe worked at a creative agency in Nashville as a New Business Analyst. She also served as the youngest ever High School Programs Director at Camp Balcones Springs. In this role Chloe spearheaded recruitment and onboarding efforts, oversaw the development and execution of all programming, and managed roughly 100 campers and counselors. Chloe also set a Vanderbilt fundraising record while serving as the Director of Fundraising for the Vanderbilt chapter of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. She loves working with other people to solve difficult problems.

  • Ashley
    Ashley Hopko Customer Support Manager

    Before joining Empower, Ashley worked as a hyper-local reporter in Arlington, Virginia, and won several national awards for her work on Social Justice and Human Rights. While in college, Ashley worked with the University of Colorado’s entrepreneurship program, where she graduated with a degree in journalism and political science. Ashley enjoys a fast-paced work environment and is passionate about solving the problems of our customers.

  • Nikki Walsh Customer Support Associate

    Nikki has extensive customer service and sales experience across multiple industries. Immediately prior to joining Empower, Nikki served as a Sales Lead at Dream Dinners. As an exceptional customer advocate, Nikki strives to delight customers at every step of their journey. Aside from her passion to help customers, Nikki has also been a member of the YMCA community, providing child care and education in various camps and elementary schools throughout the state of Connecticut.

  • Ajmal Kukkangai Software Engineer

    Ajmal worked at National Instruments for 3 years on the next gen labVIEW platform before joining Empower. He has extensive experience with c# and .NET technologies. He graduated from the PES Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India and has extensive experience with application development and research into cloud federation technologies during his undergrad tenure. Following that and the initial professional experience, Ajmal arrived at the US to pursue a master's in computer science at George Washington University. This is where his path crossed with Empower. He has worked with us on our DC launch while at university and continues to contribute to the platform on multiple fronts.

  • Navy Merianda Software Engineer

    Immediately prior to joining Empower, Navy received a Masters in Data Analytics Engineering from George Mason University. Before that, he spent five years working as a software developer across multiple domains ranging from digital content to supply chain to healthcare. Navy has a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Information Science from PES University in Bangalore, India. He enjoys working in fast paced, continuously evolving environments that help him strive for the perfect intersection of data analytics and software development. When he is not writing code, you will most likely find him with a camera, exercising his passion for capturing portraits.

  • Clint Atkins Driver Engagement Specialist

    Immediately prior to joining the Empower ops team, Clint spent over a year as an Empower driver customer in North Carolina. He has completed more than 15,000 total rides as a for-hire driver over 6 years. Prior to Empower, Clint worked in the automotive retail industry for 21 years with AutoZone. He was a Part Sales Manager, Assistant Manager and Store Manager (receiving Manager of the Year recognition), before being promoted to Regional Training Manager. From there, Clint was a District Manager, responsible for 12 retail locations and 150+ employees. He has a passion for cars and has worked with both the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) for 30+ years.

  • Alseny Barry Community Manager

    Prior to Empower, Alseny worked as a community organizer for both The Working Families Party and Maya Wiley for Mayor. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in May 2020, with a bachelor's degree in Government and French. During his spare time, Alseny enjoys playing and watching soccer.

  • Jane Bowman Customer Support Associate

    Jane has a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University, where she majored in Information Management and Technology, with a concentration in Data Analytics. Before joining the Empower team, Jane worked as an intern for a financial planning startup based in Moorestown, NJ. During her time at Syracuse University, she worked as the Head of Web Development for an on-campus organization, and she was also a member of the Women in Technology group.

  • Hunter Laroe Operations and Data Analytics Senior Associate

    Hunter graduated from Wake Forest University in May of 2021, with a degree in Business and Enterprise Management. He began his career with Empower in February of 2020 as a Brand Ambassador and transitioned to a full-time Community Manager role with the company in June of 2021. Prior to joining Empower as a Community Manager, Hunter worked as a Business Development Intern for Target PharmaSolutions in Durham, North Carolina.

  • Taylor Sasman Customer Support Associate

    Taylor has over 10 years of customer support experience. Immediately prior to Empower, Taylor worked for Dime Bank as a teller and customer service representative, supporting local business owners. She is also passionate about community involvement, having played a key role in several large fundraising events. In her free time, Taylor can most likely be found with a book.

  • Nicolas Caranfa Customer Support Associate

    Prior to joining Empower Nic worked at Dream Dinners for 10 years where he started as a dishwasher and eventually worked his way up to a sales lead and then the regional operations manager. In his free time Nic loves to host cookouts for friends and family.

  • Laura Sanchez Operations Associate

    Laura started her career at Empower in 2021 as a Brand Ambassador. Previously she was the store manager at a Car Wash business in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in Economics at Baruch College and holds an associate's degree in Sociology from Manhattan Community College. Laura enjoys visual fine arts and books.

  • Eduardo Perez
    Eduardo Perez Technical Advisor

    Eduardo was the first iOS developer at Lyft and built the first version of their iPhone app. Over the course of four years, as Senior iOS Engineer, Eduardo helped to scale Lyft’s development team and, as he puts it, “saw all the crazy growth and all the pain that comes with it.” Prior to joining Lyft, Eduardo was a part of the team that built LinkedIn’s iOS app from scratch. Before that, he led the software development of a number of commercially successful biomedical devices, including Impulse Dynamics’ Optimizer System, used to treat patients with systolic heart failure, and the Lungpacer DPT System, used to preserve and restore the strength of the diaphragm in patients requiring mechanical ventilation. Eduardo received his degree in software engineering from Universidad de la Republica in his hometown of Montivideo, Uruguay.

  • Ken Beasley
    Ken Beasley Technical Advisor

    Prior to joining Empower, Ken was Senior Software Engineer at Upskill, where he helped lead Upskill’s augmented reality software platform team. Ken has worked directly with dozens of large enterprise customers, including Ryder, Boeing, GE and Telstra, to develop and deploy tailored solutions in manufacturing, logistics and field services. Ken has extensive experience working with AWS, Kubernetes and other cloud services and has significant experience with data collection and processing, having designed and developed Upskill’s analytics service. Ken studied computer engineering at the University of Virginia.

Board of Directors
  • David LaVance, Chair

    David is the Chairman and CEO of Surround Medical Systems, Inc. and previously served as an independent director and Chairman of the Board of Hologic Inc. (HOLX, NASD), one of the largest medical device companies in the world. In 2014, David was a finalist for the NYSE Leadership Award for Chairman of the Year for his work at Hologic. David was a Managing Director of KPMG and was the President of Dornier Medical Systems Inc., a subsidiary of DaimlerBenz AG. David has raised capital for several startup businesses and has managed and led the acquisition or sale of numerous medical and high-tech companies. He holds a B.A., cum laude, from Furman University and a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law.

  • Joshua Sear

    Prior to founding Empower, Josh was Senior Counsel at SageNet, a large managed network and cyber security services provider. Before that, Josh gained M&A experience, first as counsel for Matterhorn Transactions, a legal tech startup, and then as an associate at a boutique transactional law firm. Prior to practicing law, Josh worked in the Obama White House and for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Josh is a graduate of The George Washington University Law School and The University of Virginia, where he was an Echols Scholar. Go Hoos!

  • Leela J. Gray

    After retiring from the US Army as a Brigadier General in 2018, Lee served as Strategic Advisor to the US Army Cyber Command. While serving in the US Army, she led adaptive training for more than 20,000 personnel in multi-functional units across the US. Lee has represented the US internationally as a national security senior executive, served in two combat operations and one peacekeeping mission, and worked on Capitol Hill as the Chief of Legislative Affairs for the US Army Reserve. Lee’s corporate experience includes roles at Booz Allen Hamilton and Fleishman-Hillard, where she led large programs and developed deep expertise in public relations and crisis communications. She earned a Master of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College, an MA in Journalism from Ball State University and a BA in Communications from Elon University. She is a public speaker on Leadership and is a member of the International Women’s Forum.

  • Brent Thompson

    Brent Thompson is the lead partner of Protocol Investments. Protocol invests in early-stage startups, particularly in companies exploiting network effects and leveraging platforms to transform existing demands and create new demands. Before founding Protocol, Brent was a long-time tech and internet executive, having spent over a decade at Expedia, most recently as SVP, Chief of Global Government and Corporate Affairs. Brent began his career working in the United States Senate for Paul Coverdell (R-GA). Brent has a B.A. in history from the University of Washington and a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law.

  • Lewis Baker
    Lewis Baker

    Lew has over 25 years of experience as a wealth advisor and is Principal of Rock Creek Wealth Planners and Advisors, LLC. A graduate of West Point with a B.S. in management, Lew started his career at Merrill Lynch. He later joined Morgan Stanley as a VP, before launching his own firm in 2002. In addition to serving his country as an Officer in the US Army, Lew has served his community as a member of organizations focused on mentoring underprivileged youth, including Project North Star, Concerned Black Men and the Joy of Sports Foundation.

  • Tom Goldstein
    Tom Goldstein

    Tom is an experienced attorney, entrepreneur and angel investor and has significant experience advising technology startups, providing both legal and operational assistance. Tom is Managing Partner at Cogent Law Group, a firm he founded and has grown into a team of over 20 experienced attorneys. Prior to founding Cogent, Tom served as the Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of Perry, Krumsiek & Jack LLP. Before that, Tom founded and was President of GroupMagellan Legal Search. After receiving his JD from Yale Law School, Tom started his legal career as an Associate at Skadden, Arps in New York. Tom also has a BA in History from Haverford College.

  • Tom Passarelli

    Tom is a seasoned lawyer, commercial real estate investor-operator, and an entrepreneur with experience in technology, professional services, marketing, product development and manufacturing. Tom founded and for 10 years was CEO of TGI, a home improvement products retail chain that grew to become a regional player with locations throughout the mid-Atlantic. Today, he practices law and continues to manage a real estate portfolio while serving in leadership positions for local civic organizations. He earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and his law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law.