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 keep 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
    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!

  • Ken Beasley
    Ken Beasley CTO

    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.

  • Brian Gebhardt COO

    Brian has nearly 20 years of professional operations, strategy and management experience. Prior to joining Empower, Brian spent 3.5 years as VP and Head of Operations for Bond, a personal security SaaS startup, where he grew the field operations team from 1 to 50 teammates, led market launches, and designed, built, and ran two operational command centers. Before leading operations at Bond, Brian was the Uber Marketplace GM for the NW U.S. In that role, he was responsible for profitability and for rider and driver customer experience across 6 states. Brian also spent 6 years in strategy and analytics management positions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He started his private sector career as a strategy consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, following 5 years of service in the US Army, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Brian received his BS in Economics from West Point, where he was an All American D1 track and field athlete, and his MBA from the Harvard Business School.

  • Eduardo Perez
    Eduardo Perez Lead Mobile Engineer

    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.

  • 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.

  • Carolyn Rinaldi NYC General Manager

    Carolyn brings to Empower over 15 years of transportation experience in New York City. Immediately prior to joining Empower, Carolyn spent 3 years as the General Manager of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) for MV Transportation in New York City, where she received MV's General Manager Spotlight for MV-WAV operations. While at MV, Carolyn also spent over 4 years as the HR & Compliance Manager for Reliant Transportation, MV's largest school bus operation in New York, where she developed new hire and General Manager training programs that were used across the country. Before joining MV, Carolyn spent 5 years with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), and also oversaw the Transportation Practice Group at Windels Marx for 4 years.

  • Tyler Murry Senior Fullstack Engineer

    Prior to working for Empower, Tyler spent over a decade at JB Hunt where he lead the development of their mobile apps and many other key backend and frontend efforts. He has also spent several years teaching courses and giving talks on automated testing, a passion of his. Tyler studied computer science at the University of Arkansas.

  • 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.

  • Alex R
    Alex Rennie User Experience Design Lead

    Prior to joining Empower Alex was a design lead at Mindgrub Technologies for over 4 years where he helped design a number of apps and websites for prestigious clients like Royal Farms, Sylvan Learning, AARP, and Exelon. Alex’s role was to ensure the design and the user experience for each product exceeded the clients expectations and he did so by managing teams of engineers and designers to ensure proper communication and expectations were met. Alex is originally from Baltimore MD, and has a bachelor’s degree in New Media Design from Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York.

  • Alex
    Alex Zheludov Senior Developer

    Immediately prior to joining Empower, Alex was the Lead Architect at Horizon Business Services, an IT Services company with many large government and private company clients. Before Horizon, Alex spent roughly 6 years as a senior and lead software developer across both startups and large corporations such as Bloomin’ Brands and Ashley Furniture. He began his professional career as a software developer at the Nuclear Scientific Research Institute in Russia. Alex was born and raised in Russia and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Technology from the South Russian State Polytechnic University.

  • Grace Bowman Marketing Associate

    Grace graduated from Georgetown University in the spring of 2021 with a bachelor's degree in Studio Art and a minor in Business Administration. She was honored with the Clifford T. Chieffo Award for Art as well as the Da Vinci Medal at the college’s annual Tropaia. Throughout her four years at Georgetown, Grace worked within the marketing department at Students of Georgetown Inc. - the largest completely student-run non-profit organization in the United States. She was ultimately promoted to General Manager of the creative team in the spring of 2020. Prior to joining Empower, Grace interned at Coastal Source, Good Molly’s, and CVS Health.

  • Emily McClary Customer Success Associate

    Emily graduated from Miami University in Ohio in the spring of 2021 with Bachelor's degrees in Biology and Political Science. While at Miami, Emily served in student government as both Senator and Secretary for Off-Campus Affairs, acting as the main liaison between Miami's student body and the broader community. Emily is excited to streamline processes and create an outstanding customer experience as Empower grows. Outside of work, Emily enjoys curling up with a good book, walking Oxford's beautiful nature trails, and playing both piano and guitar.

  • Ashley
    Ashley Hopko Customer Support Specialist

    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.

  • Nohealani Shozen Customer Support Specialist

    Nohea graduated from American University in May of 2021 with a degree in international studies and entrepreneurship. Immediately prior to joining Empower, she held an operations role focused on establishing processes and technologies for her family's restaurants in Honolulu, HI. Nohea has also held internships with Congressional entities, as well as consulting and law firms. While at American University, Nohea participated in a university-wide hackathon, where her team placed runner-up for developing a blockchain solution to lower the cost of global remittances. Outside of work, Nohea enjoys learning UX/Ui design, martial arts, and surfing.

  • 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.

  • Clare Duffy Community Manager

    Clare graduated from Fordham University in May 2021 with a B.A. in Political Science and American Studies. Before joining the Empower team, Clare grew up in Portland, Oregon, where she interned for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, as well as several local non-profits. During her time at Fordham, she worked as an intern at New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal’s office and as a part-time field organizer on a New York city council campaign.

  • Leonardo Rocchiccioli Community Manager

    Immediately prior to Empower, Leonardo was a Community Manager at the U.S. Digital Response, supporting volunteer technologists to deliver tech solutions for governments during the COVID-19 crisis. Before that, he helped launch a crowdfunding platform for social impact projects at Wedoo. Leonardo holds a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, where he served as Chairman of the Undergraduate Student Senate.

  • Jawad Abdi Community Manager

    Jawad is a local Washingtonian who spent most of his career managing and growing small businesses in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. Prior to Empower, Jawad taught, managed, and grew the wellness community at recharj, a premier meditation studio just blocks from The White House. He also partnered up with a disabled veteran to help develop Synergy Float Center, a wellness float spa in Alexandria Virginia. In addition to his experience in the wellness industry, Jawad helped expand the entrepreneurial community at Cove, a local DC neighborhood co-workspace before the pandemic. Jawad studied Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and also certified Mindfulness Meditation Practitioner from The Mindfulness Center located in Bethesda Maryland.

  • Jane Bowman Community Manager

    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 Community Manager

    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.

  • Ethan Rousso Community Manager

    Ethan graduated from Syracuse University in May 2019, with a degree in Human Dynamics and Information Technology. He was the captain of the Syracuse Men’s Club Soccer Team and was also a captain of the US Maccabi Soccer Team that competed in Berlin, Germany. Prior to joining Empower as a Community Manager, Ethan worked as a marketing specialist for a rideshare company and as a brand strategist and sponsorship coordinator for Launch Global, Inc.

Board of Directors
  • Joshua Sear
    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.

  • J. Kim Fennell

    J. Kim Fennell is a veteran Silicon Valley executive, board director and angel investor. Kim worked at Uber for 5 years, most recently as Head of Business Development for US & Canada and Global Product Partnerships. His organization negotiated 200+ partnerships with major tech companies, airports and brands including Google, Apple, Live Nation, Exxon, Walmart and SFO. Kim was previously CEO of deCarta, a leading independent mapping platform acquired by Uber. Prior to deCarta, he was CEO at Pinnacle Systems and StorageWay. Kim was an early executive at Octel, which was acquired by Lucent, where he later served as a VP. Kim is a director of Ritchie Bros (NYSE:RBA), Bird Construction (TSX:BDT), as well as at two startups. He is also on the Board of Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, and C100, a non-profit supporting Canadian entrepreneurs. Originally from Toronto, Kim graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. (Honours) and completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program.

  • 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.

Advisors
  • 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.

  • J. Kim Fennell

    J. Kim Fennell is a veteran Silicon Valley executive, board director and angel investor. Kim worked at Uber for 5 years, most recently as Head of Business Development for US & Canada and Global Product Partnerships. His organization negotiated 200+ partnerships with major tech companies, airports and brands including Google, Apple, Live Nation, Exxon, Walmart and SFO. Kim was previously CEO of deCarta, a leading independent mapping platform acquired by Uber. Prior to deCarta, he was CEO at Pinnacle Systems and StorageWay. Kim was an early executive at Octel, which was acquired by Lucent, where he later served as a VP. Kim is a director of Ritchie Bros (NYSE:RBA), Bird Construction (TSX:BDT), as well as at two startups. He is also on the Board of Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, and C100, a non-profit supporting Canadian entrepreneurs. Originally from Toronto, Kim graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. (Honours) and completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program.

  • David Hantman
    David Hantman

    David has over 20 years of regulatory, public policy, communications and management experience at the highest levels of both the private and public sector. Prior to his current work as a strategic advisor and investor with companies like Empower, David was Head of Global Public Policy at Airbnb, where he led the company through numerous international, national, state and local regulatory challenges. Before joining Airbnb, David was Deputy GC and VP of Global Public Policy for Yahoo! for five years. David also co-founded an Internet company in 1994, worked for the state legislature in Maryland, ran for State Senate, and served as Chief Counsel to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and then Chief of Staff to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). David has a B.A. in philosophy and economics from Columbia University and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.

  • 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.

  • Ish McLaughlin

    Ish is Managing Director at ArrowMark Partners, a $24B (AUM) employee-owned asset manager. Prior to his role at ArrowMark, Ish spent twenty-five years at Citigroup in a variety of roles, most recently as Head of Investor Sales and Relationship Management for North America. In this capacity, Ish was responsible for developing and executing Citi’s investor client strategy across all products in the region. IIsh serves on the boards of the United Negro College Fund, Student Sponsor Partners, an organization that harnesses the power of education and mentorship to help low-income New York City youth escape the cycle of poverty and reach their potential, and Reactive Core, a Company focused on helping healthcare enterprises become knowledge-based companies by leveraging modern precision data." to "Ish serves on the boards of the United Negro College Fund and Student Sponsor Partners, an organization that harnesses the power of education and mentorship to help low-income New York City youth escape the cycle of poverty and reach their potential, and Reactive Core, a Company focused on helping healthcare enterprises become knowledge-based companies by leveraging modern precision data. Ish received a BA in History from Dartmouth College, and an MBA in Finance from New York University.

  • Ted Sturn
    Ted Stern

    Ted is a Partner at Outside GC, LLC and has 25 years of legal and business experience with a focus on consumer-oriented digital media, technology, e-commerce and professional services companies. Before joining Outside GC, Ted served as GC at Envision EMI. Before that Ted was the head deal attorney of the online division of the Washington Post. Prior to joining the Post, Ted was GC at ePals (now Cricket Media) and before that was the head licensing and technology lawyer at Amazon, managing legal for AWS, Kindle, and streaming music and video. Finally, before Amazon, Ted was the lead attorney for the mobile and messaging groups at AOL. Prior to going in-house, Ted practiced at Baker & Hostetler and Fisher Wayland Cooper Leader & Zaragoza. Ted has a B.A. in American History from Columbia University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.