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 Finance Director

    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.

  • Teddy McGehee CFO and General Counsel

    Prior to joining Empower, Teddy spent 2.5 years at Viking Global Investors, a global investment firm, where he spearheaded strategic projects for the firm's private investment business, led the firm's tax planning function and served as a member of the Investor Relations team. Before that, he spent four years at Goldman Sachs, where he was a Vice President in the Investment Banking Division and worked with clients globally and across all sectors to structure complex mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and public offerings. Prior to investment banking, Teddy practiced tax law at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City. He received his JD from Harvard Law School and his BA from Williams College, where he was an active member of the cycling club.

  • 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.

  • gabrielle
    Gabrielle Cecchi Chief of Staff to CEO & Ops Manager

    Prior to joining Empower, Gabrielle served as a marketing assistant for PeopleGrove, a San Francisco startup that connects college students with alumni. Before that Gabrielle led grass-roots efforts for the Neal Simon for Senate Campaign. Gabrielle is a graduate of Fordham University and spent a year studying at La Sorbonne University in Paris.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Gregory Vives Marketing Associate

    Prior to joining Empower, Greg worked for one year for the US Small Business Administration, administering COVID-19 relief loans to businesses across the country. Before working with the US SBA, Greg graduated from American University in 2020 with an MS in Marketing, and he obtained a BA in Political Science with a minor in Marketing the year prior. As a student, Greg worked in marketing for both the Center for a Free Cuba and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, two DC based non-government organizations. Aside from being a professional marketer, Greg is also a professional musician and music teacher, teaching students and playing in bands across the DC metro area.

  • 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.

  • Gabrielle Beard Customer Support Associate

    Gabrielle's background has focused on customer service and business administration. Immediately before joining Empower, Gabrielle worked as a Customer Service Representative for TTEC. She earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Management from Aiken Technical College, and she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. During her free time, she likes to spend time with family, participate in artistic activities, and create podcasts.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Chloe Obert Community Manager

    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.

  • 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.

  • Carson Grahill-Bland Community Manager

    Carson graduated from The College of William and Mary in May of 2020, with a degree in Economics. Carson is also a CFA candidate. He began his career with Empower in June of 2020, working as a marketing intern before moving on to his role as a Community Manager. Before joining Empower, Carson worked as a fellow for the Neal Simon for Senate campaign.

  • Tom Sullivan Community Manager

    Prior to Empower, Tom worked in the Community Relations department for the Washington Nationals. Tom previously interned in the office of Senator Jack Reed (RI), for the Boston Red Sox Organization, and for the Government Relations department at the Glover Park Group. Tom is a Washington DC native and a graduate of UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science.

  • 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.

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!

  • Katherine Weymouth
    Katharine Weymouth

    Katharine is an accomplished business executive and attorney. She spent much of her career at the Washington Post, where she served as VP of Advertising and then Publisher and CEO. In 2013, Katharine led the sale and transferred stewardship of the Post from her family to Jeff Bezos. Prior to her time at the Post, Katharine was an Associate at Williams & Connolly. She currently sits on a number of corporate boards and is President & COO of DineXpert, a “buy local” food services company.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Cal Simmons

    Cal is a serial entrepreneur with over 40 years of experience building businesses as a founder, CEO, director and investor. His portfolio includes investments in over 30 companies, including Five Guys, Everfi, Zachary Piper, and Industry Dive. Cal founded, built and sold one of the largest travel agencies in the country - Cal Simmons Travel. He currently is the Chair of the DC Chapter of Tiger 21 and is on the Board of Congressional Bank. Cal is also a successful author--Every Business Needs an Angel (Random House). Cal has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Kansas, where he was captain of the tennis team.

Advisors
  • Katherine Weymouth
    Katharine Weymouth

    Katharine is an accomplished business executive and attorney. She spent much of her career at the Washington Post, where she served as VP of Advertising and then Publisher and CEO. In 2013, Katharine led the sale and transferred stewardship of the Post from her family to Jeff Bezos. Prior to her time at the Post, Katharine was an Associate at Williams & Connolly. She currently sits on a number of corporate boards and is President & COO of DineXpert, a “buy local” food services company.

  • 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.

  • Mark Joseph
    Mark Joseph

    Mark has more than 30 years of leadership experience in the transportation industry and currently serves as CEO of Mobitas Advisors. Prior to founding Mobitas, Mark led and transformed Transdev as Chief Commercial Officer of the Transdev Group and CEO of Transdev N.A. Mark is also a successful entrepreneur. As President of Yellow Cab of Baltimore, Mark grew his family’s business into Yellow Transportation, which he sold to Veolia Transportation. Mark served as COO and then Vice Chairman and CEO of Veolia. As CEO, Mark orchestrated the sale of Veolia to Transdev. Mark has served and led a number of public, private and non-profit boards, including The Transportation Alliance, the D.C. chapter of Young President's Organization, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Privatization in MD, and the UMD Medical Center. Mark has a B.S. from American University.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Marc Katz

    Marc is the co-founder and CEO of Custom Ink. With over 1,500 employees, Custom Ink is the largest online custom T-shirt retail printer in the United States. Prior to starting Custom Ink, Marc worked on Wall Street. Marc earned his B.A. in Physics from Harvard University.

  • Kaylin Goldstein
    Kaylin Goldstein

    Kaylin is an experienced marketing and branding executive having spent the past twelve years at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, where she served as VP, Group Strategy Director. Kaylin has developed award-winning marketing strategies for iconic brands, such as American Express, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Hershey’s, Charles Schwab and American Airlines. Her work has been recognized at multiple industry award shows, and in 2017 Kaylin was named Ad Age’s Strategic Planner of the Year. Kaylin has a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago and applies her deep understanding of human behavior to better connect brands with their customers. Prior to her time at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Kaylin worked in nonprofit marketing and development, building awareness and support for museums, higher education and scientific research. In addition to her PhD, Kaylin has a BA from Amherst College.

  • 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.

  • Cal Simmons

    Cal is a serial entrepreneur with over 40 years of experience building businesses as a founder, CEO, director and investor. His portfolio includes investments in over 30 companies, including Five Guys, Everfi, Zachary Piper, and Industry Dive. Cal founded, built and sold one of the largest travel agencies in the country - Cal Simmons Travel. He currently is the Chair of the DC Chapter of Tiger 21 and is on the Board of Congressional Bank. Cal is also a successful author--Every Business Needs an Angel (Random House). Cal has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Kansas, where he was captain of the tennis team.