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152: with Dardan Isufi

Bret Keisling is joined by Dardan Isufi, COO of Eva, a ride-sharing and delivery app serving Montreal and Quebec that is owned by its co-op members including its drivers, riders, and others. Hear how Eva treats all of its stakeholders more equitably than Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, etc.


Episode 152 Transcript

Bitsy McCann: [00:00:04] Welcome to The EO Podcast, where we amplify and celebrate all forms of employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: [00:00:13] Thank you for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. So many times in employee ownership we have talked about Uber and Lyft and ride sharing applications like that and we've wondered how would they be different if they were employee owned, and ladies and gentlemen, we have an employee owned ride sharing app!

I am very pleased to be joined by Dardan Isufi, who is the Chief Operating Officer of the Eva Co-op. Dardan, how are you today?

Dardan Isufi: [00:00:48] I'm always good as usual, thanks for asking. What about you, Bret?

Bret Keisling: [00:00:51] I am doing great as well. Thank you so much. So Eva is a ride sharing app, itself, and the company is a cooperative. Dardan, tell us about you and tell us about Eva.

Dardan Isufi: [00:01:03] Sure. As you mentioned I'm Dardan Isufi. I'm based in Montreal, Canada. I'm 24 years old and I've been working for, I think, for Eva, for our movement for over three years now.

What's Eva? Because there, we have many definitions. We're a co-op. We're a blockchain based app. We're a ride share company. We're now a delivery company. Well, Eva is all these things.

We're a movement of people driven by over 2,000 driver members with over 50,000 rider members. We're a rideshare co-op, a rideshare app. So it's an app that you can download through Apple Store, Google Play store, and you can travel from point A to point C, while stopping at point B; very convenient. You see your prices upfront. There's no surge pricing and the commission is fixed to 15%, so drivers get over 10% more than a Lyft or Uber.

Bret Keisling: [00:02:01] And we're going to talk about the different components and a lot of our audience, it's not unusual if they're from the ESOP space. So we'll just share that there's the worker cooperative and that's where the drivers come in and they are part of the cooperative.

Dardan Isufi: [00:02:16] Yes, so it's literally not a workers co-op it's the multi-stakeholders co-op. So we have the employees considered as worker members. We have the drivers who are producer members, so they remain self-employed, but they're still members of the co-op so they have a share, they decide, they can vote. We also have riders which is, to be honest, exceptional in this, in the taxi and ride share market. Riders are as well consumer members and by gathering these different categories of members, we form a co-op -- a cooperative, a members owned company. So every member has one vote each and we all decide as a democracy on the policies, bylaws, budget, profit sharing, and so on.

So it's -- we're democratically owned and managed entity.

Bret Keisling: [00:03:11] And what I love about that, there were two things that spring to mind, the way I asked the question is we have, for example, in the United States, REI is a cooperative and it's the customers who are members of the cooperative and that equates to your riders. And I made the mistake, and I wasn't careful when I referred to the employees, I was lumping the drivers in there. They all worked for that, but that's actually two separate categories. There are the employees who work for Eva, like yourself.

Dardan Isufi: [00:03:40] Yeah.

Bret Keisling: [00:03:40] And by the way, for those listening, and Dardan and I chatted about this before we started recording, even that Eva there's conversation about whether it's Eva ["Ay-vah"] or Eva ["Eve-ah"]. So if I switch back and forth, I want my listeners to -- Dardan, tell my listeners it's okay, we're not sure.

Dardan Isufi: [00:03:55] It is. It is. We haven't decided yet what's the real name of Eva or Eva I'll call it -- let's call it both [laughing].

Bret Keisling: [00:04:02] As long as they call you on the app you're okay with that, as they say.

Dardan Isufi: [00:04:05] Yeah, yeah.

Bret Keisling: [00:04:07] So you've got the employees, which would be what we consider the traditional worker co-op but the drivers are different and the producers. I love that. I love that distinction.

Dardan Isufi: [00:04:17] So we, the thing is the reason why we decided to consider drivers as producers was to better compete with Uber. Because the fact that Uber was able to grow so quickly is because their drivers are self-employed.

Unlike Uber, we don't want drivers to only remain self-employed. So for those who want to become a salary paid with an hourly wage, or for those who want to enter or in our current project, a pilot project of universal basic income, we offer different options for the drivers. So let's say I'm a driver and I want you to drive two hours per week. I'll remain self-employed of course, because I'm driving two hours per week.

If I'm a driver working full-time 40 hours a week then I might consider, or I might like becoming a worker member. So that's the thing. You also have some worker members who are drivers who are paid by the hour driving within the platform considered as employees. So it's a bit tricky, as I say, it's a bit complex. The whole rational behind that is to offer every driver the best plan for him or for herself to get a sustainable living out of driving with Eva.

Bret Keisling: [00:05:29] And all of us and anyone listening to this podcast by the nature of what we do is supporting livable wage, however we get there for everybody. So we applaud that.

Let me ask, because a lot of what makes you unique to the employee ownership audience is your setup, is the co-ops and that sort of thing, and we want to spend time talking about it, but I don't want to lose sight of you celebrating the app itself and what they're doing. So I know that you said you can go from places and make stops and you shared -- is there anything else that makes your experience unique? Just from the consumer user experience.

Dardan Isufi: [00:06:08] Well, the first thing that's unique with Eva is that our app is entirely decentralized, meaning that we're using a blockchain based protocol and making sure that all the nominal data is encrypted within the network. Any data leaks, like what happened to Facebook like a couple of weeks ago or to Uber years ago, will never happen with Eva. So that's the first thing. So let's say to give you an example, all the financial information of our, of the rider members, are encrypted within their own device. So us as a movement, as a technology, I have no access to financial information.

So that's the first thing is data privacy.

Second thing for in the case of rider members is we have no surge pricing. The problem with Uber is that at 3:00 PM a ride will, maybe, be 20 bucks. And then at 3:00 AM, the same ride will be at 40 bucks, which is truly unfair for your riders. So in our case, prices are predetermined, fixed, and won't change in time unless there's huge, as we call in French, called a force majeure [unforeseeable circumstance], so there's a natural disaster traffic, whatever.

For the drivers, the big component that's a huge win for them is our very low commissions. So what we see in the market from Lyft and Uber is between 20 to 30% commission. In our case, it's only 15% commission and it sticks. So for the users, it's an optimal experience.

And as I mentioned, we're not only doing a ride share, we're also now a delivery service. And what's great about our delivery service is that we provide commission-free and limitless deliveries to any restaurant or retailer. And unlike Uber Eats, or Grubhub, or SkipTheDishes, or all of these capitalistic platforms, we take no commission to restaurants. So restaurants are keeping everything in their pocket and we're directly supporting the local economy.

So there's many facets of the app, but at the end of the day, what we wanted really is to have an app, consumer facing, which offers the same, or even a better, experience than Uber and to create a human interaction so that every ride becomes a living experience. So that the driver communicates with the rider, vice versa. That the driver isn't a simple number that you can just, you know laugh at or just not speak at.

Like, the goal is that we create, I'd say, a ride experience. Like, you're traveling from one place to another place, let's make this travel be engraved into your memory as long as possible.

Bret Keisling: [00:08:41] I love everything that you're saying. And one of the things that struck me about Uber Eats here in the United States, and I have some friends who own or manage restaurants, and the commissions Uber Eats and those folks take, DoorDash, pretty much turns the orders into loss leaders from the -- restaurants aren't really making money off of the delivery apps.

Dardan Isufi: [00:09:04] It is, to be honest with you, it's insane. Profit margins in the restaurant industry are very low. Especially for small restaurants and it is a huge problem, especially in these times of pandemic. And this is how we started the delivery platform, because before we're only a ride share app that riders and drivers connected with and they were riding around Montreal and Quebec City where we are, the two cities we're in. But at the early stage of the pandemic, we saw a lot of restaurants using our taxi app or our ride share app to deliver food. And when we saw this happening, we're like why are the restaurants paying for a ride, which is technically more expensive than a delivery?

When we called restaurants they were answering us, it's cheaper than Uber. It's cheaper for me to get an order to phone and call a cab to deliver it than to have it everything through Uber Eats. So when we saw this huge problem, what we developed was a software that could basically integrate any online sales website. Any transactional website. So in Montreal, we came in six months to get over 600 restaurants; among the biggest ones, the biggest five star hotels, fast food chains, local restaurants. All the restaurants nowadays have a transactional website.

So what we did was just integrated their transactional websites and now we're offering direct commission-free deliveries and customers get a tracking link, the full experience as Uber Eats, and the restaurants keep, they gain 30% per order. Sometimes even more.

Bret Keisling: [00:10:40] That's incredible. And I guess what I'm wondering is it that there's less profit to be made for Eva? Is it, I assume the consumers aren't paying significantly more. In other words, you're taking out a revenue stream. So just explain, it's on purpose, right?

Dardan Isufi: [00:10:58] So basically, the way Uber Eats works is they charge consumers four bucks or around that for deliveries and 30% to the full order as commission.

What we do instead is we charge a delivery fee of it's around eight bucks, it depends on where we deliver, and that's it. We only charge a delivery fee.

So yes, there is less profit to be made for the co-op, but by doing so we're increasing volume, we're getting more restaurants, and more than that, we're getting high-end restaurants in which there's crazy good tips. So by doing so, drivers were gaining, 50% of the revenue is from huge tips. Drivers get $20 tips, $15 tips. We've seen $103 tips, $80 tips. The tips are simply insane because we're delivering high-end restaurants who have the most incentives, like who are the most incentivized to switch with us. Because 30% of a, $150 order, it's huge.

So for them, it's a big win! Customers pay eight bucks delivery. That's almost nothing when you pay an order of 103 bucks. Drivers get good tips. We get good restaurants. And this is how we -- during the pandemic, when the pandemic arrived we lost huge market share. We were present at Montreal's international airport, which is a single largest airport in Canada. We had an internal booth inside, commercial booth. Our signs displayed all there, so we had huge volume. The pandemic arrived; we took a big hit. And then when we woke up with this whole delivery system that we thought, out of nowhere we saw an increase, like now we're doing six times what we're doing before the pandemic. And we keep growing in terms of membership. Keep onboarding more driver members but also more rider members, because with the deliveries, our network effect is now better. And with the volume we're increasing our revenue stream.

So at the end of the day, it just better for everyone for the restaurants, for their users, for our drivers, for us as a co-op. So it's like, it's a balanced ecosystem.

Bret Keisling: [00:13:08] And the very nature of co-ops is not to maximize every dollar in every single way. And this as a question, it fits into your purpose, I imagine, that you're not charging 30%,. That's part of your purpose.

Dardan Isufi: [00:13:23] Our goal is honestly, to break, even. As I like to say, a co-op is not for profit, but it's not for loss. The goal is, obviously, if we make profit it's better, because then we can reinvest in the co-op or we can share among the members. But the overall goal is for us to be a sustainable business.

And that's what makes co-ops very interesting. If you go through history, all the current crisis in 1929, in the '70s, in 2008, what we've seen Canada is that co-ops have better chances of surviving. Why? Because their core financial structure is made to be sustainable and not maximize profit in the pockets of some random shareholders.

So that's what makes co-op very particular. And that's the thing to mention when we first created Eva, or Eva [laughter], we were questioning ourselves. Whether we were made to create a co-op or a nonprofit? And then we saw this statistic of, I think, the federal government saying that Quebec is one fifth of the Canadian population, but we have one third of the co-ops.

Bret Keisling: [00:14:35] Wow.

Dardan Isufi: [00:14:35] And more than that, 95% of all people of all citizens in Quebec are members of at least one co-op.

Bret Keisling: [00:14:44] Really!

Dardan Isufi: [00:14:45] And that's huge. That's huge. We have the world's largest financial cooperative, Desjardins. All the farmers are groups within a co-op, which is the big, provincial co-op. So we have some huge co-ops that are established for since decades.

And everybody's a member of a co-op. My parents were members of co-ops and they didn't even know. And most of the students at a university degree are members of their bookstore co-op because all the university bookstores are co-ops.

So it is fascinating to see this very sustainable model in which it keeps the money where the money should stay, locally. It rewards the workers or the people bringing the fruit of their labor. And at the end of the day, it is just convenient. It is just convenient as any other company.

When we started Eva, we thought is it a good idea to just go out there and attack Uber? Uber is a multi-billion company and we're asking ourselves, like, why is there is no competition to Uber? Like there is only Uber and Lyft, why is that? Because it is a very capital intensive business. But now that, before we tried and now we're doing. Now that we're doing, now that we're a real ride share company, now that I can show you here -- I can just open the app and then I can see all the drivers in the Island of Montreal, these little bees that you see on the map, these are all drivers. I can order a ride at any time, anywhere in the Island. You know, it made us realize that it is possible. It is possible with very limited financial means if we have a group of people grouped together to do the impossible! To fight a multi-billion company on its own ground and making it sustainable for everyone.

Bret Keisling: [00:16:30] That makes a lot of sense. And if you could address a little bit, and I understand because it's a co-op is an answer, but if you could flesh it out a little bit. One of the troubling things about Uber and Lyft in the United States, at least, is everybody's classified as a subcontractor. And let me say that, I don't know that a lot of the driving conditions are optimal, that it seems like really hit and miss and that sort of thing. So what is it about Eva that makes you different from the driver's perspective? Like how have you avoided those pitfalls?

Dardan Isufi: [00:17:06] First of all, I do acknowledge that the new concept of gig workers came with this fundamental transformation with the whole digitalization of the economy, of a ride share economy, delivery economy. Because ride share is basically the taxi cab industry and it has been there for decades.

Bret Keisling: [00:17:24] And Dardan, let me just, before you go on and say, I love the gig economy. I love the fact that everybody can do something and I think post pandemic, if you have something you've always wanted to do, now is the time, but that hasn't necessarily made the gig economy fair in all the respects.

Dardan Isufi: [00:17:41] Oh, so yeah. And that's the key component here because when Uber arrived, Uber claimed to be a sharing economy, but it's not a sharing economy. It's a pooling and a form of a ditch competition through digital platforms. And Airbnb is the same.

A sharing economy is based on some universal principles as the use of any excess capacity, in our case it's the cars. It's the use rather than ownership. Again, so you don't own a car, you use a service. It's the multiplicity of functions. So let's say I'm a lawyer, then tonight I'll be a driver, and then tomorrow I'll be something else, like a gig working ideal. And it's to remove all the middlemen. And that's the problem, Uber is a middleman that takes huge commissions, 25%, 30%, and it gives nothing back in terms of services. It just connect people to a platform which is already made.

This is a key difference between Uber and Eva is that we're not only an app, we're a service provider for our members. So the first thing here is how do we classify the drivers? We do classify the drivers as a self-employed. Although there are some drivers who are directly employed, as with a wage and all the insurance that comes with that. For the strictly self-employed drivers, we're building a social safety net so that they're not just left out there on the streets.

We have a full insurance coverage at any time when they're online, this is a premier in Canada to have such insurance coverage. And this insurance coverage is is given by another co-op and it's funded by the funding co-op here in Quebec. There's a huge inter cooperation here.

And also in order to ensure let's say fair conditions for the drivers we have this new pilot project, which is a universal, basic income in which we'll guarantee a minimum of 15 bucks per hour minimum. So drivers like the ones who don't want to be employed or the ones who don't want to be self-employed well, they might go in this in-between so they remain self employed, but they get some sort of scheduling with like a universal, basic income.

So this is how we create, I'd say, safeguards for the drivers and the insurance policy is a great example of what we can do when we align forces.

So, of course, I do think a bit like, gig working is awesome. It gives a lot of flexibility, a lot of leverage, a lot of just flexibility. I'm thinking of most of our drivers are immigrants and a lot of them, before COVID, used to travel, four weeks, five weeks during the summer, back in their home country and they cannot do this if they're a simple employee in a business. They have two weeks big, like huge maximum, but with Eva, if they work enough during the rest of the year, they can spare six weeks, seven weeks. We've seen drivers going back in Yemen, drivers going back in Columbia, and they do whatever they want to do.

They don't have any schedule. They don't -- there's nothing. Although we do give some promotions to incentivize drivers to go on line at certain time during the day, of course, we don't force anyone to be working with a schedule except for those with the universal basic income program or the salary wage program.

Bret Keisling: [00:20:58] So if they're in different buckets so to speak, there may be some performance stuff they have to do just to be in that bucket. So that makes perfect sense.

I've got to tell you I've loved a phrase and I'm gonna rename my phrase. I always talked when I've spent time in Ubers talking to folks who always seem to be working on their business idea, and I just love it, while they're driving Uber and I started calling them "entreprenubers" where they would be building it in Uber.

But I think, at least in Canada, I'm going to call them "entreprenevas" [laughter] looking at your drivers. Do you have, why don't you give us a snapshot how many driver members do you have, how many rider members do you have, and how many drivers generally are on at any given time?

Dardan Isufi: [00:21:43] Yup. In terms of rider members, we have, and we're proud to say it, we're over 50,000 rider members. So these are the people who have an account in the app and who created an account and joined the app and used it. So that's huge and we're proud of that.

In terms of the drivers we have, I think now, we came over to 2,000 driver members.

Bret Keisling: [00:22:03] Wow!

Dardan Isufi: [00:22:03] And the 2,000 driving members are divided into two cities. So the Montreal, which we have, like around 1,700 and 300 in Quebec City. In at, say, in a Monday is the most quiet day of the week, we will have between 70 to a 100 drivers online at the, during the day. On a Friday night, we'll have around 200, 220 drivers online because it's our most, let's say, it's the most important day of the week in the ride share business and also the delivery business.

So yeah, it is great. It is great. And then when we think about the huge potential of our model for other cities, it is insane. The collaborative model is truly great to bring people together. Although there are great challenges associated with the co-op model. One of them being the funding. Funding is quite challenging because traditional investment firms are used to, I'd say, more traditional structure of business.

Bret Keisling: [00:23:08] And they're not good at spending time trying to understand the things they don't understand

Dardan Isufi: [00:23:14] The way you put it, this is exactly it. And that's the thing. Like we, the first thing they ask us, like why the dot co-op? What is the dot co-op? Because they see Eva, but they don't understand that dot co-op.

And then we explain to them and they're like, is this some sort of communist thing? [Laughter.} Like whatever, communists or socialists or whatever, the whole point of it is we want also to make money, like we're here to take over the market. And at some point to be a real competitor of Uber, because you Uber has millions of riders, millions of drivers, and we're far from that.

But the whole point of our business model is to be sustainable, to be profitable, and to gain market. We're not some sort of short-minded community. Our goal is to expand in other cities. Our goal is to share our cooperative movement to other people and to onboard more and more people in that.

And even though we explain this to some investors, we see clear signs of they're just closing their minds, totally closing their minds. And sometimes it can be hard. Although, and this I must confess, when we started a co-op in Quebec, we got huge, huge, huge support from the municipal, provincial, federal government and a lot of co-ops invested in Eva. So the major co-ops in Quebec financially supported us. The reason why we were able to rent an office, do promotions, and recruit drivers was because we got funding from other co-ops and this is, we're grateful we're -- and the day Eva will become financially self-reliant, I hope our cooperative will help other new co-ops to develop.

Bret Keisling: [00:24:59] Just drive home a point for me, for those who are listening and saying, wait, why would other co-ops invest in you for the same reason that you'll invest in others once you get to that point, but can you just explain.

Dardan Isufi: [00:25:13] It's -- you know, the cooperative movement, worldwide cooperative movement has seven or nine principles, I forgot. And one of their principles, one of the principles is inter-cooperation. And inter-cooperation means helping other worker owned companies. Why? Because, if we all help each other, we create a network, an ecosystem.

So if my printing supplier is a co-op, and if my banking institution is a co-op, my insurance is a co-op, I'll be their delivery provider and I'll be their ride share provider. And if my, all my suppliers, my telecom suppliers, my office supply, are co-ops this is how we build a strong network. And then we get our rider members being members of other co-ops and this is how we grow.

And we're making a lot of partnerships like this in Montreal, especially Montreal, with other co-ops in which we share members. So we ask our members to go and help a particular cooperative, like worker owned groceries. In exchange, the grocery will invite their customers to download the Eva and this is how we build a network.

I was mentioning the bookstores in university campuses, in school campuses. We have a partnership with the network of all these bookstores and for every back to school campaign we give them our promotional codes, they give the promotional codes to the students, the one using them, become members of Eva. And we encourage our members to go to these cooperative bookstores. So like it's a circular economy in which like we just keep the resources among ourselves.

Yeah, so it's I think it's a great principle. And I think it's a very important principle. One thing, now I'm thinking of that, is with the rise of platform cooperativism the big challenge for these platforms is to fund themselves.

Traditional co-ops are, I'd say, easier to fund because they're usually traditional worker owned co-ops, so like grocery, restaurant. And there's usually a limited number of people like 8, 10, 12 and these 8, 10, 12 people can gather together, invest, and have a common investment.

For a platform co-op, think of the case of Eva as a copycat of Uber, don't have members before launching the platform. It's a chicken and egg. Before the D-Day, there was no member. Nobody wanted to become a ride share member of an [non]-existing app. People became members after the app was launched. So if it wasn't of the huge financial support that we got from these co-ops, maybe I wouldn't be there, speaking with you tonight.

We're blessed to have such a social economy network here in Quebec and I hope our co-op will contribute to this social economy network.

Bret Keisling: [00:28:08] I have no doubt it will, Dardan, because that's the path that you are on. And I don't just mean the business path, but there's a lot of heart and soul in employee ownership.

And one of the things that I have conversations with people regularly and they ask why to me, personally, it's important to amplify and celebrate all things employee ownership, as we say at the start of the podcast, it's because, although I came from the ESOP space, I believe very clearly the more robust all of employee ownership is the better we will all have legislation, the better we will have acceptance in the public, the better that it will help us all grow what I call the EO sandbox. And I love that there's a self perpetuation among the co-ops and the co-op community. And particularly that Quebec, would gather and say, we need this. Not say, hey, we can do it ourselves, but, rather, here's a co-op let's support them. And for you to be sitting here waiting to where you hit profitability and saying in the moment we do, we're going to help someone else. It's absolutely beautiful! I love that. I love that spirit.

Dardan Isufi: [00:29:17] It is important. I think, because I asked you the question, what is the thing with ESOP? Because I feel ESOP is very strong in the US, much more than Canada. Because we do have some great ESOP examples here as well, but the US , I feel, it's a good growing trend. And it's so important because I guess the two major challenges our generation, like the newer generation, will face in the next, you know, in this current century will be first, climate change. Climate change is a huge, huge issue. But the second one is the centralization of wealth.

The wealth is getting more and more centralized into the hands of a very few, and it creates a huge imbalance. It's not normal to have, I don't know, 84 people owning the net wealth of 3.5 billion of people. It's not normal that 1% owns 99% of the wealth. It's a huge imbalance. And now that we're looking to, and I don't like the term development, like developing countries, because they're already developed. And if we took countries like Ghana, like there used to be kingdoms there. So they're already well-developed.

Bret Keisling: [00:30:22] Right.

Dardan Isufi: [00:30:22] Countries are like this. We understand what do I mean by that? So with all these emerging countries and their huge and vibrant youth, I do think models like the cooperative model, the ESOP model, the nonprofit model will have huge benefits for their own economies, because at the end of the day, if we want to have a sustainable living planet let's start by adding a fair and equitable planet, in which not everything goes into the hands of a very few, but us as people are well off so that we can sustain ourselves. Because at the end of the day, the more -- the less we have poverty, the more we all live because there will be less crime. There will be less spending in the military, in the army, and this and that. So we as societies we'll just be better off with that. So I think the cooperative model and the ESOP model are, I'd say, are great tools. They're not the only ones, but these are great tools.

Bret Keisling: [00:31:25] And we're all cousins in employee ownership.

Dardan Isufi: [00:31:28] Yeah, yeah. [Laughter.]

Bret Keisling: [00:31:29] And it's funny, one of our themes is talking about how -- and themes on the podcast generally. I don't think we've covered it here -- but how employee ownership bridges the gaps between the capitalistic model, socialistic model, in the US Democrat, Republican, we have supporters. And I say this with a chuckle, but as you were going through that laundry list of how the world could be better, I picture one of my more conservative listeners saying no, keep military spending! So it's just funny how people have the perspective.

Dardan Isufi: [00:32:01] I'm not against -- like I, myself, spent three years in the military as an infantry officer in the Canadian army. So I don't have anything against the military. I'm just saying that if we can spend less money in bombs to tear down terrorists, let's spend this money building schools and sustainable economies out there so that we don't have to fear for our own security.

And I like what you say, because within Eva, we tried to be apolitical. Although we think that everything is political, we're trying to create a way to bridge the different spectrums. And what's great is that we've seen, and what we're building is convenient for all the parties involved. And you don't have to be a libertarian, or you don't have to be a far right, or you don't have to be far left to understand that it's just better. It just better for drivers to have more in their pockets. It's just better to have a business that is profitable. Instead of Uber and Grubhub and Doordash is spending money and losing this money, like we prefer to build something that's more sustainable.

And if everybody can earn money at the end of the day, it 's just better for everyone.

Bret Keisling: [00:33:11] And as we often discuss employee owners, in this case your driver producers, If you're employee owned, generally your morale is better. You feel engaged. And so I'm assuming that the ride experience is better because you're a worker cooperative.

Dardan Isufi: [00:33:27] There was a saying that happy drivers make happy riders, and it is true. And from a purely business standpoint our retention rate is way better than other platforms because we're able to keep drivers longer by offering more direct, human, transparent services.

And the same goes for riders as well. They get direct communication. If there's a problem they can call to a call center, which will respond to them and so on. So yes, of course, it has also huge benefits for our company.

Bret Keisling: [00:33:58] That's great. As we look towards wrapping up, Dardan, and I appreciate all of your time, where's Eva go from here? What do you guys have in mind? Is other geographies? Is it different completely? Just tell us where you're seeing the future taking you.

Dardan Isufi: [00:34:11] Yeah what we're looking to build, and it's weird to say, but it's an empire of co-ops. Our model is based with this social franchising. And what we're trying to do is to replicate what we did in Quebec, the Province of Quebec, in different cities, Montreal, Quebec City, and so on, and to replicate the model elsewhere in the Province of Alberta, in the Province of Edmonton, eventually in the States, the state of New York, California, all the states where there's huge potential for ride share.

Bret Keisling: [00:34:44] I like that. You're looking to see how much of the world you can capture and make better. I think that's absolutely beautiful.

Dardan Isufi: [00:34:49] Yeah. Yeah.

Bret Keisling: [00:34:51] Dardan, let me ask, Is there anything in your experience, as we ask our guests, if they ever had what we call the EO A-ha Moment, or moments, where you said, hey, I want to devote my life to building co-ops. Have you just gotten into this and it's rode along or have you had something that would be an A-ha Moment?

Dardan Isufi: [00:35:11] Yes. The very first day my co-founder Raphaël [Gaudreault] and I met together, the fundamental question was how can we replace Uber with a more responsible model? And we were thinking of the nonprofit model and so on, and then we just started hey, we're members of the financial co-op I was referring to, let's choose the cooperative model!

Like, it makes more sense. We can make profit and we can be a democratically owned. So it was the perfect match for us to be a ride share company organized as a co-op. And the answer is so simple and so easy.

Bret Keisling: [00:35:49] I love that. And I guess if you were looking at a nonprofit versus a co-op, that the traditional Uber like model of just maximize revenue and profits is not where you wanted to be.

Dardan Isufi: [00:36:05] No, we're not looking, as I mentioned, like we're looking to just build something sustainable. If we can make profit out of it, that's good. Drivers will be the first to benefit from that.

Bret Keisling: [00:36:15] Anything you would like to add? Anything I didn't cover?

Dardan Isufi: [00:36:20] I want to thank you because I do think what you're doing promoting workers' ownership is tremendous, because I hope more and more people will be incentivized . I hope more and more people will own their means of production. It's just so important to me, it's so important to own, to be your-- to be self incentivized doing your own job.

Bret Keisling: [00:36:42] I think that's right. And part of the beauty for me in promoting employee ownership is, and I might've said this earlier in the podcast, but helping others get the opportunities that I always loved as a business founder, or partner and that sort of thing.

So Dardan, let me first of all, thank you for everything that you and Rafael have built and are building. And I know there's other members of the team behind you as well, but it is so greatly appreciated. I'm so impressed with the wider aspect and the driver aspect and the employee aspect.

And just want to say if there's anything cool that you folks are doing at any time, I would be grateful if you'd come on and share it with my podcast audience.

Dardan Isufi: [00:37:25] Sure, well thanks for having me and my little cat and I'm hopeful we'll have other opportunities to discuss, hopefully in person next time.

Bret Keisling: [00:37:34] And Dardan and I would love that. And just for the people who are listening we, as I do for the last year, I've been recording this on a Zoom call and as we've been talking, your beautiful cat, I believe your girlfriend's cat, has been popping up in the screen and even once or twice -- oh, it's just so adorable. So now, this isn't good podcasting. So I'm going to stop looking at your cat. But the cat is adorable.

So, Dardan, as I wrap up the podcast, what I'd like to say, and I'm going to expand it a little bit. I always talk about how our country is going through an awful lot, but with you being from Canada, the reality is our world is going through an awful lot together. And that is how we're all going to get through it, together.

So thank you for broadening my horizons a little bit, bringing Canada to the ESOP and EO Podcast and just know that the work you and your colleagues are doing is very important and very appreciated by all of us in employee ownership.

Dardan Isufi: [00:38:30] Thank you very much. That's, that's really appreciated.

Bret Keisling: [00:38:33] All right. And with that, my friends, thank you so much for listening. I'm very grateful that you joined me. And thank you to Dardan Isufi for joining me today. Check us out next time at

This is Bret Keisling; be well.


Bitsy McCann: [00:38:49] We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The ESOP Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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