What’s the inspiration behind Relay On Demand?
I’m the son of a truck driver and a multipatented engineer. On one hand, trucking is in my blood, but my passion is innovation and technology. Through building my own trucking company, I learned firsthand that truck drivers love what they do, but that they are fed up with the lifestyle trucking imposes—the weeks away from home, 16-hour workdays 6 days a week, the missed birthdays and special events, etc. This is what inspired me to build a better way for truck drivers and companies to work together.
How did your childhood influence your decision to start Relay On Demand?
I’ve always been fascinated with trucking. During my elementary years, one of my favorite ways to spend my school vacations was to hop in my father’s truck and ride along on his routes. We’d cover several states in a single trip, and I got to see some really beautiful scenery, all while learning about the trucking industry.
My family believes 1000% in what we are building in Relay. I couldn’t have left my corporate America career to pursue my innovative and entrepreneurial spirit without their support! I have quite a few truck drivers and trucking company owners in my extended family and they all are a part of what we’re building. They love it!
This is not your first time founding a company. What do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
The most important skill founders need to succeed is perseverance, backed with a strong dose of faith. In any startup, you only fail if you stop trying. I never look back and say we failed; I look back and say we’ve learned what worked and what didn’t, and how to solve that problem going forward. I 100% believe in the saying, “it is impossible for a problem to exist without a solution.” It’s our job to find that solution, and when we do, we accomplish great things.
The most important skill founders need to succeed is perseverance, backed with a strong dose of faith.
Truck drivers have become essential workers during COVID-19. How has this impacted your approach to business?
We've adapted our business to ensure the safety of our drivers. That being said, there's a lot the public can do to support truck drivers during this time, including having patience and politeness on the road. I know it can be frustrating when you are stuck in traffic behind a big truck, but the majority of drivers are professionals who are simply trying to get your food and supplies delivered. The next time you see a truck on the road, give some patience and a thumbs up. It’ll go a long way.
In addition to being an entrepreneur, you’re an engineer! Are there any surprising similarities between the two?
Being an entrepreneur and an engineer is an awesome combination. The #1 mission of an engineer is to solve problems, and entrepreneurship is filled with what seems like an unlimited supply of problems to be solved! For me, it’s exciting to face a problem, develop the solution for it, and then see it impact the real world. Whether it's an engineering problem, an app coding problem, or a business-related problem, I love applying the innovative side of my brain to come up with a solution that works better and more efficiently than before.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
The #1 challenge has been funding. As a first-time minority founder, it’s been a tough nugget to crack without a lot of connections. Through our mentors—and now Republic—we’re on track to solve that challenge.
The #2 challenge has been the chicken-and-egg syndrome. One of the most difficult things in launching a dual-sided platform like Relay is figuring out what comes first... drivers or carriers.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
I learned that being a leader is more than just coming up with solutions. It’s all about taking people with you along the journey as you create the solution and impact. My success can be shared by all of the people who’ve been helping me build Relay.
How do you handle risk and competition?
As a trained engineer, I learned that risk is part of the job. I always go into something striving for the best outcome, but I also always have a plan for the worst-case scenario to ensure success. In engineering, we call this a factor of safety. This allows me to pursue goals aggressively and outdo the competition, while still maintaining confidence that we won’t crash and burn if the risk tries to bite us.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
I got super excited about Republic when I realized that we can open this up for our drivers and carriers to invest. This group typically does not have access to strong investment opportunities, and Republic gave us a way to include our community in building our business. This is helping me realize my grand vision of seeing thousands of truck drivers achieving financial security by not only working with Relay, but also owning part of it.
What’s your team culture like?
We have passion for what we do, we get things done, we learn constantly, we celebrate one another, and above all, we live by the Golden Rule—in all things, do unto others as you would have done unto you.
What is your superpower?
Innovation. This superpower has carried me far and will continue to do so. I believe it's impossible for a problem to exist without a solution. To solve the most challenging problems you have to get innovative.
What’s your kryptonite?
Sleep. If I didn’t need it, I could accomplish so much more.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big fan of chess and recently have been teaching my two sons to play. I am a big family guy, so spending time camping, boating, Netflixing, churching, and just hanging out with my wife, sons, and extended family is the best of my spare time. We love football, so I also coach my sons' football teams whenever I get a chance.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without?
I can’t live without my Chess Online app. It gives me a break to stop thinking about work for 10-15 minutes at a time, but still use my love for strategy and competition.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Darrell, believe and don’t give up.