January 19, 2017: The Yale startup Rally was conceived around a political event that defined a cultural moment in 2010—the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear cohosted by Comedy Central stars John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. That gathering drew hundreds of thousands to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and it served as a litmus test for Numaan Akram and Siheun Song (Yale Divinity ’15) who transported 5,000 riders to the event by bus, proving their business concept had merit. Now the startup has found itself at the center of an even larger political movement—the Women’s March on Washington—organized to stand in solidarity for human rights at the onset of the Trump Administration.
Some 50,000 riders have bought tickets to travel to the January 21 event in D.C. on over 1,000 buses from Rally, coming from 25 states and 200 cities. They are also sending additional buses in 12 states hosting satellite Women’s March rallies, including California, Massachusetts, Arizona and Texas. “It’s in our DNA,” says Akram about organizing buses for political rallies. “We were built for this.”
After the company posted on Facebook that they had buses ready to transport like-minded riders to D.C. for the Women’s March, “thousands of people signed up in the first few hours,” Akram says. “As the event got bigger, the registrations came in faster. We had to hire additional staff and have released multiple versions of our app.”
Rally provides transportation for people traveling to concerts, sporting events, festivals and political rallies to extend the experience during a shared ride. Their platform allows riders to book a ride to an event of their choosing and recruit other riders via social media and the Rally app. The more riders who join, the lower the ticket prices, and fans and fellow protesters can enjoy the experience of traveling as a group. “This is about building community,” Akram says.
Akram and Song first developed their startup during a 2014 YEI Fellowship—an 8-week bootcamp run by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute that includes $15,000, mentorship, education and pitching opportunities to entrepreneurial Yalies. They later won the first Harvard-Yale Pitchoff, received $100,000 from the YEI Innovation Fund, and went on to raise an additional round of over $2M. More recently, Rally was selected for the 2016 Techstars Mobility accelerator in Detroit and the startup has seen major growth in their shared bus travel to football games and NCAA basketball games in recent months. They are in the process of securing exclusive partnerships with leading sports conglomerates, festivals and corporations.
For now, however, Rally is focused on getting people to the Women’s March on January 21, to continue their role in helping people come together in solidarity. “Rally mobilizes communities,” Akram says.
CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, (203)804-1911, firstname.lastname@example.org.