This Former Deputy Mayor Wants to Make Your City Smarter
October 23, 2018 | Abree Murch
It’s safe to say that Wharton MBA alum Griffin Schultz has taken a unique career path in becoming the CEO of Rapid Flow Technologies, an AI solution for cities to optimize complex traffic flow problems in real time. Prior to Penn, Griffin was heavily involved in US politics and government. He worked as a staffer for a US Congresswoman, as Pennsylvania Finance Director on a 1996 presidential campaign, and as the Assistant Deputy Mayor for the City of Philadelphia. He’s also a three-time CEO/GM in the software, internet, and AI/machine learning industries.
So what led this former public servant to concentrate his efforts on fixing traffic problems and easing congestion at peak commuting times? Chestnut Street Ventures sat down with Griffin to learn a little bit more about Rapid Flow and the lessons he’s learned on his entrepreneurial journey.
So how exactly is Rapid Flow Technologies changing the status quo?
Most traffic signal products have not changed much since the 1980s, so we’re bringing cutting-edge AI theory to traffic management. Our Surtrac traffic signals are able to respond to traffic conditions in real time, on a second-by-second basis. The technology is scalable to help cities cope with a much more multi-modal future (e.g., pedestrians, scooters, connected and autonomous vehicles, etc.).
What’s one of the achievements that you’re most proud of?
We’ve been able to reduce the causes of traffic congestion by 20-40%, while at the same time reducing pollution and safety incidents.
Earlier in your career, you spent quite a bit of time in the political world. What sparked your entrepreneurial drive?
After working in politics and government through the 1990s, I exited the Wharton MBA program in 2000 at the height of the internet wave and was blown away by the opportunities that technology could bring to society. I was hooked on technology-focused entrepreneurial opportunities from that point on.
What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on your entrepreneurial journey?
1) Everything — and I mean everything — is about people! All of my success has come from collaboration — with team members, customers, partners, investors, my family, etc.
2) Surround yourself with smart people. Strive to not be the smartest person in the room. Not only do you increase your odds of success, but you will always be learning and growing.
3) Speaking of which, always be learning and growing. It’s not just OK to challenge yourself and even fail; it’s critical to your long-term success. Just do it smartly, learn from it, move on, and don’t make the same mistakes again.
Which resources or sources of inspiration help keep you motivated?
1) I am nothing without the limitless support and inspiration from my wife.
2) I have a group of three other entrepreneurial CEOs that I have been meeting with once a month for several years. They are a great resource to vent to, for idea generation and benchmarking, a sounding board, and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on.
3) I devour audio books, but mainly podcasts, any chance I get — in the shower, while making breakfast, on my commute, exercising, walking the dog…whenever. There is so much great information out there, and it is so easy to find. And I don’t only listen to business/entrepreneurial-focused content. In fact, much of it is just for fun or general enrichment.