Joseph Kopser

Joseph Kopser, CEO and co-founder of Ridescout, an Austin-based startup, speaks at Burdine Hall on Monday afternoon. Ridescout has developed an app that allows users to see all transportation options near them, as well as their cost and times.

Photo Credit: Michelle Toussaint | Daily Texan Staff

The secret to a successful business is to build a good team of employees, according to Joseph Kopser, CEO and co-founder of RideScout, in an on-campus lecture Monday.

At the lecture, which was hosted by Communication Council, Kopser used his experience with RideScout — an app for consolidating and tracking alternative transportation services to help users travel quickly and conveniently — to discuss aspects of business ranging from tech and innovation to communication and teamwork.

Kopser said he believes there is no distinct definition of an entrepreneur, but there are three key things that helped him become successful.  

“You have to love what you do,” Kopser said. “You have to show humility … and your walk has to be as good as your talk.”

Kopser said he believes entrepreneurs should never pass on an opportunity for national attention, even if the media is capitalizing on an unusual aspect of business.

“We went into San Francisco wanting to talk about RideScout and its technology, but the only thing the media cared about was how I am a 40-something-year-old [who] can effectively work with a 20-something-year-old,” Kopser said. “That was the coolest thing to them, and it got us great publicity.”

Radio-television-film freshman Gabriella Grant, who attended the lecture, said many of her peers believe having a good product is all that matters to business.

“People think, if you know what people want, you can succeed,” Grant said. “But it’s so much more than that. It’s about every aspect of the game. Every piece has to fit together.”

Kopser said being able to communicate with his team in order to problem-solve is key.

“Easy problems don’t come to me because my team can fix them [when they occur],” Kosper said. “But, if it’s not easy, we have to put our heads together and discuss whatever it takes until the problem is solved.”

Rene Dailey, interpersonal communications associate professor, said communication skills are vital to the workplace.

“Interpersonal communication skills are always one of the top characteristics employers are looking for in their job candidates,” Dailey said in an email. “Interpersonal skills help us be more effective in accomplishing tasks, as well as in building rapport with co-workers.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

An Austin-based app, RideScout, hopes to utilize the numerous transportation services available to Austinites to improve their downtown commute. 

RideScout, which launched at last year’s South By Southwest festival, allows husers to view many new and existing transportation service options around Austin on one platform. Users can plan trips throughout the city, tying shared transportation services such as B-Cycle, Car2Go and CapMetro together for use in their trip.

Previously, trying to plan a trip using public, shared and commercial transportation services available in Austin has been difficult, City Councilman Chris Riley said at a press conference Tuesday.

“Now we actually have a solution from an Austin-based startup,” Riley said. “RideScout will allow you how to see how to make use of everything that’s out there.”

RideScout founder Joseph Kopser said he hopes the app will benefit Austin residents by providing them with an aggregated source for alternative transportation.

“If we can get out from behind our wheel all the time, you get time back,” Kopser said.

Elliot McFadden, founder of bike share service B-Cycle, said he thinks the service will help to relieve Austin of its traffic problems.

“When you interweave all of these services together you get … a whole alternative to driving your personal car,” McFadden said. “It means fewer cars on the road and a more humane and pedestrian friendly environment in our towns.”

Spanish literature graduate student Ignacio Carbajal said he often bikes and uses the bus to get around Austin, and could see the app being useful.

“I was in traffic for 45 minutes, inching,” Carbajal said. “If you could consolidate people, that’s always good.”

Kopser said he challenges skeptics to try the service.

“Like any other tool, it only works if you use it,” Kopser said. “For the readers and the viewers who think, ‘This will never apply to me,’ I actually challenge you. It will make your life easier when you do come to downtown Austin.”

RideScout creators Joseph Kopser, Kate Ronkainen and Ryan Black launched RideScout in the Apple App Store this February. The app offers transportation options, estimated arrival times and costs and allows user’s Facebook friends to offer rides. 

Photo Credit: Mikhaela Locklear | Daily Texan Staff

Using public transportation efficiently can be tedious, but UT military science professor Joseph Kopser’s new app RideScout makes it easier to navigate Austin by combining all the public transit options into a simple interface.

RideScout presents ride options organized by arrival time and estimated cost, as well as linking to Facebook to allow people to offer friends rides based on location, according to RideScout employee Kate Ronkainen.

“The future we see is giving someone the tool in their hand to be able to make decisions to hopefully leave their car at home or keep it parked,” Kopser, RideScout’s CEO, said.

According to Kopser, this will allow people to avoid the high costs of fuel and parking as well as lessening carbon dioxide in the air and clearing up roads.

“When I moved here to Austin and saw UT Austin’s campus and the ecosystem for entrepreneurs and all the talents of graduate students here … I realized if I was ever going to make this idea [into an app], Austin was the place,” Kopser said.

Kopser pitched the app idea at a South By Southwest pitch contest in 2012 and won second place. Kopser began working on the app in 2012 with Kate Ronkainen and Ryan Black, both of whom graduated from UT in spring 2012.

Black said RideScout did well in different competitions in the fall, which gave them more confidence and market validation.

RideScout has been funded by employees’ friends and family as well as angel investors — people who aren’t professional investors but are willing to financially support an idea — and is working on online marketing and co-marketing with the car-sharing service Car2Go, according to Black. 

The group hired a development team in August and launched RideScout in the Apple App Store in February 2013.

“It’s a huge testament of the strength of the student body at Texas,” Kopser said. “It’s a huge testament to the ecosystem of Austin in general in terms of their ability to get technology off the ground.”

Austin has the highest smartphone-adoption rate per capita in the country, and although the app can be used by anyone, the target market is “millennials” — tech-savvy 18 to 34-year-olds, Black said.

Kopser said RideScout is currently optimized for Austin, and it plans to expand to Washington, D.C. next. The company also plans to broaden its app’s platform to Android this summer.

“We’re pretty excited about not only what it’ll do for Austin, but it’ll be another great success story for the university itself,” Kopser said.

Captain Jose Perez talks on his cell phone in the campus ROTC office Monday morning. A class action lawsuit filed Monday alleges that tens of thousands of soldiers have been overcharged for overseas calls to home.

Photo Credit: Ty Hardin | Daily Texan Staff

Phone scams in foreign airports threaten to take advantage of UT ROTC graduates and other military personnel as they travel between the United States and their theatres of duty.

A class action lawsuit was filed on Monday against two companies that operate pay phones at the German Leipzig-Halle airport, attorney John Mattes said. The lawsuit aims to compensate the thousands of soldiers that were charged calling fees as high as $615 per minute, Mattes said.

The lawsuit alleges that Centris Information Services, LLC, of Longview, Texas and BBG Communications, Inc., a firm based in San Diego, Calif., profited by taking advantage of members of the armed forces when they called home, Mattes said.

According to court documents, BBG chose to impose extremely high fees on military personnel who were using one of their few opportunities to contact family and friends back home.

“BBG is making buckets of money and it’s been taken out of the back pockets of soldiers,” Mattes said.

The lawsuit has not deterred BBG from continuing to charge excessive fees, he said.

Associate professor and Army major Jose L. Reyes said soldiers need to be aware of scams targeting them in the U.S. and abroad.

“We try to, whenever time is allotted, explain some things [to soldiers],” Reyes said.

Reyes said ROTC faculty caution students against risky payday loans, predatory lending by local banks and car loans with interest rates as high as 30 percent, all of which sprout up around military communities.

Soldiers know that calling home can be expensive, but they often think that talking with their loved ones is worth the high cost, Joseph Kopser, lieutenant colonel and military science professor, said.

“Soldiers are just like any other citizen, trying to be smart with their money and avoid scams when they can,” Kopser said.

When traveling home, neither soldiers nor their family members know exactly when or where their unit will arrive, he said. For that reason, members of the armed forces try to take advantage of any opportunities to contact their family while in transit, he said.

Kopser said air transportation for military forces acts more like a bus system than a commercial flight.

“They just keep running the charter flights, it’s basically like waiting for a bus on the corner,” Kopser said. “They obviously try to plan [their schedule] out but when the plan breaks down, you just catch the next group.”

The military tries to keep travel schedules classified in order to protect troops, making travel plans even more uncertain, he said. A plane full of American soldiers would be a big target for our enemies.

“The schedule is kept secret for security reasons,” Kopser said. “We encourage them to not be specific [when communicating with their family] when they’re headed home.”

BBG Communications and Centris Information Services deceptively exploit that uncertainty and the soldiers’ desire to contact family, Mattes said.

Reyes and Kopser said they were not aware of the scam or the lawsuit, but they were confident that the military would protect its members.

“If any phone bank is suspected of being a scam in the U.S. or overseas, the chain of command tries to push that out as soon as possible,” Kopser said.

BBG Communications declined to comment on this story. Centris Information Services has disconnected their phone number and was unavailable for comment.

Printed on, February 7, 2012 as: Soldiers scammed by calling fees
 

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

According to the highest ranking alumnus in the U.S. army, four-star general Robert W. Cone, UT is changing the world through its research studies and by implementing that research in the field.

Cone visited UT this Saturday with his wife to return home to visit one of his alma maters. Cone landed in Austin at 1:30 p.m. and was escorted around campus by ROTC professor Lt. Col. Joseph Kopser. While on campus Cone visited with President Powers, the football team and head football coach Mack Brown.

“I personally believe that all the academic programs here are headed in the right direction. They will change the world,” Cone said. “All of the professors, faculty and students are top notch. Thank you for doing what you do.”

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said Gen. Cone has fulfilled UT’s motto because of the high rank he has achieved — Cone has been able to change the world. After Gen. Cone attended UT he taught at West Point from 1987 until 1990, Kopser said. Kopser also said Gen. Cone’s former teacher, Johnny Butler, is now a professor at McCombs School of Business, and in charge of the IC2 institute. Butler was a professor of sociology when Cone attended UT.

According to a list recently published by GI Jobs magazine, UT is ranked as military friendly. Cone agreed with this statement.

“I graduated from West Point in 1979, then from UT with a master’s degree in sociology in 1987 studying under Butler. When I was here then it was military friendly and it still is,” Gen. Cone said.

Architecture freshman Esther Kuo said Kopser and Cone were correct in their analysis of UT’s military friendliness.

“I think UT has a great deal of military acceptance. I mean, you never see any of the cadets being disrespectful or being disrespected. It is a harmonious campus,” Kuo said.

Gen. Cone said UT’s current programs are exceeding his expectations.

“There is a lot of great technology, energy saving products and technology, research — I just got a briefing from Kopser about the research — that is going on here,” Gen. Cone said. “There is robots networking, a lot of things that are especially important to what we in the military do. Great things are really going on here.”

Cone said he was impressed with Butler’s work with entrepreneurship at UT. Butler is the Herb Kelleher Chair in entrepreneurship for the Red McCombs School of Business. Butler focuses on research in the areas of organizational behavior and entrepreneurship. Cone said he was impressed that 24 years after his time at UT, the University still maintains a highly-effective academic, military friendly setting.

“I hope to continue to see the great things out of this school that I have already seen,” Cone said.