December 9, 2021
Gopuff has assembled an award-winning team of leaders that includes experts in engineering and technology, supply, growth, marketing, business development, and finance. With experience working at leading organizations such as Airbnb, Amazon, Anheuser-Busch, Comcast, Target, Uber, and Walmart, our team of leaders bring decades of experience across industries.
Today, we’ll get to know one of our technology leaders: Justin Ho, the CEO and co-founder of rideOS. As we continue to invest in our team and technology, Gopuff acquired rideOS in 2021 to strengthen our delivery partner platform, enable bike deliveries, and to excel in complex, high-density cities.
Justin and his team are building an end-to-end delivery platform, leveraging automation to create greater efficiency in our delivery operations, while also enhancing the experience of delivery partners and customers. As an entrepreneur and true innovator, Justin not only co-founded rideOS, which raised $34M from investors like Sequoia, but he was also one of the creators of the self-driving car and mapping business units at Uber.
Mei Wan, our Engineering Manager of Simulation, recently interviewed Justin to learn more about his background and experience at Gopuff and what he envisions for the company’s future – read on for their discussion!
Mei: Thanks for chatting with me! Let’s kick things off with how you began your professional career. Where did you get started?
Justin: After graduating from college, I went to work for Goldman Sachs, primarily covering industrial and automotive companies. I quickly noticed that a company called Uber was revolutionizing transport, and I wanted to be a part of the disruption wave. While there, I learned so much from leaders that had invented technologies like the iPhone, Google Maps, humanoid robots, and Amazon Prime. Most importantly, though, I learned the importance of culture and having values centralized around doing good. During my time at Uber, I helped to start and lead the self-driving and mapping group, making several acquisitions along the way, and this is also where I met my rideOS co-founder Chris Blumenberg, who was one of the original iPhone engineers and famously built the first version of Apple Maps for Steve Jobs. It was always my dream to start my own venture as an Asian American CEO and this is where rideOS came in.
Mei: Fast forward a few years, you founded and are running your own successful business, rideOS. What made you interested in joining Gopuff?
Justin: First, Gopuff is a natural extension of the rideOS vision to build software that moves people and things efficiently throughout the world. With Gopuff, we saw the opportunity to accelerate that vision by integrating the optimization, routing, and simulation technologies we had built over the last 4 years with Gopuff’s great scale – all making daily life effortless for customers.
There’s also an incredible strength of leadership at Gopuff and a genuine care of people I believe is so important. The time that co-founders Rafael and Yakir, as well as Tim Collins, Sharad Sundaresan and Daniel Folkman spent with me and the vision we had for rideOS as a part of Gopuff was very appealing. We recognized Gopuff as a once-in-a-generation company that had found product-market fit and hit its hyper-growth phase. When a rocketship comes your way, oftentimes the best decision is to jump on board. Some four months in, we have no regrets.
Mei: What are you and the rideOS team working on now that you’ve joined Gopuff?
Justin: We’re building a set of advanced technologies to orchestrate the movement of eventually millions of items and tens of thousands of delivery partners throughout the world. These technologies will be used to provide customers with ultra-fast delivery times and help improve Gopuff’s overall efficiency. Most importantly though, I am excited about the prospect of building products that help to directly improve the experience of delivery partners by making their work more streamlined and efficient, making delivering easier and more. Through soliciting feedback, listening to their needs, and developing solutions together, we can really differentiate ourselves and make an impact.
Our work today is centered on delivery intelligence and the delivery partner experience. We are building products for scheduling and pay, automating dispatch, delivery partner staffing, and even improving delivery time estimates for our customers. These are complex technologies to build because each of these efforts involve modeling and digitizing the physical world, which is constantly changing. And when you layer on Gopuff’s vertical integration and hypergrowth, with 550+ locations, you get a really neat setup where you are constantly experimenting, launching, and inventing new technologies. Given this is an area of strategic importance, our work is never done and we will not stop innovating or investing in technology, which makes our team’s role really interesting and an exciting place to be.
Mei: I know you are growing the team to support this exciting work. What are the most important characteristics you look for when hiring new employees?
Justin: We are looking for experts in their field – the tech we are building for and at Gopuff’s scale requires a lot of specialized knowledge. We’re lucky to have assembled an impressive team over the years, including folks who played critical roles in helping invent the iPhone and developing technology that is used for self-driving vehicles on roads today, including autopilot features. We look forward to continuing to grow the team as we expand our work to serve even more people.
We also take bets on people when they exhibit the next-level drive and believe that domain expertise can be learned. We have former ballet dancers and teachers that are now software engineers. Most importantly, we believe in diversity and inclusion, and we are united in our values. A set of common values and building a culture around them is what creates a workplace where people can work for decades together. One of our values is to do good through serving our customers and people.
Mei: For those who might be just starting out in their careers, what advice do you have?
Justin: Carry a notebook and take as many notes as possible. When you’re at a great and fast-paced organization like this one, there’s so much to learn – and it’s important to always be a willing and eager learner. I think it’s also important for people just starting out in their careers to speak up. They often have a fresh perspective and fewer biases than those who are used to the status quo. Find the courage to speak up and share new ideas. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and be bold. The best way to grow and to learn is to fall flat on your face, and learn how to pick yourself up, over and over again.
In fact, in one example of this: at rideOS, we focused on the autonomous vehicle market and ride-hailing for the first few years of the business. Then, Jatin, one of our engineers, wrote a paper during his first few months describing why the delivery and logistics sector would be more attractive, and started to describe how we could build features like inventory capacity. That one idea put the company on the path to where we are today, positioning us well to pivot during the pandemic, generating lots of customer interest and culminating in our eventual acquisition.
Mei: Let’s take a step back and talk about your life outside of work. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Justin: Music is a big part of my life and is something that I have always enjoyed in my free time. In fact, growing up, I thought I would be a professional musician. I started playing the violin at 5 years old and later became a master violinist. My wife is also a musician and together we play at our church about once a quarter. Beyond playing the violin, I also enjoy going out to listen and dance to music with friends. I have a deep appreciation for electronic artists like Zhu and Gryffin – I see them as modern-day composers, able to connect melodies with deep beats in new and unique ways.
Mei: Could you tell us a bit more about your upbringing? Were there experiences from growing up or your early career that got you to where you are today?
Justin: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and mindset. Growing up, I started several businesses, always looking for creative ways to earn extra money: I bought and sold thousands of turtles in high school (in fact someone just told me that one of the turtles is still alive today at nearly 25-years-old!), sold overstocked clothing, and bought a section of USC tickets to resell while I was in college – then proceeded to lose most of that money. I learned so much from the failures – lessons that I carry with me today. I was also the first in my family line to convert to Christianity. The journey helped me to establish a north star and set of values in my life, which help to govern the way that I lead (e.g. servant leadership).
Mei: And finally, I have to ask, what’s your favorite or most frequently ordered item on Gopuff?
Justin: Melatonin. Whether I’m traveling for work or just home in San Francisco, having melatonin delivered in minutes late at night when I am having trouble sleeping is so valuable to me. I order a lot of La Croix and have been known to order some Cheetos and Ben & Jerry’s from time to time! I also love gifting Gopuff to friends to surprise them when they host BBQs and other parties.