Kolors co-founder, Anca Gardea, says: “Empathy is essential to building a loyal team.

Whether you are going by chicken bus in Nicaragua or Greyhound in the United States, intercity bus travel is rarely an attractive affair. Despite its essential nature of moving people on vacation, visiting family and doing business, this particular mode of transportation is often reduced to its most essential components – multiple seats, wheels, dynamics, etc. engine and driver – to make the most of profits for the least amount of effort.

In Latin America, advances in technology coupled with a growing middle class with more disposable income opened the bus industry to disruption. Kolors, a Mexico City-based startup that is offering overhead bus services and smart intercity mobility, may just have a first-mover advantage on that disruption.

Anca Gardea, co-founder, chief technology officer and head of product at Kolors, previously founded Busoline, one of the first bus aggregators in Mexico and Latin America. As with Kolors, Gardea founded Busolina with her husband, Rodrigo Martínez – Gardea was the tech-minded in the relationship, while Martínez handled the business aspects. A few months after the founding of Busolina, the company was acquired as a subsidiary by one of the largest intercity bus companies in Mexico. Gardea and Martínez continue to lead the digital unit for that company, where both have gained extensive experience in various aspects of modernizing the intercity bus industry.

Feeling stymied by the lethargic technology commonly found in larger organizations, the two decided to pivot in September 2019 and start Kolors.

“At Kolors, we have developed everything needed to run operations from route planning, pricing optimization, tools like revenue management, crew and customer support, etc,” Gardea told TechCrunch.

Everything except actually owning and operating the bus. Kolors is following a model the company has described as “if Uber and Southwest Airlines had a baby.” Essentially, the startup provides a layer of technology to small and medium-sized bus operators to help them run more smoothly. Kolors also provides each bus with a flight attendant, a Kolors employee who checks in on passengers, accepts cash payments when needed, and sells snacks and drinks – all to provide a near level of service. like luxury.

“I’ve worked for over 15 years in the tech industry and it’s not enough to be the smartest if you’re not a team player and a good person.” Kolors Co-Founder Anca Gardea

This business model, while still growing, has attracted the attention of major investors in the mobile sector. Kolors recently closed a $20 million Series A is led by UP.Partners with participation from Toyota Ventures, Maniv Mobility, K5 Global and Mazapil.

We sat down with Gardea to discuss how being an empathetic leader inspired her engineering team to work for six months without pay while Kolors started his business, why intercity bus travel in Latin America is ripe for disruption and how the company plans to expand next year.

Editor’s Note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

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