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

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If you are driving a chicken bus in Nicaragua or a greyhound in the United States, intercity bus travel is rarely glamorous. While essential for transporting people on vacation, family visits, and work, this particular mode of transport is often reduced to its most important components β€” the multitude of seats, wheels, engine, and driver β€” in order to maximize passenger numbers. profit with minimal effort.

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In Latin America, advances in technology, combined with a growing middle class with large disposable incomes, have opened up the bus industry to destruction. Kolors, a Mexico City startup that provides elevated bus service and intelligent intercity mobility, may just have a first-mover advantage in this disruption.

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Anka Gardea, co-founder, CTO and product manager at Kolors, previously founded Busolinea, one of the first bus aggregators in Mexico and Latin America. As with Kolors, Gardea co-founded Busolinea with her husband Rodrigo Martinez. Gardea handles the technology side of the relationship while Martinez handles the business side. A few months after the founding of Busolinea, the company was bought as a subsidiary by one of the largest intercity bus operators in Mexico. Gardea and Martinez led the digital division of this company, where they gained extensive experience in various aspects of the modernization of the intercity bus industry.

Feeling stymied by the sluggish technology so common in large organizations, in September 2019 they decided to change direction and launch Kolors.

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β€œAt Kolors, we have developed everything you need to run operations, from route planning, pricing optimization, tools like revenue management, crew and customer support, and more,” Gardea told TechCrunch.

Everything except the actual ownership and operation of the buses themselves. Kolors is following a model the company described as “if Uber and Southwest Airlines had a baby.” The startup is essentially providing a technology layer to small and medium-sized bus operators to help them run more smoothly. Kolors also provides each bus with a chaperone, a Kolors employee who checks in passengers, accepts cash when needed, and sells snacks and drinks, all to provide an almost luxurious level of service.

“I’ve been in the tech industry for over 15 years and it’s not enough to be the smartest person at the table if you’re not a team player and a good person.” Kolors co-founder Anka Gardea

This business model, while still evolving, has attracted the attention of major mobility investors. Kolors recently closed $20 million Series A headed UP.Partners with the participation of Toyota Ventures, Maniv Mobility, K5 Global and Mazapil.

We sat down with Gardea to discuss how an empathetic leader inspired her team of engineers to work for six months without pay while Kolors was just launching, why intercity bus service in Latin America is ripe for disruption, and how the company plans to expand in the coming year.

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


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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