George T. Whitesides: The Innovation Interview

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of space travel.

With Scaled Composites, the company has developed the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles, based on the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. In his role, George is responsible for guiding all aspects of the company to commercial operation at Spaceport America in New Mexico. This includes oversight of The Spaceship Company, a sister company, to manufacture a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo space vehicles.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA, where he provided policy and staff support to the agency’s Administrator. Upon departure from NASA, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

Prior to his role at NASA, George served as Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS), a space policy and advocacy group that was founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and the journalist Hugh Downs.

George began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation as Executive Intern, and later, Special Assistant to the President. He served as Vice President of Marketing for Zero Gravity Corporation, a private space-tourism company, during its launch period, and Director of Marketing for Blastoff Corporation, a space experience company funded by film and technology leaders.

Currently, George serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the philanthropic organization of Virgin Group. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security; an advisory board member of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation; a fellow of the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society; and an associate fellow of AIAA. He previously chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He served for four years on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University.

With his wife Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, George co-founded Yuri’s Night, an annual global celebration of space that has been celebrated in more than 50 countries. He also cofounded Permission to Dream, a global space education program that donates telescopes to underprivileged children.

George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Space News selected him as one of 12 “People to Watch” in the space industry.

An honors graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, George earned his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs. He later earned a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge in England, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation at it’s heart is doing things new, differently and better. Innovation is something that we think a lot about at Virgin Galactic. Almost everything that we do is in some way new.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Every industry needs to embrace innovation. What we are trying to do in aerospace is to embrace innovation but keep it smart by not necessarily taking more substantial risks. At Virgin Galactic we are doing things in ways that are different than before which is a slightly different thing.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

The best piece of advice that I have received is to go into conversations assuming that individuals are basically acting in good faith. Sometimes they are not acting in good faith, but by starting from that assumption rather than the opposite is the best approach. If more individuals took this approach, organizations would run better and individuals would have better relationships.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

At Virgin Galactic we are making great achievements every day. Our two biggest achievements have been getting to rocket powered flight which we are now testing as well as reaching out to future astronauts and creating a fantastic community of individuals who want to fly with us. We are really proud of the community of individuals because they are truly remarkable.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

I read both, however, I do not read a lot of physical books these days due to the limited amount of time that I have available. With regards to newspapers, I mostly read them online and occasionally I will read a physical newspaper.

With the discontinuation of the NASA Shuttle Program in 2011, how do we inspire a new generation of children who will not grow up with Shuttle launches about Space?

There are a tremendous amount of exciting things going on in space right now and there is no shortage of exciting things to inspire children.

In the commercial sector companies such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Orbital, Blue Origin and Bigelow Aerospace are doing a tremendous amount of innovation. I would argue that there is a much greater level of innovation happening now than has occurred in the recent past in the space industry.

Then there are all these fantastic robotic missions that are currently underway. Whether we are exploring Mars or detecting exoplanets around other star systems. There are an incredible amount of exciting things currently happening in space.

One of the greatest advantages NASA had with the Space Shuttle Program was the exposure inside classrooms. Do you think the commercial space sector will eventually make its way into the classroom much the way the Space Shuttle Program did?

I do. At Virgin Galactic we have a new educational initiative called Galactic Unite which seeks to do just that. What excites children is not just programs that go into schools, but actually doing real hands-on things that affect the whole culture.

Millions of children got excited about the Apollo program since the country was doing a really big thing – a big new thing. If we are focused on big, real problems, whether it is in space or not, children will become excited.

I am not diminishing the educational component, but the most important thing is for adults to be tackling really tough, big problems – exciting problems. This is something that I think would get children inspired.

What are the greatest lessons that you learned from NASA and how are you currently applying them to Virgin Galactic?

There are a lot of lessons that I learned at NASA, but I suppose that one of the key lessons was that you need to let the organization work. You cannot micromanage an organization like NASA where there are roughly 18,000 direct employees.

My sense is that you need to let the organization work and work with the organization to achieve great results. Then you have to get individuals in a good place by realizing that they are working in a special place. NASA is a special place and Virgin Galactic is also a very special place. When individuals understand they are in a special place they will go out and do great things.

SpaceShipTwo is a remarkable feat of engineering with it’s aerodynamic design and ability for a simplified re-entry. How many prototypes did Virgin Galactic develop before it finally got the design, safety and functionality to work in perfect harmony and what new technologies did you have to invent to achieve this goal?

The company that we are working with to build ShapeShipTwo is a company called Scaled Composites, which is a fantastic, innovative organization that has built literally hundreds of aircraft over the last 35 years.

The specific prototype that preceded SpaceShipTwo was something called SpaceShipOne which successfully flew individuals into space on sub-orbital journeys and on missions. We are building on the foundation of the hundreds of aircrafts that Scaled Composites has designed over the years. This foundation allowed us to design and set into action both SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo.

The key technologies that we developed are a feathered re-entry system which was probably the biggest single innovation as well a very simple hybrid propulsion system. There is also a whole of range of innovations in the vehicle such as control systems.

What is the future of space exploration?

In my opinion, it will entail a lot of very exciting robotic missions because we can send robots to places where humans can’t go right now. For example, we are thinking about a mission to Europa. The surface of Europa would be a very challenging place due to the radiation for humans, but it is a place where you could send a robot.

I hope that we will send humans to Mars in my lifetime as this is definitely doable. As the future of space evolves, we could see the creation of private space habitats in orbit in which Virgin Galactic will be able to eventually take thousands and someday potentially millions of individuals into space which will fundamentally change humanity’s relationship with space.

Space exploration will change in a large and fundamental way. The future is very exciting.

With Sir Richard Branson’s dedication to exploration and new ventures, will we soon see Virgin Galactic suborbital flights from the United States to Asia?

We are really excited about the possibility of suborbital flights. This is a few years down the road because this would require a different type of vehicle. However, this is something that we are laying the foundation for with SpaceShipTwo. Many of the technologies we would use in a point to point vehicle are innovations that we are currently demonstrating on SpaceShipTwo.

Suborbital flights will not happen next year, but it is something that we are thinking a lot about. It is my hope that over time the world will come to understand space travel in a similar way to the world understands aviation today. Suborbital flights will be an exciting project for us all to work on in the near future.

L. Bruce Jones: The Innovation Interview

L. Bruce Jones, Chairman & CEO of Triton Submarines shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology, exploration and submarines.

Bruce grew up living on heavy marine construction platforms in the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf. He learned to dive at the age of nine under the jacket of an oil tanker terminal seven miles off of Kuwait. His first jobs were in the marine construction business and usually involved diving or operating a boat. He had the opportunity to travel extensively from a very young age and has visited over 110 countries. Bruce attended high school at Culver Military Academy and it was there that he began sketching submarines and underwater habitats and writing letters to Jacques Cousteau.

Bruce was formerly the President of L. Bruce Jones & Associates, Ltd., the leading technical and business development consulting firm on the tourist submersible industry. The firm published both Passenger Submarines: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Submarine Tour Industry, as well as the periodic newsletter Viewports. The company also developed business plans on a consulting basis for a wide array of marine and undersea leisure related businesses. In 1993 Bruce co-founded U.S. Submarines, Inc. and today U.S. Submarines is the undisputed world leader in its field.

Bruce is an expert in all aspects of manned submersibles and tourist submarines. Over the past 22 years he has consulted for most of the companies active, or interested in, this field and he has evaluated all the major civil submersible and submarine designs and has been responsible for tourist submarine related business development, capital acquisition, and operational start-ups. He has conceived and co-designed several personal luxury submarines as well. He has carried out extensive site feasibility surveys in the Caribbean, Pacific, Atlantic and the Med. For eight years Bruce was the Chairman of the Manned Submersibles Committee of the Marine Technology Society, and he is a review panel member of the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers — U.S. Coast Guard Submersible Safety Panel. He is an appointed member to The American Bureau of Shipping’s Special Committee on Underwater Systems & Vehicles.

Bruce holds a degree in Geological Science from Trinity University and he did further graduate work in that field at the University of Washington. He attended the Executive MBA program at St. Mary’s University. He was at one time one of the world’s leading research gemologists and he holds substantial credentials in that field (G.G., F.G.A., DGemG) and he continues gem research and precision gem cutting as avocations. He was formerly the President of Pacific Gemological Services, the Vice President of Research and Education at AGMS and the CEO of Air Shuttle, Inc.

He was recently a member of the Board of Directors of the Aviation Technology Group. Bruce is a fixed wing, helicopter and ultralight pilot. He is also an experienced diver and submersible pilot and a former U.S. National Skydiving champion.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Strictly speaking I would define it as the process of creating something new. However, it is more useful for me to look at it within the context of what we do. For us, innovation is the adaptation and assembly of existing technology into something new and task-effective. When we build a deep submersible or an undersea resort we take equipment and technology proven effective in subsea applications and adapt them to something new, and hopefully something greater, in a synergistic sense, than just the sum of the components.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The Finance/Investment Industry. Last year, Wall Street invested about $200 billion in capital formation – that’s money that went to new business, new technology and modern plant and equipment development. That sounds like a reasonable number until you realize that Wall Street traded $40 trillion worth of stock, fully 200 times more. So, speculation, which primarily serves only the traders, represents 99.5% of equity market activity with capital formation amounting to only 0.5%. Long term investment creates value, short-term profit taking destroys it. Unless the financial markets reverse the trend and start to re-invest in innovation, America’s long-term future is bleak indeed.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

My parents inculcated in me a sense that all things are possible if you embrace life and opportunity and work at what you love. The will to do new things, learn new things, step outside your comfort zone and grasp new experiences is so important when it comes to personal satisfaction, because only in so doing will you encounter what you love and have the confidence and ability to pursue it.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

I suppose that if I am remembered for anything it will be the development of luxury submarines, deep diving submersibles and undersea resorts and residences and I am having a great time doing those things and I take great satisfaction in my work. But I love my many avocations as well. If there is a corollary between achievement and satisfaction, and I believe there is, then it is worth pondering those quiet moments of extreme satisfaction and well-being and analyzing the source. I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed an amazing 26 year love affair with my wife Liz, and though it sounds hopelessly corny, my deepest sense of satisfaction comes from my relationship with her, and so logically, finding, developing and nurturing that immensely satisfying and successful relationship is my greatest achievement.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Both. I’m a voracious reader and I own virtually every non-fiction book I’ve read in the last 20 years, and my favorite works of fiction as well, and they sit on the shelves in my library and they feel like old friends. Holding a book in my hands is still my preferred way to read. Having said that, I spend a great deal of time on-line; looking up something from the computer, iPhone or iPad is a constant habit and I am quite happy to download a book and read it electronically. But if it’s a good book I buy a copy and put it on the shelf. My wife and I are also pilots now planning a trip around the world in a small airplane. The iPad with all its aviation apps is an essential part of our flight bag. Quickly being able to access an aeronautical chart or approach plate is great for situational awareness and overall safety.

How has your extensive background in marine construction impacted your day-to-day management of Triton Submarines and ensuring that the organization is on the cutting edge of technology and innovation?

Growing up I lived on offshore jack-up rigs in the South China Sea and Persian Gulf. I spent almost all my time in the company of adults and for some reason I developed a keen sense of observation that lead to good judgement when it comes to people. That talent has helped me more than any one factor because an organization is nothing more than the sum of its people’s talents. I often have to force the development of something new against a wave of skepticism, but we seem to always come through successfully. I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of people.

How has the primary use of Triton Submarines changed since the company was established in 2007? Have there been any alternative uses for the submarines that have surprised you?

Triton is an offshoot of a sub company I founded in 1993 and we learned a lot in the early years of running that firm. I run Triton in conjunction with my best friend and business partner and I think both of us have been surprised at how the yachting industry is embracing the idea of having our subs on board these large yachts. For years the large yacht builders sort of looked at us like we were a bit crazy; now those same people are seeking us out and asking for advice and help. The subs are also used for marine science research, treasure hunting, deep sea tourism, charters, etc., but none of those applications is surprising. Last year we did the first ever deep submersible dives in Antarctica and in Japan one of our Triton’s was used to view and film the giant squid underwater for the first time in human history, so we were a bit surprised by that.

What new technologies did Triton Submarines develop with Rayotek Scientific in order to make the Triton 36000/3 a reality and how will these new technologies impact deep sea exploration?

Rayotek is run by a brilliant innovator who had the answer to a question he had never been asked, “How do you build a large high pressure glass sphere that will withstand the 16,000 psi pressure at the deepest spot in the ocean at 35,800 feet?” We knew that glass spheres had been successfully used to send equipment packages into the deepest ocean for 40 years but no one could build a high pressure sphere over 20 inches in diameter and get it to work. Rayotek has a proprietary technique that allows for the construction of large spheres – there is 170,000 tons of pressure on the passenger compartment of the Triton 36,000/3. The sphere will allow us to send three people into the deepest trenches in a sub that is totally reliable, has a 360 degree view from its transparent hull and is able to make repeated trips in a commercially viable way. The other big issue is that there can be no metallic-glass interface because they expand and contract under pressure at different rates. Conventional deep submersibles have metal access hatches and metallic through-hull penetrator plates to pass electrical cables, air and oxygen from the inside of the sub to the outside. We don’t. Solving the problem of access, life support, power, thruster and ballast control without any penetrations in the glass hull took a lot of innovation.

What trends are you currently noticing with respect to luxury yacht builders and their owner’s desire to incorporate yacht-based submersibles into their yachts? As Triton Submarines embraces these trends, will you create custom submarines that will blend seamlessly into each unique yacht design?

Luxury yacht builders are really only interested in our luxury deep submersibles because their clients are asking about them. We have an on-going initiative to educate the market about integrating subs onto yachts and the relative ease with which that can be done. Sub acquisition, crew training, maintenance and operations are unique, but not overly complex, issues. We have recently doubled our model line-up to 10 different subs which should meet anyone’s mission requirements.

Today Space Exploration is all the rage with innovators such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson. At this time, only Sir Richard Branson has shown an interest in deep sea exploration. When do you think that more innovators will turn their attention to the many benefits of the ocean and deep sea exploration?

I really don’t have an answer to that question. My partner and I puzzle over the significant efforts toward getting into space when 95% of the ocean depths are still unexplored. On almost any submersible dive you are seeing parts of the ocean that no human eye has seen before. If you dive into the abyssal ocean, chances are you will encounter new species on every dive. And then there are tens of thousands of seamounts and deep sea vents with totally unique eco-systems just waiting to be explored. However, we have recently come to an agreement with a wealthy innovator to fund the build of our first full ocean depth Triton 36,000/3 and we expect that the sub, and that commitment, will change mankind’s relationship with the deep ocean.

Wade Eyerly: The Innovation Interview

Wade Eyerly, Co-Founder & CEO of Surf Air, responsible for developing the overall strategy and vision for Surf Air shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of flying.

Prior to founding Surf Air, Eyerly worked in national defense, filling various roles for an intelligence agency. He served as a Senior Business Consultant leading Lean Six Sigma process improvement activities for the National Security Agency, and spent four years as an intelligence officer with the Department of Defense. Before leaving politics to work for the government, Eyerly worked on two Presidential campaigns, including time as a Press Advance Representative for Vice President Dick Cheney. Additionally, Eyerly served in Iraq from 2009-2010 where he built quantitative models that were used to predict conflict and help keep soldiers safe. He received the Secretary of Defense’s medal for the Global War on Terror, and the Civilian Joint Service Commendation for his work there.

In 2011, Eyerly and his brother, David, created a new business model for private air travel, a members-only service that provided travel between top United States cities. Surf Air was created to build a business service that would introduce the premiere experience of private flying to passengers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

Eyerly earned a B.A. in International Economic Policy and Cross-Cultural Relations from Central Missouri State University and a Masters in Public Policy and International Development Management from Brigham Young University – where he also earned a Global Management Certificate. In 2005, Eyerly received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award from Central Missouri State.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is taking what exists and making it better. We’ve been handed a world where flying on major airlines means being routed out of your way, stopping places not on your desired itinerary, cramped seats, long waits, and invasive security. If the industry was launching today – and you’d never seen a commercial flight before – you’d hate it. But, we’ve been conditioned to accept it for so long now, that we don’t dare ask for more.

Innovation means finding a way to deliver more.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Broadcast journalism, aviation, and publishing all make my list.

How about separating broadcast from journalism? Let one expert find the information and another deliver it. Why does one person necessarily need to be good at both skills? Specialization was all the rage in the industrial revolution – but there are still ways to apply it.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

Do it. Most people spend their days dreaming about what they would do if…or what they will do when… Successful people just do it.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

I got Kelli Skinner to marry me. I’m not kidding. She told me “No” the first four times I asked her out.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Physical. When I read I scribble notes all over the place. I like to jot down the ideas I have, the things that the book I am reading made me think, the thoughts that are triggered. Then I have to convert those into a document with citations, so that I can use them. I keep waiting for e-book readers to export your notes with citations in a usable format, but so far no one does it.

How has your experience working in the Government and on two Presidential campaigns influenced your management style?

I’ve been blessed to work on really fantastic teams. The value of a good team is tough to quantify, but it’s real. I spend a lot of time at Surf Air trying to make sure that we have a group of folks that love working together, whose skills and abilities complement one another.

What were the early days like when you and your brother David would sneak out to the car at family gatherings to brainstorm ideas for a new venture?

It was exciting, but easy. It’s always easiest to dream about a “someday” idea. It gets hard when you begin to put that plan into action. There are times when I remember how easy it was to say, “I’m going to do this…or that,” and I think – “man, I wish I could get back to that.” But, this is the part that pays dividends. Nobody pays you for having a good idea. They only pay you for making it real – for doing the hard work.

Were you influenced by the Netflix subscription model for Surf Air? Or was there another inspiration behind the All You Can Fly Private Air-Travel Membership?

Netflix is a great model. We really like the idea of applying models proven to work in technology to non-tech industries. JetBlue tried an all-you-can-fly pass once or twice, as well.

Are there plans to partner with a car rental/service company such as Silver Car to allow members access to vehicles at their destinations?

Yes. We are working with partners now. We’ve even considered bundling it into the subscription so that your complete experience would be smooth, end-to-end.

Forbes recently called Surf Air the “future of flying” and we agree. With such a high compliment from a well-respected publication, how are you going to ensure that your team stays hungry, humble and focused on building a world class airline?

Just keep working hard. The interesting thing is that you work as hard as you can, and think –“ if I can only get through this next hurdle things will let up” – but they don’t. They get harder, and it keeps driving us.

Trevor Franklin: The Innovation Interview

Trevor Franklin, President & CEO of MTC Limousine & Corporate Coach, Inc. shares his thoughts and insights on how technology and innovation are impacting the transportation business.

Since the founding of MTC in 1985, Trevor Franklin has provided leadership and motivation to an organization of increasing size and complexity. With his partner, Jim Rubin, Trevor took a start-up with one car to a company to a multi-location operation with more than 150 vehicles.

Demanding the highest levels of quality and customer service, Trevor has set high standards for each of MTC’s staff of more than 250. These standards have resulted in substantial growth and the maintenance of long-term client relationships with many of the largest corporate clients in the New York Metropolitan area market and the development of an extensive international affiliate network.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Defining “innovation”, especially in the executive chauffeured services business can be a challenge. Ask ten ground transportation providers to define innovation and I am pretty sure that you will end up with ten different answers.

Many would define innovation as a process or method that creates and delivers value in the form of a new solution. All well and good, but where does the innovation, never mind the solution, come from? People.

So for me, innovation is much less about the process and more about connecting the right people together to create new market value. People drive the process, whether it is applied to client services, employee relations or our financial performance.

If you can’t put a great team together with great ideas, you are never going to be able to develop the process, much less the solution, which, when all is said and done, is what allows us to adapt, disrupt ourselves, and continue to succeed in a very competitive marketplace.

The innovation process is what drives new service offerings, new ways to reduce costs, new ways to increase revenues – the emphasis is on “new”. and perhaps even on our ability to recreate ourselves to meet market demands.

As far as what it means to me, the phrase “innovate or die” sums it up best. In any business, especially a service business like ours, we simply can’t cling to old strategies and hope for the best. To be competitive and profitable, we have to constantly recreate ourselves to meet market demands that are constantly changing.

In other words, we have to be innovative in how we think, how we do what we do, how we take care of our customers and, of course, how we squeeze every dollar to improve our margins.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The short answer is “every industry”. Technology companies are probably the most visible of the innovators, but at the same time, the most visible of companies that fail to innovate and lose market share and/or go out of business.

From my point of view, because I run the company I do, it is clear to me that service companies in any industry must be innovative to survive. If we don’t innovate, we are not delivering increasing value to our clients. If we don’t constantly improve on our value proposition, we lose our competitive advantage; worse, we will get left behind.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

I was a professional soccer player so I received a lot of advice from a lot of great people, particularly some very good coaches. It all came down to the same thing: teamwork. I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “none of us is as good as all of us” was delivered and received.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

I don’t like to look backward, so I will tell you that I don’t know – yet. “Achievement” is not a destination, just part of the journey to whatever your end game is. Accomplishments happen in my life fairly frequently – otherwise, I wouldn’t be very productive or motivated to set goals, much less get out of bed in the morning.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?


You were a professional football (soccer) player before you founded MTC Limousine. What lessons did you learn on the football field that have had the greatest and most lasting impact on how you conduct business at MTC Limousine?

Easy question – goes back to the best advice I have ever received: teamwork. At MTC Limousine, we are a true team and have worked hard to eliminate the silo’s that inhibit creativity and innovation. I’m simply the team captain.

Since MTC Limousine was founded in 1985 you have witnessed several changes and emerging trends in technology. How has the latest mobile trend impacted your business model and what are you doing to prepare for future technological innovations?

The “mobile trend”, from our customers’ perspective, has not yet had tremendous impact, but it is certainly just over the horizon. As people get more and more used to using mobile devices to plan other aspects of their business travel, the more impact mobile apps will have on both MTC and the industry in general.

Mobile apps have, however, had tremendous impact on how the company operates. Today, a dispatcher and chauffeur may not speak to each other all day – all of the information that a chauffeur needs to make a pick-up at the right place and at the right time is transmitted directly to their smartphones, along with directions and passenger preferences. When they finish the job, the information flows back to our back office for billing.

Technological innovation is what has made MTC the company it is today. We embraced, and continue to embrace, emerging technologies to help us work smarter and deliver a better service to our customers.

The company has invested millions in technology in every aspect of our business, from the electronic transmission of jobs to chauffeurs, streamlined and paperless transactions, to faster processing time of client purchases and providing our corporate buyers the information they need to make informed decisions on their spending.

You have put an aggressive sustainability plan in place to reduce vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2016. Impressive. What technologies are you utilizing to meet this goal?

First of all, we can manage what we can’t measure, so we have helped build one of the most sophisticated emission reporting systems in existence. We can tell a client what their “carbon footprint” is down to every mile they have traveled with us.

I mentioned that we have streamlined accounting and dispatching so that we are almost 100% paperless in the office and in the services we deliver.

GPS has been a tremendous help in ensuring that our idle time is at the lowest level practical and that the routes our chauffeurs are taking are the most efficient – both in terms of time and miles.

The most important “technology”, is of course, the vehicles we use. Close to 75% of our fleet will be hybrid vehicles within the next few months. Our goal is 100% by the end of 2013. Those vehicles that aren’t yet hybrid (motor coaches and vans) are the most fuel efficient possible – for example, our Sprinter vans average 28 mpgs. With 10 people in the van, it is a very, very fuel efficient option for our customers.

Our technology include Ride-Sharing and Shuttle programs that allow our corporate and meeting planning customers the ability to group passengers so that the number of vehicles and trips required to move their employees is reduced substantially.

One of the greatest drivers of better mileage and a corresponding reduction in emissions is driver behavior. MTC has an online eco-driver training program that has resulted in a 25% reduction in emissions simply by changing driver behavior.

And of course, all of our marketing and sales materials are electronic and/or printed on recycled paper.

What impact, if any, is Uber having on your business?

Uber is certainly poised to be extremely disruptive to our industry as we know it today. Uber has not, fortunately, had any real impact on our business because the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission will not allow them to operate in New York City.

However, the Uber business model: connecting passengers with cars through an app, is the “disrupter” not Uber itself. Uber has taken what might be described as “anti-fleet” position and everyone in the industry wonders why a passenger would get into a car that they know nothing about. Does the vehicle have insurance, does the driver actually have a license? The questions are many.

However, mobile apps for customers will, most certainly, have an impact on our business. Again, because we are committed to new technologies, we will be launching our own app in the first quarter of 2013.

Built by the same company that has pushed the Uber-competitive TaxiMagic product into the marketplace, the MTC application will provide customers with the same convenience but, most importantly, combines that convenience with safety and reliability of MTC Limousine.

When we met in December 2011 it was abundantly clear that you have a deep sense of pride in MTC’s customer service and this is very clearly illustrated in the way that you conduct business. How do you ensure that all of your drivers and affiliates demonstrate the same level of customer service?

If you read of our responses to “Requests for Proposals” our answer to this question is some 20 pages long, and much too technical to go into here. What I will say is that MTC leverages our technology, industry knowledge and strong management team to manage the quality control processes and procedures that we have in place to ensure that we are always exceeding expectations.

Our international network of affiliates has been in place for at least 15 years, and it is not easy to pass our vetting process.

Whether we are sending our passengers to Athens, Georgia or Athens, Greece we know that our partners meet all of our requirements, including safety and sustainability.

The bottom-line is that we are only as good as “the last ride” and we MUST deliver quality and a value proposition that is replicated over and over and over again. To do this, we have the best team in the business managing the best suppliers in each market.