After introducing you to some of our customer support representatives, we’re switching things up to bring you Richard Obousy, CitizenShipper’s founder and CEO!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in England and became fascinated by space and physics in my young teens. I studied Physics with Space Technology at Leicester University, then worked for a few years for the British Government researching radar physics. The work was fascinating, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t feel it was my true calling. After taking a long vacation from work around 2001 and backpacking through Thailand for a month, I realized that I wanted to focus on theoretical physics.
In 2002, I moved to Texas and enrolled in a PhD program at Baylor University, studying something called the Casimir Effect and compact higher dimensions of space. I graduated in 2008, and have been largely working on CitizenShipper since then.
I also co-founded a non-profit in 2011 called Icarus Interstellar, focused on accomplishing interstellar travel by the year 2100. I spent a lot of time working on this between 2011 and 2013 but since then, I have directed almost all my time and energy into CitizenShipper.
As the founder and CEO of the company, I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, and it’s all thanks to the incredible team who devote themselves to CitizenShipper.
On a more personal note, I have two children, ages 5 and 8, and I enjoy travelling and exploring the country!
Hold on, you worked on interstellar travel before pivoting to pet transportation? That’s not something you hear every day! Could you elaborate?
Well, my dream has been to understand theoretical physics to a sufficient extent to contribute to interstellar travel. I’ve always enjoyed science fiction, and appreciated that for us to expand to the stars, we need propulsion solutions significantly more advanced than rocket engines. Using rockets, even a trip to the closest stars would take over 75,000 years, so that’s not a realistic solution to the problem.
In 2005, I started thinking about an idea that could allow a spacecraft to circumvent Einstein’s speed of light limitation, and developed a theory involving the manipulation of spacetime. In 2008, I published a peer-reviewed paper titled Warp Drive: A New Approach which detailed a mechanism whereby the speed of light could be surpassed by interacting with the hypothesized extra dimensions of String Theory. This was published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS, vol. 61, pp. 149, 2008).
I completed my PhD in 2008 with a dissertation titled Investigation into Compactified Dimensions: Casimir Energies and Phenomenological Aspects. One chapter was devoted to FTL travel, but the main focus was solving a problem related to the hypothesized extra dimensions of space. These are energetically unstable and have a natural tendency to contract or expand, which is not good for Grand Unified Theories in physics. By examining the Casimir Effect in the fifth dimension, I was able to generate a scenario whereby an extra dimensions of space is stabilized at a fixed size. A byproduct of this was the realization that the fifth dimension carries properties analogous to Dark Energy, which explains the current observation according to which the macroscopic dimensions of space are expanding at an accelerating rate…
Fascinating stuff, but before we lose our audience, let’s get back to Earth for a moment. How did you come up with the concept for CitizenShipper? What was the driving force behind it?
I started thinking about CitizenShipper as early as 2007 and talked the idea through with a lot of friends to get their feedback, before getting a very primitive version of the site built in 2008.
I noticed that a lot of people drive trucks, especially in Texas, and often the truck beds are empty. I also recall gas prices getting pretty high around the year 2007, and as a graduate student I wasn’t making much money. I initially started thinking about how good it would be if I could make some extra money on the side using the empty space in my vehicle to transport things for people. Then I started thinking, why limit it to just me? Why not create a website that services the entire country and connects people with spare cargo space with items that need shipping?
Which of the company use cases and goals best align with your personal values?
I personally enjoy traveling and discovering new experiences, so knowing that we give drivers on the site the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country on the road really appeals to me. I also appreciate that we’re giving drivers new economic opportunities too, ways to earn money through an amazing lifestyle, and that’s something I’ve very proud of.
Which part of your work are you most excited about?
I love all of it. Product development is very exciting as we get to build out new and useful features for both our drivers and our shippers, and measure the impact of the changes. Marketing is amazing too, and I really enjoy figuring out how to let new people know about what we do. I greatly enjoy helping build out and develop our customer support team, and being a part of the problem-solving process when new issues arise is fascinating.
Data science is another aspect that appeals to me, and I enjoy looking at the data and trying to find patterns that help us build a better product. And of course, interacting with smart and dedicated team members is a great privilege too.
What does the future of CitizenShipper look like from where you’re standing?
As the team grows, we’re able to tackle increasingly ambitious projects in different areas. We have big plans to further improve the product, making it more useful and easier for drivers to find transportation jobs, and more intuitive for shippers to find just the right driver for them.
The future is doing what we do now, only better. I see us increasingly focusing on pets and we plan to build out a mobile application soon for drivers. That should make working with CitizenShipper much easier for them.