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Q+A: CarTrek, connecting drivers and riders

CarTrek, founded by Olive Baerde and Mikayla Rose, Tufts ’20, provides the cheapest method for students and young alumni to travel by connecting drivers and riders to carpool, with an aim to facilitate a greater sense of community while saving travelers money. They recently won the Paul & Elizabeth Montle Prize of Entrepreneurial Achievement.

Tufts Entrepreneurship Center spoke with Olive to learn more about their entrepreneurship journey.

Montle Prize Winner: CarTrek team members

Please tell us a little about what CarTrek is and how it came about?

The idea actually came from my gap year abroad in Spain. There, a company called BlaBlaCar is widely used for this very purpose, and I used it almost every other weekend to travel. It totally changed my travel experience, and made the actual transportation portion of my travel equally as enjoyable as my destination. When I got back to the states, I was surprised and disappointed there wasn’t an equivalent here.

The CarTrek team consists of students from a variety of backgrounds – how did the team come together?

Over the past couple of years, this idea has transformed both in terms of the business model itself, and the people working on it. The process of working on a startup is not an easy one, and many of my past team members were dissuaded along the way. After a long period of searching for the right match of entrepreneurs, I found my co-founder and other teammates surprisingly through a Facebook post on the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center Facebook page! The team now pursuing CarTrek is intentionally diverse in thought – we each have different approaches to problem solving, and push each other to see new perspectives.

How has the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center helped you reach where you are today?

TEC has been incredibly helpful throughout this entire process. The classes we’ve taken in Entrepreneurship have created a great foundation of understanding, and we were fortunate enough to participate in the Summer Accelerator this past summer to push those skills beyond the classroom. The help and advice we’ve gotten from the amazing faculty of TEC along the way has really been invaluable – they’ve all gone through the process of starting a business themselves, and have led impressively successful careers in a variety of different fields, so they’re able to provide unique expertise. Furthermore, the multiple startup competitions for prize money throughout the year are a really tangible way TEC has helped us. After applying each year and not quite making the cut, the CarTrek team finally won the Montle Prize of $10,000 this year! We’re excited to see where this takes us next!

What is one piece of advice you have for Tufts students who are interested in or are starting their venture now?

  • Talk to people. Chances are, whoever you’re talking to can help you or knows someone who can.
  • Pitch your idea constantly, and especially to those who don’t think it’s a good one.
  • Get out of student mode. Developing the perfect solution for a problem no one has is a waste of time, so try instead to iterate.
  • Be curious about everything, and test all assumptions.