Sofia DeMay: Swifte Carpooling

Gracelyn Koshy
6 min readMay 1, 2018


Looking to go a certain direction? Swifte’s got you covered!

DeMay (right) and co-founder Justine Avoudikpon

What is Swifte Carpooling?

Swifte is a long distance carpooling app specifically for college students. We match drivers with extra space, with riders who want to go to the same place. We help students get home on the weekends, go to festivals, and adventure outside of the city!

How did you come up with the idea for the app?

The idea really came from a need that both my co-founder and I had ourselves. I went to UCLA but was from the Bay Area and would need to get home on the weekends. I realized that there must be other students traveling back and forth- I just didn’t know how to connect with them.

Funny story… my co-founder (Justine Avoudikpon)and I both met while studying abroad in Lyon, France. While there we used a carpool app to get all over the country and explore. I met some incredible people along my way and I loved how social it made traveling. When we came back to the US we wanted to create that same magic for our school communities. Traveling together is always better!

Tell us about your background.

While at UCLA I studied International Development and Entrepreneurship. I came into UCLA wanting to go work for the UN or get into Politics, but eventually ended up discovering the Entrepreneurship minor. I honestly just saw it as an interesting subject to explore, and UCLA didn’t have a business major so it was the only way to get some exposure to that area. I’ve been able to see what it’s like to work in corporate, startup, and non-profit environments and understand how each functions a bit differently. My work experience started off in the non-profit world, which is actually extremely similar to startups.

Entrepreneurship is something that I stumbled into, it was never really planned. I never saw myself as someone who would start a business and didn’t identify as a founder until about 6 months into working on Swifte. I just saw a problem that I wanted to solve and did my best to solve it — eventually that turned into running a business.

Where is Swifte right now?

Swifte is at a very exciting point right now! We are just completing the Startup UCLA Accelerator program. The Accelerator has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had since working on Swifte. Basically how it works is 11 teams co-work in a space for 10 weeks, listening to speakers, participating in workshops, and pitching to VCs, and the program concludes with a Demo Day where we show off our work! It has been amazing to be around so many inspiring young entrepreneurs who are on similar journeys — we all learn so much from each other. This summer we really honed in on the product. We got a great development team and have been doing product testing. I am proud to announce that we have just launched our 2.0 on September 6th!

How has Swifte evolved?

Swifte has been an amazing journey. It started off as an idea that I played around with during a business class- to being something that students around the country are using everyday. Teaming up with my co-founder, Justine, is what really propelled everything forward. We realized that we both had the same idea and could execute on different parts of the bigger picture. Our skill sets really compliment each other. Since our alpha test, Swifte has become a lot more social and events focused. We realized that many students go to events like Coachella or EDC and want to travel with other students. So we have created many new features, such as our group feature, to accommodate for this. We also have started to cultivate a Swifte community of adventurous travelers. We have a blog about fun travel ideas and are always posting ideas on social media about events or travel tips.

What are your plans for the future with Swifte carpooling?

As I mentioned, we just relaunched with our 2.0! Moving forward we are just focusing on creating the best product possible for our community. We are currently in California, Georgia and Texas, but plan on expanding to 10 schools by the new year. In our long term vision- we would love to expand to other services in the peer-to-peer market besides carpooling. We believe deeply in the power of community — as I always like to say “connected communities are empowered communities.”

What challenges have you had?

The issue of safety does come up with investors but actually has not been a problem with our users. We make sure that everyone using the app is a current student and has a student email address. Both riders and drivers see each other’s profile before the ride and must accept the ride to be properly matched. It is a top priority that our customers are safe.

One issue that we are always trying to creatively solve is the perfect balance between supply and demand. It is a common problem with marketplace models and it a fun challenge to play around with. We are very strategic with our marketing efforts and understand that the two groups have very different pain points. Always good to stay customer-centric.

Another, probably more obvious issue, arises from being two young female founders. The startup world, like most professional spaces, is all about who you know. It is hard to build credibility being so young, as well as hard to find appropriate mentors and advisers. There are not many of us out there, and although tech is making efforts to become more diverse, we have a long way to go.

How does Swifte tie into the person that you are?

I have always been an extremely curious person. I am the type of person who has to touch the stove herself to find out if it hot. I joined a sorority in college just because I wanted to know “what it was like”. I tend to stumble upon a lot of things, similar to how I stumbled into Swifte. Although at the time it didn’t make sense, looking back it does. I was always a bit bossy as a kid, obsessed with organization, and loved to experiment with new things. I was always pushing boundaries and was never satisfied. One of the things I love about working on Swifte is that I get to be challenged everyday. I am always learning new skills and putting them to test- I have learned a lot about the importance of failing fast.

Lastly, do you have any advice you would give to others?

You have to be your biggest advocate- no one else is there to do it for you. If there is one thing I learned while starting my own business, it is the importance of believing in yourself. I know it sounds cliche (and trust me, I hate cliches!), but it is incredibly true. You have to convince people to listen to you by believing in yourself. You have your own experiences and perspective. I truly believe every human on this earth has a special ability to leave their mark in some way. Secondly, always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and challenge you to be a better person. People are everything.



Gracelyn Koshy

Sharing the journey of individuals innovating the world