From Goldman To General Motors: How This VP Took The Automotive Industry By Storm

From Goldman To General Motors: 

How This VP Took The Automotive Industry By Storm

Maven is the new car rental service in town, and it has raced to the front of the automotive industry in record time. It provides an expeditious rental process by means of an app. Once you find a rental near you, instead of having to go through the hassle of signing paperwork on site and picking up keys from a desk, Maven allows you to unlock and access it with a simple few clicks on your phone. You can then connect your car to your phone so that you can play all of your favorite tunes or listen to your latest podcast obsession. At the end of your ride, you return your rental to wherever you picked it up, click “End Trip” in the app, and that’s it. It seems too good to be true.

"Maven was born because we saw a need, we saw a demand, and we saw people really in the cities asking for it" Photo courtesy of maven.com

So who should we be sending our letters of gratitude to? Julia Steyn, the Vice President of Urban Mobility at Maven. Steyn dreamt of moving to the Big Apple to work on Wall Street after finishing up business school. A lofty dream, but she actualized that long-founded fantasy by joining Goldman. “I was obsessed with Wall Street movies, and so I was dreaming of coming to New York and was gung-ho about only going to one place,” Steyn explains. “That place was Goldman.” Steyn’s fantasy grew astronomically, as she worked for Goldman for seven years not only in New York City, but also in London, after she married her husband.

“To me it was always the challenges that were interesting. So with investment banking, every transaction is a new challenge. You learn all the time, and I love learning.”

Her love for investment banking was then trumped by her love for advising and working on the client side of things, so she switched gears and ran corporate development at an aluminum company in NY. One shift led to another, and before she knew it, Steyn was agreeing—with some reluctance—to meet the General Motors (GM) management team in Detroit. “I was very skeptical,” Steyn admits, having no background in automotives. “I was like, ‘Well, cars, Detroit…I don’t know how I really feel about it.’” Steyn met with the previous CEO of GM to talk for two hours about its history, and as she describes it, they “basically held [her] hostage,” her new career trajectory initiated with rapidity.

“It’s really the best decision I’ve ever made because automotive has been on the cusp of so much change even in the six years I came to run a new team. It was fun to bring all these people who are deal makers inside the company, organize and build a completely new team, and really be on the cusp of corporate strategy.”

The idea for Maven was born two and a half years ago when Steyn thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we were partnering with some real-estate companies? Wouldn’t it be nice to have access to a vehicle just in your garage?” Based on all of her success, it’s clear that others thought that would be nice too. She worked with engineers and software developers to figure out the simplest thing to download onto your phone for reserving a car—efficient and seamless.  

Steyn began testing the idea’s efficacy by putting a few cars in Manhattan with Stonehenge as a partner because they were looking to create new customer environments for renters. People from neighboring buildings grew interested in renting as well, so Steyn started the brand and gave it a name. “Well, I think the industries where you have hard assets that are idle and that sit idle like a house, or a vehicle, that is a perfect place to disrupt because you want your asset to work for you in a way,” Steyn says. “That’s something that you don’t want to stand your balance sheet for and so that’s how it really Maven was born because we saw a need, we saw a demand, and we saw people really in the cities asking for it.”

“Don’t shy away from a challenge. Even if you don’t succeed, you’re going to learn something. Also learn from challenging people around you because if you’re constantly coddled you don’t have room to grow. Having an opportunity to work with someone who is going to give you constructive criticism, it’s going to push you forward"

Fear not if you have strict preferences when it comes to automobiles. Maven offers electric cars, SUVs, compact cars, and sedans. If one of those suits your fancy and you’re in a travel bind, Maven could be your saving grace. It has locations in 15 major cities across the states, including Boston, New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, DC.

“The majority of the population ends up living in cities and it’s so constrained you have a whole bunch of space constrained from parking to where you live, to where you eat. So, it ends up that you have to do it.”

Maven is a subsidiary of GM, currently making GM the sole shareholder. “[GM] has funded us with millions of dollars over the years,” Steyn reveals. “So it has supported outgrowth. And we’re actually hugely additive to the core business because we’re tapping the audience that doesn’t interact with our brands.”

Out of there 6,000 vehicles, by the end of this year, a whopping 2,000 of them will be Electric. So ⅓ of Maven will be pushing for a more sustainable future with far less noxious gas emissions polluting the air, making Maven the largest electric fleet in the United States. Steyn believes that electric cars will eventually dominate the streets, though many U.S. cities are not conducive environments for that change. “We’ve been promoting the electric cars,” Steyn says. “In Boston there is only one fast charging system. So, working with cities to give them the preview, to be a procreator of what needs to happen for this to be adopted is a fascinating endeavor.”

Being a foodie, mom, pianist, and woman with wanderlust, Steyn has plenty of passions to pursue when she is not working. “I travel a lot now, personal and professional,” Steyn says. “I have a ten year old boy, and I was a concert pianist when I was young, so now I torture him with the piano. I also take my creative energy and put it into cooking. It’s really soothing.” Steyn is clearly a woman of many trades, eager to challenge herself in the workplace and outside of it. As a big believer in accepting challenges and not being deterred by the gripping fear of failure, Steyn offers fellow female entrepreneurs some advice. “Don’t shy away from a challenge,” she insists. “Even if you don’t succeed, you’re going to learn something. Also learn from challenging people around you because if you’re constantly coddled you don’t have room to grow. Having an opportunity to work with someone who is going to give you constructive criticism, it’s going to push you forward.”

Steyn took her own advice by jumping headfirst into entrepreneurial waters, brave and ready to face whatever challenges may come—and it did wonders for her. Maven’s success has granted her a rightful place of esteem in the automotive industry. Now Maven has over 130,000 customers and counting, growing 10x month over month  this past year alone. One can only imagine the increase in growth and popularity to come as more city-dwellers search for the quickest way to rent.

Ashley Myers

SWAAY's Editorial Associate, Ashley, enjoys writing fantasy, spending time outside, and finding adventures in every corner of the world. This summer she is calling NYC her home.

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