NEW YORK, Feb. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Wapanda, a taxi-focused transportation platform based in New York City, announced expansions to its core leadership team and resources. For the last year, Wapanda has worked with Bradley Tusk and Tusk Strategies to encourage the Cities of New York and Chicago to establish a new forward thinking taxi experience.
Wapanda is a mission-driven transportation infrastructure platform. As part of its mission, Wapanda is actively working with the City and drivers to lift medallion owners and taxi workers out of their financial distress. Co-founders, Zahid Biviji and Mihir Dange believe the best way to do this is by creating new opportunities for these workers to compete in the 21st century for-hire vehicle market.
Last year, Wapanda teamed up with New York City Council Member, now Congress Member, Ritchie Torres and introduced an innovative taxi medallion rehabilitation program, modeled after the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). At a cost as low as $20 million, the Medallion Affordable Refinance Program (MARP) program would re-establish the medallion values, guarantee their value and create as much as $1.4 billion in new equity for medallion owner-operators.
This week, Zahid Biviji and Mihir Dange announced new additions to the Wapanda team, "We are thrilled to welcome our new colleagues: Chief Operating Officer, Tom Rutledge; Senior Advisor, Gopal Garuda; and Senior Advisor, Bryan Weadock," the pair said. "This team, working in conjunction with Bradley Tusk and his team, brings decades of expertise and experience in investing, sales, leadership and growth that are invaluable to the future of Wapanda."
Said Bradley Tusk, "For years now, I have believed that the traditional medallion backed system would fail. This is the way to save it: innovation, more logical economics, a strong focus on customer service. That's why I'm excited to be working with Wapanda on helping drivers build up equity through innovative ideas like Ritchie Torres' MARP proposal, and as legislators around the country figure out how to ensure autonomous vehicles are part of a solution to give smaller owner-operators an asset that's worth what it once was. By giving medallion owners the tools and resources they need to bring their medallions into the future, we can realize what the next evolution of taxis can and should be. For cities like New York, Chicago and even Mexico City, I'm excited to be working with Zahid and Mihir on municipally based solutions to reinvigorate local taxi industries."
Tom Rutledge is a 30-year Wall Street credit veteran with capital markets experience at Merrill, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan. Before joining Wapanda, Tom was a private credit specialist at Magnetar Capital, leading investments in trade finance, last-mile warehouses, and structured solutions.Tom is also an active angel investor and advisor, with early-stage stakes in several VC-backed companies, including sectors such as fin-tech (Alto, Reggora), prop-tech (Getaway, HomeLight, Bevi), marketing-tech (Magellan.ai, Elsy, WEVO), second-chance employment (HonestJobs) and therapeutic psychedelics (Eleusis).
Gopal Garuda is a career investment banker focusing on structured financings and M&A within several emerging growth sectors. He was a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch in the Corporate Finance Group within Investment Banking from 1998-2009. At Merrill, Gopal focused on originating, structuring and executing bespoke financings and structured transactions in the technology sector. In 2014, he co-founded Gramercy Capital, an investment banking and principal investment platform. Over the course of his career, Gopal has originated and executed 100+ debt financings raising in excess of $10 billion.
Bryan Weadock is a 30 year Wall Street veteran with a history leading sales teams at major US investment banks. As Co-Head of Global Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity Sales at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Bryan led the group responsible for transacting in the capital markets with the Fortune 500 and the world's largest institutional investors. Before BofA, Bryan oversaw J.P. Morgan Chase's North American Fixed Income & Currencies Sales team, delivering the bank's products to institutional clients in the US, Canada and Mexico. He is currently active as an investor and advisor to leading technology companies, serving as a senior advisor and board member for K-Motion, a digital learning systems company.