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Dennis Carlson’s vision and Benedictine focus on community propelled WeDriveU into the fast lane By Dana Drazenovich He paid his own way through Saint John’s University. He chauffeured executive clients himself so he could get to know them before he hired a driver for them. He and his team landed a piece of Google’s employee shuttle business, outperformed two other vendors to become Google’s lead shuttle provider and then went on to win accounts with major corporations like Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Nike, and more recently university campuses.

sustainability with Silicon Valley savvy. WeDriveU’s website notes that its fleet includes electric and fuel-efficient vehicles, results in more than 13,000 fewer cars on the road each day and eliminates more than 52 million vehicle miles annually. Carlson admits he initially was monetarily driven as a Saint John’s accounting major.

“Coming from a small town with no money, money meant a lot to me,” he said. I personally kind of paid my own bills, once I started working at the grocery store at 13 years old. My He revised his business model again, and again, and again. parents weren’t able to help with any college. However, they Dennis Carlson ’86 certainly can attribute some of the insisted all of their children get an undergraduate degree. I success of his transportation paid for my own college with loans management company “I wanted to do something that was and grants, and I bought my own WeDriveU to perseverance, that good for society as well, so it was clothes in high school, had my all-important entrepreneurial own spending money.” quality. killing two birds with one stone,”

Carlson said. “I thought ‘Wow, I can But WeDriveU reflects the values San Francisco Bay Area-based WeDriveU is now a countrywide do something good and make money.’ ” Carlson gleaned from his smallforce in the private shuttle town, big-family upbringing and industry thanks to a recent SJU education. strategic partnership with global transport leader National “The company I run today (is based on) transparency with Express Group. my customers. A lot of it is focused on the employees, making WeDriveU already was working with companies in the sure they’re taken care of, and the business models themselves pharmaceutical, manufacturing, technology and health care were about trying to do good,” he said. industries in markets across the country. The new partnership Carlson has been building WeDriveU for 30 years – shifting expands its presence. gears several times, slowly picking up speed the first 15 years “It’s giving us first of all the footprint to provide services and then hitting the accelerator once he hired his current throughout the U.S. It’s given us the ability to provide team, including president and COO Erick Van Wagenen, services internationally,” said Carlson, WeDriveU’s chairman with whom Carlson is quick to share credit for WeDriveU’s and CEO. success. Together, they transport 30 million passengers a year, and As Van Wagenen likes to joke with him, “I dug a lot of WeDriveU is handling National Express’s new shuttle division. Although National Express’s investment gives it a 60 ditches or I built a foundation that took many years before we percent share, WeDriveU continues to operate independently actually got to build the house.” with Carlson at the wheel. Even the characteristically humble Carlson has to admit, “Yeah, it’s a pretty nice house right now.” He has successfully blended Benedictine-influenced 28 SUMMER/FALL 2019

Profile for CSB & SJU

Saint John's Magazine Summer/Fall 2019  

Saint John's Magazine is published in the fall and winter for alumni, parents, friends and the Saint John's University campus community.

Saint John's Magazine Summer/Fall 2019  

Saint John's Magazine is published in the fall and winter for alumni, parents, friends and the Saint John's University campus community.

Profile for csbsju
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