By Donna Loughlin
Neville Boston is the rare transportation industry disruptor who didn’t spend his childhood dreaming about fast cars, airplanes or rocket ships.
He’s not even your traditional transportation or mobility innovator. He’s not trying to get us somewhere faster or safer or take us to unexplored parts of the galaxy. But make no mistake, Neville is truly an innovator—he’s just focused on a very specific corner of the transportation sector. Neville wants to get us to rethink everything we’ve ever known about our license plates.
You heard that right. Neville is the co-founder of Reviver, a startup that has created the first connected, digital license plate known as the R-plate. Its purpose is simple: to modernize the license plate into a fully interactive digital screen that fits on the back of your vehicle.
Before he decided the license plate was ripe for innovation, Neville was in marketing. He grew up in New York City, the son of Guyanese immigrants. He was raised in a family of entrepreneurs and after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, he and a partner launched a pair of marketing agencies that worked primarily in the lifestyle and beverage industries.
The firms were successful initially but struggled after the aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008 and the work quickly dried up. Neville decided his next venture would have to be recession-proof—something that wouldn’t ebb and flow on the strength of the market.
“We were looking at state-owned assets that were being underutilized,” he told me. “And license plates kept popping up every year. You have to register, you have to renew your tags. So it started with the idea of, if you could actually modernize the process so you don’t have to go into a DMV and you can do it virtually. And with my marketing background, I thought what if we were able to do some targeted marketing on the plate when the vehicle stopped? That was the thought process initially.”
What he and his partners came up with was an idea that has brought the license plate into the 21st century. They first established connections with key stakeholders across the state of California—law enforcement, elected officials and the bureau of motor vehicles—and began unraveling all the red tape involved with getting the R-plate to comply with state regulations. He hired a team of engineers to develop the plate and got to work doing what he did best: selling the company’s story.
He eventually drew the interest of fleet-management operations and rental car companies and you can now find the plates in several states across the U.S. Today, he’s seeing more interest coming from individual vehicle owners, as well. Neville says R-plate users will never have to set foot in the DMV ever again. Their days of stopping to pay tolls are over. And eventually, he hopes to revolutionize the auto insurance industry by having the R-plate track how much you drive your car and have your rate adjusted accordingly.
“When I see them on the road, it’s wild,” he said. “We’ve got over 11,000 on the road right now and by the end of the year we’re looking at maybe 60,000 to 70,000. Early next year, it will be 100,000. It’s just the beginning, it’s the nascent state of really having features that are compelling that people want to utilize. But it’s there. It’s there.”
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