Startup Profile CleverShuttle: The Rise of Shared E-Mobility
What will determine the future of urban transportation? With the tsunami-like arrival of Uber and Lyft in the US, and European carpooling actor BlaBlaCar gaining visibility and market size, some experts bank on ride sharing as the solution for many of our urban transportation problems. Shared mobility clearly is taking a turn into the spotlight.
Ride-sharing, or simply shared mobility, is defined as an “innovative transportation strategy that enables users to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an as-needed basis.” It has witnessed the widespread success of various forms of shared transportation, such as car-sharing, bike-sharing, carpooling and platform-based ride services. By adopting the digital platform-based business model that creates value by connecting individuals or parties, startups with innovative value-creating services can quickly grow and gain traction.
However, as in every fast growing business sector, sustainability issues quickly become more apparent and relevant for ride sharing, and may even be the gateway for new companies and startups to increase the demand pull from the customer side.
One of the most sustainability-focussed actors in the European theater for shared mobility is Berlin-based startup CleverShuttle. We had the pleasure to interview Nora Erdbeer, Marketing & Communication responsible at CleverShuttle about their e-mobility startup and their plans for the near future.
Q: Dear Nora, thank you for sharing some insights about CleverShuttle. In a one sentence answer: what problem does your startup solve?
Our driving service is based on ride sharing and a fully electric fleet to tackle three big issues of urban mobility: pollution, traffic and noise.
Q: What is the idea behind your start-up? How do you think you can pave a way for a more sustainable smart city in the future?
CleverShuttle is an innovative, eco-friendly and low-priced door-to-door driving service for urban areas.
Innovative, because a sophisticated IT-system matches passengers heading in the same direction in one shuttle (real sharing).
Eco-friendly, because on the one hand, only electric vehicles are utilized (carbon-free, silent) and on the other hand, rides are shared with the aim of reducing urban traffic.
Low-priced, because CleverShuttle is the most reasonably priced driving service in Germany, i.e. passengers pay approximately 40 % less than for a comparable cab ride.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Co-founder Jan Hofmann had the project-idea while facing the limitations of public transportation and cabs during his job as a Deutsche Bahn in-house consultant.
In discussions with longstanding friends and now co-founders Bruno Ginnuth and Slava Tschurilin, he came up with the concept of an “intelligent hop-on-hop-off shuttle”.
Once the idea was born and developed, CleverShuttle partnered with Deutsche Bahn for the Beta-Test, i.e. DB supported the test with 7 e-vehicles.
Q: What was your initial motivation to pick your niche or market?
Jan came up with the idea during his weekly commute from Berlin main station to his flat in the city centre. Arriving late at night and with an inconvenient public transport route he noticed that every cab was going in the same direction – only driving one person at a time.
Urban traffic is a big issue for most cities and capitals and its side effects as pollution, noise, traffic jams and lack of space are not only affecting the population but also the environment.
But despite all problems there are also many ways to optimize urban mobility and make it more efficient.
Q: What is your business model, i.e. how do you plan to monetize your ideas?
Primarily, CleverShuttle generates revenue by selling door-to-door mobility to customers (B2C). On a B2B level, CleverShuttle distributes IT solutions to mobility ventures that are looking for a solution to implement Demand Responsive Transport.
Q: Who is part of your team, and how did you get to connect?
CleverShuttle was founded by three friends who initially met in high school. Today our team is a perfectly balanced match of friends, former colleagues and new team members who blend in well and enjoy working together.
Q: What is your status quo in terms of investment? Are you looking for funding or investors?
CleverShuttle funding is covered until mid-2017. Among others, Deutsche Bahn and Peter Unger and family have invested and are also supporting strategically. However, we are always looking for new funding and investors.
Q: How do you want to break big into the world, what is your marketing strategy?
We want to become the eco-friendly alternative to conventional modes of transportation for every urban area that faces the problems of urban mobility. Our long-term strategy is to launch in more cities through a franchise system. In the short-term, we will concentrate on five German cities (Berlin, Munich, Leipzig and soon Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main).
Word of mouth is currently our strongest channel to canvass new customers. In addition, social media as well as local and national cooperations with our partners – Deutsche Bahn B & S-Bahn – support us in becoming more and more relevant.
Q: What do you perceive as the greatest challenges for your start-up and how do you cope?
As a start-up that is involved in two fast moving markets (e-)mobility and digital solutions / apps we are challenged on different levels. Of course we are making mistakes along the way, but we are also learning a lot.
Being a start-up brings many advantages that help coping with challenges like being flexible, quick in response and thinking out of the box.
Q: What is your status quo overall, and what do you see as milestones to reach next?
To date, a fleet of 28 electric and hybrid vehicles completed more than 27.000 rides. As a result, several tons of CO2 emissions were saved compared to a fleet of conventional vehicles or traditional driving services.
Q: What seems to be the most important start-up experience / lesson learned during the start-up process so far?
Don’t get frustrated if something negative happens. Just keep on going.
Q: What is the best way to support you?
Of course we would love everyone who happens to live in one of the CleverShuttle cities (Berlin, Munich, Leipzig or soon Hamburg and Frankfurt/Main) to take a ride with us.
We are always looking forward to any constructive feedback regarding our service, the app or anything else. And in case you enjoyed your ride or simply like our concept – go tell your friends!
Q: How can people reach out to you?
There are many ways to get in contact; the easiest way would be to write an email to [email protected] or via our Facebook page. We are always very happy to hear from our customers and anyone interested.
Name of your Startup: CleverShuttle
Team size: 17 (head office)
Year of Foundation: 2014
Industry: Driving service / Automotive
Location(s): Berlin, Munich, Leipzig (Hamburg & Frankfurt/Main in 2017)
Awards & Achievements
- German Mobility Award 2016 from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and the Initiative “Germany – Country of Ideas” (dt.: Deutscher Mobilitätspreis 2016 des Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur und der Initiative „Deutschland – Land der Ideen“)
Nora Erdbeer, thank you very much for your time!
Logo and image credits: CleverShuttle
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