What were the biggest challenges for start-ups in the mobility sector this year?
The challenges that Corona has presented mobility start-ups with are threefold.
Firstly, there is the market, with its unpredictable and highly fluctuating demand. Especially aviation and sharing services are going through turbulent times.
Secondly, there is the issue of capital. Investors have shown a reduced willingness to take risks. This led to cancelled, postponed or significantly smaller financing rounds in an already rather conservative VC environment.
Thirdly, the restrictions in the direct working environment also pose a challenge for start-ups. Home office reduces work efficiency, distance rules in the office require more space at additional cost, and at the software-hardware interface when producing prototypes, remote working is not an alternative. Thanks to a sophisticated hygiene concept and the very generous amount of space available, we were nevertheless able to maintain The Drivery as an attractive workplace for members.
Which of The Drivery start-ups has been a particular inspiration to you in coping with the crisis and why?
All in all, The Drivery start-ups have coped with the crisis in an excellent manner. I was particularly impressed by the agility with which start-ups respond to change, the team spirit, and the mindset of the founders.
While larger companies have very quickly retreated into the home office, these start-ups have explored new working spaces to safely work in teams. The search for synergies among themselves was also a remarkable effect in times of crisis. In the sense of “stronger together” the community emerges from the crisis bigger and stronger. The synergies range from the exchange of experience in dealing with investors to contractual cooperation in the design of infrastructure for electric mobility.
During Corona, people’s movement patterns have changed: less public transport, more cyclists, but also more individual car drivers. How will it affect mobility and innovation if people realise that they can also work from home? That they no longer need to travel for business, and perhaps also travel less or less far away in their private lives?
Some trends will definitely be accelerated, and the odd business trip will certainly be assessed differently in the future. For example, the rapidly increasing acceptance and technical development of digital communication alternatives at all scale levels will significantly reduce business travel in the long term. The pop-up cycle paths are also an important infrastructural step towards more mobility alternatives in cities.
As far as home office is concerned, I see a yo-yo effect coming our way. Basic human needs and the necessary social interaction, which is also extremely important in business life, are currently being neglected. This direct interaction is essential for confidence-building and efficient communication, and it is currently reduced or non-existent. This can sometimes reduce work efficiency. Many employees miss the bustling office, the nice colleagues and the free mate tea.
In both the professional and private spheres, I predict a catch-up effect towards a new normality, which will probably not differ that much from the old one.
What advice do you give to the founders in The Drivery to get through the crisis?
The market is changing at a very fast pace. So your own business model must be continually and consistently be questioned and adapted. Agility is the strength of young founders and smaller teams in particular. Always be confident and courageous, but not reckless! If a business model no longer works, you should admit this in good time and have the courage to fail – as long as it is still cheap. It is never too late to use the experience gained for a new start.
What were the big milestones in the mobility industry this year?
There is still a lack of significant milestones and disruptive innovations. The high acceptance of electric mobility is a highlight. However, this is largely motivated by state subsidies, and less by outstanding technological offerings.
The Corona-induced boom of two-wheelers is also worth mentioning – be it e-bikes or traditional bicycles. However, I do not dare to speak of a milestone in the mobility industry in view of the fact that the bicycle was invented in 1817, and there is a high number of cyclists involved in accidents.
It is also worth mentioning the intensification of the fight for space in urban areas, especially in view of the boom in delivery services. The “pressure of the road” has, along with driving, the potential to accelerate innovation in the years to come. I look forward to real milestones.
What will you take with you as key learnings for 2021?
The year 2020 has taught us that all the things we always took for granted are not self-evident. Even if the situation eases up in 2021, I personally will be more aware of successes and defeats. The true value of a community is shown in difficult times. With this in mind, I will do everything I can to strengthen The Drivery Community and be prepared for future common challenges, even in the good times that 2021 will hopefully bring.