How Zero got started and why they choose a B2B sharing model instead of free floating?
Wouter has always had an interest for mobility, especially environmental friendly solutions. “What intrigues me with mobility is that as an entrepreneur you travel quite a lot and you see how often existing car based models and other mobility options are not working well, major cities are so polluted and congested” said Wouter.
The very first seed for Zero Mobility was planted when Wouter went on a business trip to China 3 years ago and he saw the impact of shared bicycles. “I was just amazed how combining a few of the existing technologies has made bike sharing possible in these big congested cities” said Wouter. Concerning founding Zero, in the summer of 2018 he met a couple of like-minded mobility enthusiasts in Berlin (co-founders Bojan Dragojevic and Juan Cruz) and set out to do free floating e-scooter sharing. At that time, the market was still starting, so free floating business model seemed to be the way to go.
While getting all the necessary aspects of the business in order, they decided to pivot their business in January 2019 and go for niche B2B sharing instead of a free floating model. “There were mainly 2 reasons we decided to change our business model: free floating model market was getting too competitive and it didn't seem to be financially viable model for a smaller start-up” said Wouter.
They got the idea of B2B model while staying in different hotels and saw how mobility is a key aspect for hotel guests. “They want to know where to go and how can they get there. So it quickly became clear that hotels and hubs would be a very good partner for us” said Wouter. Secondly, most of the hotels already had rental bikes, therefore they were already open to hub based micro-mobility solutions. Therefore, it was a good niche business for the Zero team, especially when there weren’t any other providers.
“We offer a full e-scooter sharing platform for hotels, hostels, resorts, universities, co-working spaces or any other hub that want their own fleet of e-scooters. Especially these hubs that are more spread out and maybe further out of the city center where users have longer journeys” said Wouter.
What are the key aspects of starting a shared mobility company?
In Wouter’s opinion, the most critical point is having the right partners, especially on the software and IoT hardware side - these elements can really make or break your business. For Zero, it was crucial that the IoT product and service is high quality and reliable, so they can succeed in their operations. “COMODULE is the best IoT and telematics provider on the market. So far, we haven't needed much bug fixes or support. It works well straight out of the box” said Wouter.
In regards to the e-scooter itself, they went with the most popular model - Ninebot Segway. “Best value for money option on the market. For us, in the B2B setting they also last longer and the riders seem to like them” said Wouter.
How is the feedback of your clients and end users?
After various tests, Zero Mobility launched their business in Brussels and Antwerp at the end of May 2019. Wouter was thrilled and said: “It was such a fantastic experience, because you can see all the months of teamwork that you put in finally coming together. Apart from some software related bugs, it was a successful launch.”
Secondly, the feedback from hotels and their guests has been amazing. According to Wouter, guests are really happy that they provide that service that has hardly been around more than a year. He has noticed that it is mostly couples or families that want to explore the city together, visit a few places that are spread out in town.
Thirdly, contrary to free floating models, with one pick-up and return point, Zero Mobility and Hubs can provide a helmet for every ride as well. According to Wouter, the next thing they are trying to improve is predicting the e-scooter demand better. “Because the demand is fluctuating a lot, we need to get better at predictions by collecting data and figuring it out with our partners” said Wouter.
What are the key aspects of choosing an IoT provider?
Wouter found COMODULE when he was trying to find an IoT provider around September, 2018. “I was looking into a different e-scooter model than Ninebot, but it was lacking the IoT aspect and they did not really know how to integrate it well. Therefore, I was searching for IoT providers online and COMODULE was the first one that stood out” said Wouter.
For Zero Mobility, the most important aspects of choosing an IoT provider were the following:
Customer and technical support that the company can offer.
GPS and geo-location accuracy, especially in big cities with high buildings and a lot of signal blocking concrete.
- Research and development that the company is making for the next generation IoT devices. It is important for Zero that the devices evolve and become even more accurate and reliable.
According to Wouter, price has not been the issue so much, because it is such a critical aspect of their operation. So far, Zero Mobility has had only one geo-location related issue that they themselves couldn't figure out. “I have to say, that COMODULE’s response was very quick, really to the point and addressing the issue. Really happy with the support and also the personal relationships with Rivo and Juan” said Wouter.
Thoughts about the future of mobility and Zero Mobility
“What drives and motivates us at Zero Mobility is that this kind of mobility addresses the issue of congestion and pollution” said Wouter. He thinks that e-scooters, bikes, and ebikes are here to stay and that we are moving towards a better mix of mobility. “At the moment, safety and regulations are an issue, but over time the city regulations and infrastructure are bound to catch up” said Wouter.
At the moment, Zero mobility has launched a few hundred e-scooters in Belgium, but they have plans to expand their fleet to France, Spain and Germany by the end of 2019. So, in case you are reading this article and need a fleet of fun and cool e-scooters, contact Wouter from Zero Mobility.
What is the single biggest reason you would recommend COMODULE and its products to others?
Quality and reliability of the company and the product.
COMODULE provides IoT and connectivity solutions for electric vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators. Learn more about IoT solutions for mobility here.