Nowadays it is possible to run several businesses and one of them can be a vehicle sharing service. Amir Timo Marouf (in the picture on the left) is living proof of this. He is a dentist and runs the mobility company tretty in Münster, Germany.
Launch date: Spring of 2020
Country: Germany, Münster
Fleet: muscle-powered kick-scooters and bikes
Web page: https://www.tretty.de
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/de/app/tretty/id1509734922
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.tretty.app
Amir Timo Marouf founded the mobility company tretty together with Max Weldert. “It all started in school when we knew that one day we would do something together. What exactly was not yet clear back then,” Amir tells the story of how the company started. He says that he always had a passion for sharing, so he considered starting something around it. Max always has been and still is into mobility with the focus on muscle-powered vehicles. “So directly after my exam in dentistry, we took a trip with two lying bikes from Münster to Lisbon. We covered a distance of 2600 kilometers. During this time we more or less developed the whole idea around tretty, because we had a lot of time to think,” Amir remembers.
Motivation and passion
After getting back, Amir and Max set up a team. They found an accountant who took care of all the finances and an engineer. “When our engineer heard of the idea, he was fascinated. And we decided that in the beginning, we won't work for money. It was only motivation and passion that drove us further,” says Amir.
However, it was still not clear what vehicle should be used and whether people living in Münster want to have this service at all... “So we just started a crowdfunding campaign and set a very high target of EUR 50 000. This would be enough to buy 100 scooters. And we succeeded! And we even got 20% more financing,” Amir recalls.
In the crowdfunding announcement, the founders wrote that they will develop their own scooters. As they now had the money, there was pressure on them to do it. And it was only then that Max and Amir realized how big the project would actually be... But they did it!
Struggle with IT
The tretty engineer made a drawing on the basis of which the scooter is built from the scratch by tretty. The team found a manufacturer in the Czech Republic and did a lot just by doing. “In the beginning, I built a website using WordPress. You can learn everything nowadays from videos on the internet if you're motivated. Afterwards, we were very lucky to have two students on the team. They were both at university doing their Master's and they had both experiences in IT. They managed to build a website for the maintenance team,” says Amir.
Next step – the tretty team started to develop its own app. “We realized the importance of the time and also the fact that our business is not building IT solutions. We started to compare existing app developers, who offer white-label solutions. We compared all the big ones. But as we wanted to keep everything local, we hired a company that is focusing on car sharing without any experience in free- floating. It took a long time to register in the app and type in all the information required…” recalls Amir.
So at some point, tretty team decided to change the software provided and chose ATOM. Now with a new app, they are getting a significant amount of new users as the registration is a lot faster. That was one of the main reasons why they switched initially. “I'm also happy that ATOM is always open to optimizations and is ready to talk about alternatives,” says Amir.
Private and business clients, locals, and tourists
Users of the service are people living in Münster and around, including tourists. There are a lot of students in the city - around 60 000 of all the 314 000 people living there. And students are among the most active scooter users. The weather has a big impact - if it is appropriate for riding, the number of daily users increases.
tretty also has one private fleet in Münster, which is owned by a big insurance company. Right now, tretty is also currently discussing possible collaborations with other B2B partners. “There are two options available. We can set up the software for the partner and provide it with vehicles. Then they could use tretty brand and have a franchise. Or they can create their own brand,” explains Amir.
The team of tretty is considering different scenarios for expansion. However, Amir says that they still have some homework to do: “The focus is currently on Münster. As soon as we have validated we will consider expansion.”
And what is the plan for Amir? Let's not forget that he is also working as a dentist. “I think one of the main reasons why you can do more than one thing is the enormous speed of digitalization of everything. With a smartphone, you can answer emails from everywhere and even design things and build websites. I think this would not have been possible 10 years ago. It is, of course, tough to multi-task. Mondays are my tretty days. Before and after work as well as at weekends I do tretty. Then I try to schedule my time for my girlfriend and for myself. I'd say that a month or two ago it was really tough but now it’s starting to get better. I think the main reason why it works is that it comes from passion and not from pressure.”
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“We spent two years developing a car-sharing app in-house. And even after all our efforts it still wasn't half as good as ATOM Mobility's platform.” – Peter Mraz, GreenGo's Manager, shares how he found the perfect partner in ATOM Mobility.
Launch date: May 2021
Country: Slovenia, operates in 4 cities
Web page: https://greengo.city
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/greengo-by-t2/id1618782932
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=greengo.app
GreenGo is a green vehicle-sharing company based in Slovenia that currently focuses on electric cars.
The company's story is unique in that it's a project that spun out from its parent company T-2, d.o.o., a local telecom provider with over 400 employees. T-2's owner was enthusiastic about green mobility and set out to bring his vision to life – and succeeded. Today, you can find GreenGo's Renault Zoes and Twingos, Cupra Borns, and VW ID.3s in four cities – Ljubljana, Kranj, Trzin, and Logatec.
However, the man who's running the show is Peter Mraz, GreenGo's Manager. While he does enjoy access to the parent company's resources, Peter is single-handedly overseeing the entire project and responsible for its success.
“I do have backup from designers, legal, accounting and so on. And there are maybe 3-4 people who help manage the cars and maintenance. Everything else – it's on me. Thanks to ATOM Mobility, I have been able to manage everything from project start to launch pretty much on my own,” says Peter.
GreenGo's early challenges
Orginally, the idea was to develop the GreenGo car-sharing app in-house – a decision Peter grew to regret.
“It took us two years to develop the app. Even then, it did the job, but it wasn't perfect and it didn't quite go the way we wanted it to. And even after all our efforts it still wasn't half as good as ATOM Mobility's platform,” he shares.
Indeed, this ongoing struggle pushed GreenGo to explore alternative options on the market and, after some market research, they landed on ATOM Mobility. ATOM Mobility ticked their two most important checkboxes – it offered the core functionalities they required and offered fast time-to-market.
Originally“Once we made the switch, we launched in 3 months, though we did already have the cars at the ready, which certainly helped,” Peter continues.
Admittedly, ATOM Mobility didn't immediately fulfil all their needs.
“We had a very specific vision and requirements. ATOM Mobility was great, but didn't have everything we wanted when we started out. But the platform is evolving quickly. Their team develops something new every 2-3 months and it's very good for us. Since they develop for other companies, too, we also benefit from the updates. Now, ATOM Mobility has everything we need and more,” Peter says.
Still, early on, GreenGo were facing an uphill battle with fierce competition. Slovenia already had one high-profile electric car-sharing company that had established itself in the market, had more experience, and was well-respected among its customers and the general public.
What was GreenGo's strategy for finding a foothold in the ecosystem?
A brilliant idea for entering a busy market
GreenGo carved out its market share by leveraging a strategic partnership with Slovenian Railways.
“You see, a lot of tourists arrive in Ljubljana and other cities by train. Either internationally or from the airport. So we started off by placing our vehicles in railway stations, allowing us to be the easy choice top of mind for anyone arriving in the city,” Peter explains.
To further improve convenience for potential customers, GreenGo integrated ATOM Mobility with a local MaaS platform. This allowed people to purchase credits for GreenGo's car-sharing app through the city's own mobility solution.
Not only did this solidify GreenGo as the most accessible solution for any tourist who used the city's app to buy a train ticket, it also connected it to all the local residents that use the city's mobility app in their day-to-day.
Now, you'll find GreenGo in four cities and their customers love them, as suggested by the high app ratings and continuous positive feedback.
In most of the cities, they're using a station based model – where the cars need to be picked up and returned at certain points. However, in the capital they're currently running a hybrid model featuring both free-floating and station-based vehicle sharing.
GreenGo expects to have to switch to a fully station-based model in Ljubljana, too, as the city is pulling the brakes on free-floating vehicle sharing. But they're not too fussed, as this model is easier to manage and can be a better choice for a still-up-and-coming company.
Looking to the future – more vehicle types and a focus on B2B
As any company, GreenGo is eyeing growth and expansion.
“Our vision is to become a leading force in the sharing economy,” Peter highlights.
Expanding their fleet with different types of vehicles, specifically – electric micromobility solutions – is one of the avenues GreenGo is exploring.
In terms of business development, GreenGo has an interesting strategy for the upcoming year, namely, focusing on expanding into the business-to-business (B2B) segment with corporate sharing schemes.
“With B2C, you need a lot of cars, a lot of investment. Electric vehicles are very capital intensive, which poses challenges for a growing company. B2B offers the opportunity to make the maximum from your existing fleet, which will allow B2C expansion later on. Plus, we already have a sort of successful B2B pilot project under our belts,” says Peter, referring to a corporate sharing scheme they launched with their very own parent company.
They made four cars available to T-2 employees, which they can take out under certain conditions and packages for a few hours, a day, or a weekend. This sharing scheme proved to be very popular among employees, and Peter is certain other large companies will also be keen to test out this modern benefit for their workers.
With some ups and downs, GreenGo is steadily carving out its spot in the market.
What would Peter do differently if he had to do it all over again?
“Choose ATOM Mobility from day 1 and save everyone a lot of headaches and resources,” he laughs. “But, seriously, the time-to-market is so fast, I think you could launch a mobility company from zero in one month.”
“Upon our initial interaction with ATOM Mobility, we were immediately drawn to their interface and impressed by the quality of their customer service. Throughout the process, they exhibited great flexibility in their approach and were able to assist us with any difficulties we encountered.”
– Deroy De Bordes, founder of Wheelz
Launch date: October 2021
Web page: https://wheelzgh.com
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/lt/app/id1590136064
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=wheelzgh.app
Wheelz was founded by Deroy De Bordes – an entrepreneur with a diverse background in business, including experience in HR and property development. Originally from Ghana, West Africa, he realized the potential of expanding into emerging markets while residing in the UK. During a trip back to Ghana, he recognized a potential market opportunity for a car-sharing service company.
During that time, traditional taxi services and a laborious car rental process that required your physical presence were the main options for customers in the country. The founder saw the opportunity to fulfill an unmet demand through the creation of a car-sharing service – which led to the launch of Wheelz.
In preparation for the launch, they evaluated multiple software providers and eventually went with ATOM Mobility. According to Deroy, they chose ATOM Mobility because of its superior customer service and user-friendly interface. Its integration with Geotab's fleet management platform was also a significant factor.
Overcoming implementation hurdles
In the process of starting their business, Wheelz faced numerous challenges that required careful consideration and planning.
The company's journey began in the early 2020s when they traveled to Ghana to investigate the local market, identify any potential risks, and gain a thorough understanding of the relevant local laws and regulations.
As a company that heavily relies on connectivity, Wheelz had to address the associated risks of providing convenient and accessible services to its customers.
One significant challenge Wheelz faced was the unique characteristics of road infrastructure in Ghana compared to Europe. This situation necessitated the establishment of safe roadside parking zones, especially as many houses in the target market have gated compounds. To prevent any potential disagreements with other customers and ensure safety, Wheelz had to remind people not to park within these compounds.
Additionally, people may park on backstreets or narrow roads, potentially causing damage or injury to the vehicle. Therefore, Wheelz took extra caution in selecting parking zones and worked closely with their team to identify suitable locations within 10 to 15 minutes of each other. This effort aimed to ensure customers' easy access to their services.
Disrupting traditional services
Introducing a new product to the market posed a significant challenge for Wheelz, as it was unlike the traditional car hire services that customers were accustomed to.
“Our concept was new in a way that it depended solely on smartphones as the main way of accessing our service. The first thing we had to do was test the technology thoroughly to ensure its stability and security before it could be deployed in the field. Then, we needed to familiarize potential customers with the app's functionality.” – Deroy De Bordes
For marketing purposes, the company used a multi-phase approach. The first phase focused on creating brand awareness through billboards, radio, and television ads. The second phase involved marketing campaigns on various platforms, including YouTube, Google, Instagram, Facebook, and banner ads. This generated a significant amount of interest in the product.
Wheelz's pricing strategy was significantly more competitive than traditional taxi services. For instance, a one-hour journey in their most affordable vehicle costs 60 Ghanaian cedi, while a half-hour ride in a traditional taxi would cost around 50 to 60 Ghanaian cedi. This pricing strategy proved to be an attractive offer, as customers sought value for their money.
"Essentially, customers who choose Wheelz can get twice the travel time for their money," Deroy explains.
By introducing this new product and pricing strategy, Wheelz established itself as a disruptor in the market. Now, as the company continues to grow and expand its services, they remain committed to providing excellent customer service and safe, reliable transportation to its clients.
“Though we faced early obstacles, we persevered. Today, our innovative approach to car hire services has earned us a favorable standing in the market.” – Deroy De Bordes
Moving forward: plans for ongoing improvements and expansion
The success of Wheelz thus far has not led to complacency, and the company has no intention of resting on its laurels. In May 2023, they have plans to participate in a trade show in Ghana – this will allow the company to promote its brand and explore the possibility of expanding into new markets across Africa. They are also considering a franchise model to facilitate their expansion efforts.
Wheelz also plans to expand to other cities in Ghana, including Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, and Cape Coast. Each of these cities will have a minimum of 10 cars assigned to them. But in the nearest future, the plan is to explore opportunities to increase the number of parking zones across the capital city, Accra.