Going green: Picking the brains of a serial entrepreneur

Going green: Picking the brains of a serial entrepreneur

One of the things I love most about working at Smarta is hearing the inspiring entrepreneurial stories you read on this blog. But it made be wonder - how do certain entrepreneurs continue to scale and grow business after business? I caught up with Erik Fairbairn, founder of POD Point, to talk growth and to find out more about the recently launched crowdfunding campaign.

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin? 

Nearly 15 years ago I attended the Cambridge University Entrepreneurship Summer School – at that time, entrepreneurship was a very unusual thing to consider. With the possible exception of Richard Branson, most people would have struggled to identify an entrepreneur back then!

That course introduced me to the wide range of skills an entrepreneur needs to master, but I didn’t start my first company immediately.

It wasn’t until 2005 I finally plucked up the courage to launch my first company – ecurie25. A super car club. ecurie25 turned out to be quite successful, it was the fastest growing company of its kind in the UK, and over a 3 year period it grew to about £1.3m turnover.

I sold it to a competitor in a trade sale in 2008. It is probably now the largest company of its type with multiple locations across the globe.

What’s the Pod Point story? 

After selling my previous company, I went on holiday with my wife. While on holiday I came up with the idea of POD Point.

I came back from holiday on the Sunday, and started POD Point on the Monday. That was in 2009, since then, together with a the wonderful team at POD Point, we’ve grown the business up to its present position of £4.5m TO, growing at well over 100% YoY.

What was the Eureka moment?

In 2009, I sold two POD Points to Tesco – at that time all I had was a rendering of what a POD Point might look like. Tesco is usually a tough customer to get in with, so the fact that I’d landed them with little more than a rendering made me think I was on to something big!

Where did the ‘green driving’ interest come from? 

I believe the current generation has to make some drastic changes prior to handing the world over to the next generation.

I think, through POD Point, I can help people move to low carbon Motoring. I can’t do it alone, lots of other companies are involved too, but Pod Point is part of the solution.

Just for fun, I recently calculated the total CO2 output of the cars on the ecurie25 fleet while I was running it. It was about 320 tonnes of CO2.

With POD Point it has taken me nearly 5 years to produce carbon savings to get myself back to carbon neutral!

Now POD Point is leading the way in Zero Carbon Motoring. Of course Electric Vehicles are very low carbon already, but we go further -  we carbon offset every bitof energy supplied through our public network, and when you buy  a home charge point from us, we fully offset your first 5,000 miles of EV motoring!

Do you think EV charging points are the future?

I’ve dedicated the last six years of my life to building up POD Point, so yes, I’m convinced EV charging points are the future! EV charging is not like using a petrol pump, and never will be.

With a petrol pump we put a prestigious amount of energy into a car in two or three minutes. We can’t replicate this electrically, so the model is different for EV.

With electric vehicles, we top up whenever we’re stopped, and luckily your car is stopped for over 90 percent of its life.

  • We charge your car when it’s at home
  • We charge your car when it’s at work
  • We charge your car while you're at the gym
  • And when you are at Sainsburys doing your shopping - guess what? We charge your car there too!

The experience becomes an easier one in that your car is full whenever you return to it. Which is a good experience. That is why POD Point is building a massive network of charge points everywhere you park your car for an hour or more!

How was the initial process of approaching people about use your solution?

The early years of a company like POD Point is about evangelism – you’ve got to get people to buy in, not to your product, but your mission. You’ve got to explain, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why it is important. Once you’ve got them onside with why your mission, only then can you start explaining to them how they can join in (buy your products / services). 

You’ve launched a Seedrs crowdfunding campaign, why? 

Crowdfunding fits perfectly with POD Point. We are building our charge point network by selling our charge points to our customers – we’re sort of crowdsourcing our network already, by asking our customers to buy a POD Point and put it on our network.

Plus there are a large number of loyal POD Point customers out there.  With crowd funding, we are allowing (amongst others) the nations’ EV drivers to help build the EV charge network they so desperately need and want, and in return benefit from its success.

Thus crowdfunding fits neatly with our business. 

What excited you about raising finance from the crowd?

The opportunity to get lots of people involved. POD Point can’t achieve its mission alone, we need EV drivers, hosts, and a wide range of other people engaged with our mission to make it work – Crowdfunding helps us, and builds loyalty with the people who are going to help us succeed – that makes it exciting.

POD Point export overseas, was that always the plan? 

We’re mainly UK focused, but we do get about 20% of our revenue from export activity. Export remains interesting to us, but the main focus is getting the UK’s network sorted out.

What do you enjoy the most about running your own business?

To me it is about two things:

 A realistic route to achieving something massive (build a national network of EV Charge Points)

And secondly, variety. Running a business always gives you variety – you need to be able to work across every functional area of business – for me that is something I enjoy. 

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