What’s it all about?
Disruption, I love cleantech disruption, and if ever there was a market that needed disruption it was car rental. On so many levels. And that is exactly what Aidan McClean has done. We talk about that, but also the transition from corporate to start-up life, the challenges of starting from scratch, fundraising, hiring, family life, EV and Clean Energy myths and host of other topics in this fascinating chat. My first podcast recorded in a Tesla Model 3 too.
About Aidan McClean:
Aidan McClean is an entrepreneur and clean technology investor who co-founded the world’s first all-digital all-electric car rental company, UFODRIVE. He is passionate about exposing the truths beyond the hype
around the rise of electric vehicles. His extensive research led to him writing his explosive book ELECTRIC REVOLUTION, published in March 2022.
A keen cyclist and outdoorsman, Aidan was not an early adopter or advocate for electric vehicles, or particularly aware of environmental matters. However, the more he researched air pollution, climate change and the impact of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, the more passionate he became about the role electric vehicles will play in averting the impending climate disaster.
About UFO Drive:
Aidan left behind a successful 25-year career in the financial services sector in 2017 to found UFODRIVE with his business partner and COO, Renaud Marquet. UFODRIVE was born out of a desire to help accelerate the move to clean mobility and a passion for great customer experience, guided by the following principles: easy booking; no queuing; no paperwork; great cars; transparent, all-inclusive, simple pricing; no confusing insurance options; no refuelling; and great value for money.
McClean and Marquet set out to examine the car rental business in detail and understand what customers really want. In tandem they studied the coming revolution in electric cars. By combining the smartphone revolution with the coming electric car revolution, UFODRIVE has developed something unique. Its car rental location – the ‘UFO Landing Bay’ – is where customers can arrive and drive – all with just their smartphone. UFODRIVE now has 18 locations across 8 countries in Europe with many more opening, including in North America and beyond.
In February 2022, UFODRIVE announced a $19m series A investment round, led by Hertz. Following blind-tests of the UFODRIVE platform, the global car rental giant had decided that it was the future of direct-to-car, contactless, electric car rental. Hertz will use the UFODRIVE Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for the end-to-end management of its new fleet.
- Aidan McClean on LinkedIn: (99+) Aidan McClean | LinkedIn
- Aidan McClean on Twitter Aidan McClean (@AidanMcClean) / Twitter
- Aidan McClean website: Aidan McClean
- UFO Drive website: UFODRIVE | Radically Better Car Rental | Easy, Exciting & Electric
- UFO Drive on Twitter: UFODRIVE (@UFODriveTweets) / Twitter
- UFO Drive on Instagram: UFODRIVE – A Better Car Rental (@ufodrive) • Instagram photos and videos
About Hyperion Cleantech Group:
Hyperion Cleantech Group is the holding company for businesses focused exclusively in cleantech talent acquisition, retention, leadership development. working with some of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world, helping to find extraordinary talent to enable their growth and success. Partnering with leading cleantech VCs, as well as directly with founders and entrepreneurs in the sector. With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy. We work across EMEA and NORAM, with teams based in the UK, Germany and the US.
Hyperion Executive Search is a retained search firm operating at Board, NED, C-Suite, VP and Heads of… level www.hyperionsearch.com
Fully Charged Recruitment is a contingent recruitment firm operating in the Mid/Senior level. www.fullychargedrecruitment.com
- ELECTRIC REVOLUTION: Myths & Truths about Electric Vehicles and Climate Disaster ELECTRIC REVOLUTION: Myths & Truths about Electric Vehicles and Climate Disaster: Amazon.co.uk: McClean, Aidan: 9789998790216: Books
Follow us online, write a review (please) or subscribe
I’m very keen to hear feedback on the podcast and my guests, and to hear your suggestions for future guests or topics. Contact via the website, or Twitter.
If you do enjoy the podcast, please write a review on iTunes, or your usual podcast platform, and tell your cleantech friends about us. That would be much appreciated.
David Hunt 0:32
Hello, I’m David Hunt CEO and founder of Hyperion clean tech group and your host for the leads and cleans up podcast. Now I bumped into my next guest in Amsterdam last week as we launched the fully charged recruitment business at the fully charged show live events. But it’s been on my radar and we’ve been in contact for for some time. Now I love when technology and more specifically clean technology just seamlessly makes your life easier, as well as cleaner. And as someone who travels often I walk past long queues at carpark rental desks at airports, and then they’d sometimes have to join those queues. Now, my guest this week is Aiden McLean. Aiden is an entrepreneur and clean technology investor who co founded the world’s first all digital all electric car rental company UFO drive UFO drive. Although he’d been a keen cyclist and outdoorsman, actually, Aiden was not an early adopter of or advocate for electric vehicles, or particularly environmentally aware at all actually, by his own confession. However, the more he did end up researching and looking at air pollution, climate change and the impact of fossil fuel powered vehicles, the more passionate he actually indeed then became about the role of electric vehicles and how they might play a part in averting the impending climate disaster. It’s been a pretty busy, busy year for him so far, with a significant investment into UVO drive and publishing a book addressing some of the many myths around electric vehicles. Lots to discuss. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Hello, Aidan, great to have you on the reason includes that podcast.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 2:03
Good morning, David. Thanks for having me here today,
David Hunt 2:05
I guess on topics in one of your vehicles in Dublin, as we speak, understand,
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 2:10
I’m sitting in one of our Tesla Model three is a new one. Actually, it’s about two weeks old, here in Dublin right now.
David Hunt 2:16
Okay, well, it’s not good to wait too much away just yet. Before we start into the conversation of Have you heard Dr. And what you’re all about, and then share a bit more about that Tesla Model three and others. It’s always good for us to start a little bit with your backstory, so keen to see what led you from into a transition from a banker to an entrepreneur. Really?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 2:37
Yeah, it was a long time in the making. I was almost 25 years working in banking, I’ve worked in London and Dublin a little bit in Boston, Frankfurt. And then the last 10 years in Luxembourg, I was always what the now call an intrapreneur has to go shake things up, you know, obviously, I was a predominantly doing big transformation programmes and technology in large banks. So I’d be the guy to come in and, you know, deliver to digitalize customer experience, leaned out operations, increase margins, all those kinds of things. That’s what I did for a living for a long time. And I always, always wanted to do something for myself. But for those who are listening, listening, who work in corporate life, it’s hard to walk away from corporate life, the old famous Golden handcuffs and all of that. But as well as a lot of things that happened, and I finally got the opportunity in mid 2017. To walk away I’ve actually just been promoted to a spray senior position the company I was working in, but I decided enough was enough of I don’t do something now, I’m never going to do my own business. The natural the natural thing would have been a FinTech, given my experience, but I decided with my co founder rent Mr. Kay to do something completely different, which is that the mobility and the car rental?
David Hunt 3:44
Yeah, no, awesome. I think that transition from corporate into entrepreneur life is really fascinating. And again, like yourself, haven’t been that I guess that intrapreneur, which I think is really interesting role. But we won’t have time to explore that now. But that, that whole concept of being really entrepreneurial within organisations, which typically aren’t, and yeah, and the challenges of all those things, but let’s talk so, of course, there’s a million places that you can start using technology to fight pollution and climate change and car rental might not necessarily be the first that springs to mind. So tell us a little bit about first Ufa drive solution and why you picked on car rental as your sort of route into trying to make an impact in the world?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 4:26
Well, I will, I will admit that I was never environmentally conscious. Most of my life, I will admit that that I went about my day in business and listened to all the reports and climate change and everything else but didn’t see it as something that was going to affect me directly. Until however, however, I’m a lifelong cyclist David I race for 20 plus years not anymore. I’m too old now but I still cycling compared to my bike because I didn’t actually so I got my bike couple times a week all over all over the place. And I suppose I was always always conscious going back into my early 20s of air pollution always conscious of you know, training and you know, looking after my body to be fit for a race and then stopping in diesel fumes or petrol fumes out in the road. And the penny kind of kind of kind of dropped a couple of years ago, when I was in Luxembourg, my bike training big SUV went by me and a beautiful forest. Gorgeous, gorgeous crisp September morning. This actually went by and because there’s no wind, and I was soaking up a hill, the smell and the taste lingered there for at least a minute as I was walking up this hill, and I kind of went what is going on? Why am I putting into my body here? What What is this, and I started researching it and getting deep into and then I realised the state of our you know, the state of our not about not just air pollution of the place we live for the planet in general, where we’re going, gonna get deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper on it. Start trying to find a way to get involved in this from a business perspective that may help save the planet or be on the capitalist to make money. That’s that’s that’s the honest truth. But combined that then when I’ve had multiple as I’m sure many listeners have had poor car rental experiences, it’s an industry that doesn’t care about the customer. And that’s that’s a fact. By the way, it doesn’t care about the customer. It’s always a poor experience. You always feel like you’ve been ripped off, you know, queuing and airports getting hassled and insurance not getting the car you want. Everybody knows this because everybody’s done this. Okay. But I haven’t met a person yet that said they’re like renting cars. So I kind of had a moment lightbulb moment I was in Vienna airport and start 2017 Another hour renting a car process from Q to car. It was a terrible experience or pushing insurance on me, the guys in front of me were complaining and so on so forth, didn’t get the car I wanted, couldn’t find the car, all the usual things. And I said, What is going on here? Why can’t this be a super slick digital experience, arrive and drive in two minutes, no human interaction? And why can’t a rental electric car so I don’t have to pollute and be I can experience electric mobility. So start researching this and realise nobody was doing it. Not one company were renting electric cars. There was a few very specialists, you know, peer to peer things. But nothing in the mainstream car rental in the main car rental centres. And certainly not on digital. You had to still do it the old fashioned way. And I found out why. Why it’s not digital, David’s kind of semi deliberate in their part. And I decided okay, can we create a completely digital experience and only electric cars, knowing nothing about car rental zero or doesn’t help to rent a car. So that’s where it began wrote a paper and anger on the plane back to Luxembourg in March 17. It was seven pages and basically top 10. So no queuing, no paperwork, the fixed price for insurance. Always got the car, you want it easy to find no more than two minutes from arriving your location before you drive away. No mute, no human interaction, transparent pricing, etc. That was the solution for car rental. And that’s what we built. That’s what the OverDrive app is. And it’s only electric cars and we’ve been up and running now for well, four years now for four tantalise. Yeah,
David Hunt 7:43
no, you know, I mentioned in my sort of intro that, unfortunately, unfortunate depends how you look at it, you know, via an awful lot. And I’ve always avoided car rental where I can for the reasons you talked about there. The last time I did the thing was flooding into Amsterdam and was heading out to client near Amir and asked pleadingly for, for the sat nav to at least been English, but got a Dutch version. And at the time, I got a roadworks and it was a whole world of pain, but it’s just another part of that. So that’s, that’s, again, I, when you saw I saw you guys, when you first sort of came out, I think probably reached out and obviously there’s a lot of exciting things happening I was waiting to see which airports you were going to be at and obviously to try and engage in. But obviously, we’ll flip around to some of the last challenges of the last two years. But before we do that, let’s just see where you’re at at the moment. So now where Will people be able to find or utilise the full service and where are you at as a business in terms of size and scale and they recently you just had a nice investment from from hurt. So good. Just had a flavour for where you are geographically and where you are. So business.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 8:51
Okay, geographically we are in eight soon to be in 10 European countries. So we’re in UK in Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, France, Austria, Luxembourg. That’s where we are right now. And we have 18 locations open. So in some major cities with two locations. So for example, Brussels. We’ve got four locations in London, all downtown locations. So we’re in Westfield Shopping Centre, or it was two days ago, we were in Oxford Street Park Lane and just recently opened in Canary Wharf. So we have four centres in London. We have Britain’s the Paris city centre, we’re in Luxembourg airport, Hamburg Airport, Cologne Bonn airport, Vienna airport. About to open permission sales president said anyway about to open Frankfurt International Airport next couple of weeks. Okay. I will say that airports are tough from a car rental perspective because all existing car rental operators have all this sewn up, you know, they have their agreements, they have their, their tender process and there’s also some very anti competitive things go on in airports to stop people that goes getting in. However we’ve done very well. We’ve signed a lot of airports which we haven’t opened yet because the pandemic slowed us down with airports. But thankfully and thank God we had 1213 locations open the city centres when the pandemic hit. So they did quite well, soon as lockdowns began to ease, whereas the airports were dead, obviously, well, they’ve come back the airports, because everyone probably knows and are crazy busy to get back to normal. So that’s where we are, we are very at a very advanced stages to launch in United States. And during the summer, we’re also going to launch our first locations in Spain and Italy, in the major cities, I won’t mention where yet because there’s a few competitors there. So that’s where we are. So you should be able to find Google Drive in about 30 locations across Europe by the end of this year, airports and cities, and then fortified locations, the United States and then see where we go from there.
David Hunt 10:42
Brilliant, great expansion in such a short period of time. And we’re to come to in supporting actually, one or two specialist chauffeur services that have gone purely electric, which is different. Obviously, it’s more of a chauffeur service, but again, expanding rapidly. So there’s an appetite clearly, for people who want sort of short term, different infirmier, sort of year sort of blah, blah, car kind of pick up and drive around kind of thing. So it’s a different type of solution. So let’s look at that growth. Because like you say, we’ll leave the elephant in the room of COVID for a second and squat a specific question around there. But just generally, four years as a startup is tough anyway, there’s always a multitude of challenges. And not least of which you know, your own transition from corporate life to to entrepreneurial life, where obviously, you don’t have the bells and whistles around you, and the buck entirely stops on you. And you know, you’re literally counting the days, can you pay the rent at home alone in the business? So what have been some of the challenges that you’ve had during that time? from a leadership perspective, and from a personal perspective of making that transition?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 11:50
It was nothing I could have prepared myself for. If anybody’s thinking about doing it, I would say absolutely do it. And not just because it will drive has been a relative success. If it had not been a success, I’d still say, absolutely do it. And I’ll tell you why. In corporate life is quite senior. So up to the point I would have left my corporate life in order to pas and a few 100 people working for me, and it was all very comfort, very busy, extremely busy, but very, very comfortable. And I thought I knew everything. After 20 plus years of working in banks applied to services, I thought I was the master of the universe, I knew everything. I went from that on a Friday evening to a Monday morning working from our kitchen, in our house with nothing, just literally piece of paper, a laptop and an idea. And it is an absolute baptism of fire. And I can tell you, quite honestly that in the past for almost five years now, since we started working on the project info drive, I have learned more in those five years than I learned in the 20 plus years of corporate life, that’s a fact. You have to do everything of course yourself. You have to learn it is your it is your own money or your investors money. Every single day, as a startup you’re burning, you don’t make money. When you start up your burning every single day. You don’t pay yourself stuff begins to bite in the bank balance and everything else pressing up against the hurts, and but a lot. And then you know, you’re where you’re staying awake at night thinking, well, if I take this road or that road, how’s it gonna affect the cash burn? Where can we get to how fast can we go. And it’s all about speed for a startup, I would tell any founder, and that the number one thing is speed in a startup, you’ve got to move fast. And what I learned is that in my corporate life, it was always, you know, ready fire aim. But in the in, in, in entrepreneurial life, it’s definitely, you know, you aim later to get something and it’s probably a very bad analogy to use at the moment. But it’s you just get it done. You get you get it put on so you have an idea 80% Done is better than 100% Perfect and not done. And that’s the bit that big transition in corporate life for me to get done. So you have to do a lot of things, you know, you go from screwing signs on the wall and river carpark which I’ve done to help them to cleaning cars, which I’ve done, right to talk about 20 30 million funding rounds with investors. That’s literally what the range of things you do on a daily basis.
David Hunt 13:59
Yeah, it’s incredible, isn’t it? I think that speeds things interesting. And also, the phrase always coming to mind with with myself and I share sometimes with clients is that, you know, Perfection is the enemy of progress. And as much as obviously we’d like everything to be as best as possible. Sprint is of the essence. And absolutely. So back to that issue. Because when I founded Hyperion at that point, my wife was on maternity leave, I had a daughter who was just under one and no other form of income. And, again, started with a laptop at the dining room table. And so it led to some interesting conversations at home and I guess as a father yourself and obviously with responsibilities going from that very secure, you know, well paid corporate life to the things you just talked about. That that’s something perhaps, isn’t always thought about that, you know, all of us as entrepreneurs or business people or all of us in business are humans first and foremost. So, again, how did you, I guess Throw yourself put into that and and how was that different from perhaps you how you would expected it to be
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 15:07
if you think you have some money in the bank to see it through startup, double it, okay? Because because I have five children, David and I started my business when I was 45. On a very busy time, my personal life, I think other things going on. And, you know, we don’t get paid for the first year and a half. And then when you do start getting paid from it’s a salary that was a quarter what it was early in my corporate life, that begins to eat into your personal finances very, very, very quickly, and suddenly realise the things you used to be able to do cannot be done anymore. And then he combined that with the fact that, you know, your kids are getting older and have needs, and you start wondering whether we could make it or not, that doesn’t make it am I going back to corporate life has that all that going to work out and blah, blah, blah, you know, so it’s a tough time. But having said that, it’s very exciting time. It’s new every single day. It’s exhilarating, it’s exhilarating. You’re running your own business, and I just couldn’t wait to get up in the morning. I still can’t wake up in the morning. Last thing I do, when I go to sleep at night is is thinking about input drive. And the first thing that entered my mind wake up in the morning as we drive and what we can do, and I thoroughly enjoyed it has been very tough times, obviously, particularly last couple of years. But I can’t describe the enjoyment compared to, you know, corporate life, I got a kick out of some of the things we did in corporate life, but it’s nothing compared to running your own business.
David Hunt 16:15
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And how many are in number at the moment in terms of the team, obviously, in nothing growing itself, we have
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 16:21
just doubled the team since the first of March. So talking about this yesterday, the massive hiring programme. We spoke about this recently, with a massive, massive hiring programme with a lot of new faces. So we’re just over 40 people. Now, I like to keep an ultra lean. I don’t like to have a lot of people that don’t measure success. We start with people actually measure lack of people. We build everything you see today, an Uber driver, just 15 people. And we did that because there’s a lot of outsourcing. A lot of just in time, we were very clever in how we spent our capital and how we employed people plus a lot of conservative startups that want to make payroll. But now that’s changed. So now we, as you alluded to earlier, with a large funding round there three months ago, exactly three months ago, and we’ve been on a hiring splurge really for the last couple of months. And there’s a lot of new faces, and people have joined the company. And it’s trying to get a handle on all that now meeting lots of them over the last few days. Yeah, yeah, it’s got to continue to grow to the end of the year. And as I said, I don’t want a massive team. If we can answer something we do. And then all the key IP and knowledge we retain in the company are permanent people.
David Hunt 17:19
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely clear on a return to that. But again, that’s revert back to New York’s you started the business. Four years ago, nobody foresaw what was to come. And I’ve given that a lot of people’s experiences around rental around airports. And, you know, obviously, flights were decimated at best. I do remember being in Manchester Airport, where it was a bit of like a scene from a zombie movie. It was me and for people wondering whether we’re, if something bad was gonna happen. Clearly, that wasn’t expected. And how much of an impact was that you touched on before that you’ve obviously not just at the airport locations, but that’s clearly must have caused some concerns or effect on the on the business model and the strategy?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 18:04
Absolutely, I mean, we didn’t put global pandemic in the business plan, that’s for sure. You know, we we had a plan and back to the speed piece, because our concept was new. And because I was always worried about being replicated, which we haven’t been yet, by the way, but we will ensure point, we we decided we want to get ultra fast on the first two years, we are opening one location per month, which was an achievement to get one location open per month. And we’re doing that with very limited capital. So as a start up in your early stages of sort of seed funding, you you really are on a shoestring you’re doing everything you possibly can, but you’re also running very, very close to the wire in terms of funding, you will never more than a couple of months away from having no money in the bank. Okay. And that’s normal. That’s absolutely normal. For a start, we don’t take too much capital at the beginning because you delude yourself with the low valuations equally, you don’t want to take too little because you don’t want to run away and so on. So it’s a very fine balance. And we were fought very fortunate because of my contacts from financial services to get our first funding round. Very quickly. I got the funding round together in 10 days, just just from reputation Reynolds reputation, we got a very quickly from seed investors. And but we didn’t take a lot, you know, so we had enough to see us to a certain level of growth. And then we planned our Series A in 2020. In fact, it’s true story, we start working on our Series A funding round at the beginning of 2020. No one was even talking about COVID The end as a small, small thing and China no one paying much attention to it. And we were in Russia in Monaco, in March 2020. And we shook hands with a private family office for the series a it was done. It was a done deal. Shook hands, right. It was on about the 10th or 11th of March. We were flying back to Luxembourg. And so this is brilliant. It’s fantastic our Series A got this this funding thing is quite straightforward. What’s everyone talking about? We will say this is boring. We’re gonna go like crazy. Now here we go. We’re on the pigs back and that was the weekend the world went into lockdown. It’s true. I was sitting at home on Saturday morning going oh, what’s going on? What the hell is this? The world went into lockdown the pandemic just you know spaced a couple of weeks became a massive thing. And that family office pulled out, understandably, they decided, no, they didn’t know what the future held. So they pulled out. And we found ourselves with, you know, very little cash left at the beginning of the pandemic, and wondering, is this going to work? How are we going to survive? So we have to do pretty radical things. You know, a lot of people really wanting to help us out. And, you know, the understandable most airports said, okay, look, we understand your traffic’s down to five or 10%. So we won’t charge you the rental fee for three or four months and this kind of thing, you know, we did all that kind of stuff. And we basically stopped salaries and everything, and we survived through for six months during the pandemic. And then thankfully, we got some more private investors backed us, gave us not enough leeway to bring us into 2021. And we start going, we resumed working our Series A, and but the funny thing happened in terms of the business, yes, the airport’s went to near zero in terms of rental business. However, our city centres boomed, particularly places like London, not trying to lock down, okay, so you’re locked down, obviously, nobody was really moving around. But every time there was an easing of the lockdown, and you remember, you know, people forget quickly, but it was four or five times, we had lock downs and an easing, lockdown and easing. So every time was an easing, our business was out the door with people just wants to get out and do things. And because we were direct to car hardware to car, no human interaction, you don’t have to meet a person and people apparently, but leaving people and handing over keys, we don’t have any of that. So people flocked to us. So luxaflex of Amsterdam, he mentioned and the likes of London boomed, couldn’t get enough vehicles, in fact, so that really, really helped the coffers and helped us sustain us through the remaining months of the pandemic. And then we will start, you know, in seriously working on a series a again, towards the end of last year 2020 2021 Sorry. And then we close it, then in February, we got our funding, almost $20 million in, in February this year.
David Hunt 21:42
Sometimes, as you say what the unexpected turns out to your advantage. In fundraising, we often talk about, you know, money is all money is not equal. And of course, as a startup, you know, often not any money, but most money is good. But how is that? I mean, again, family offices are really important to the growth of so many entrepreneurs and, and founders, but looking at sort of where you were initially closing around with a family office, to where you are now taking, I guess, money and also perhaps potentially a strategic partnership with somebody who would, on one level be a competitor with the Hertz situation. So how was that? come about? Because clearly, you probably are. And it’s not uncommon, of course, if you’re a thorn in someone’s backside, that they jump on and work with you rather than against you if they see the direction of travel, and Fairfax’s and for doing so. But but you’re going back to the point of kind of vehicle companies, typically, and I’ve used many, I will much of a muchness, without any great shape care or consideration for for the for the customer. But how is that partnership going? Because clearly they buy into not just what you’re doing, but but sort of the technology. So is there more than I assume there is but what more than money is coming from that relationship? And how’s that different from where we’ve been if you’ve got the family office money?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 23:04
Absolutely, we’ve put a lot. So just I’ve learned an awful lot. Last year for years about fundraising, I’ve met all the big VCs and banks and family offices, I’ve been everywhere. And I’ve learned a huge amount, I would say i Our team has learned a huge amount about this. And you’re right, there is better money than others. Now, money isn’t equal. But when you’re desperate for cash, and people tend to jump on any sort of money, we didn’t do that we got very lucky, actually, because we were ploughing away on the fundraising for sort of half of last year. So up until around summer, last year, and it was a bit slow, and I was getting concerned, we weren’t getting huge amount of traction. And then it’s kind of like waiting for a bus, David, you know, you’re, you’re you’re waiting there for half an hour. And all of a sudden three or four come together at the same time. And that’s what happened to us. Towards the end of last year, September, October, we had three or four suitors for the investment, including Hertz. And one or two of them. Were very interested in a wonderful woman whose name was a well known energy companies who are massively putting work into transitioning to clean tech as a great team, we get on very well with them. And they want to lead the Series A round. And in fact, we almost shook hands on a deal with those guys. So very, very attractive terms for us. And then others came along from family offices to typical VC. So we actually had our pick, we got to around October last year, we had our pick because of it which one will you take, which is a unique, very lucky position to be in. I’m very grateful to be in that position. After six months of hard work in the funding. We had we had our choice, but that hurts came along in earnest and I had a conversation with the new owners of hertz because you know, they went chapter 11 last year and then they got bailed out. And now they’re owned by US authorities and night had private equity. I know the conversation with the senior people in those organisations and they told me confidentially they were about to order 100,000 Tesla’s and about to go electric we all this is all public knowledge news now, but back then it wasn’t. And I was like, wow, I was delighted, by the way because I’ve always said I want all the current companies to hold electric the whole picture, you know, I’m happy I’m not afraid to competition at all. So in fact, I welcome it. And when they told me that was one I was delighted, and two a little bit scared think well hang on. If you’re getting hundreds of 1000s electric cars you’re gonna be It’s gonna be a bit tough on us to compete with massive compliment, that hurts. But then we have the platform, we’ve got the technology and the customer advantage and super high customer ratings and so on. And managing the electric fleet is completely different to manage an internal combustion fleet. And that’s what we’re about. We’re about the technology we’ve spent four and a half years now honing our E mobility platform for a the customer experience, the range and charging management, the energy management and utilisation management. So we’re pretty slick at this stuff. Now, we have a very, very lean operation now, in the back office, even like the behind the scenes of a customer doesn’t see to manage the operation. So to answer your question hurts him long will always say hurts It was actually their owners. So Satori is nice that they came along said, hey, we’d like to be part of your series, a initially a couple of million, I thought, great general problem, you’ll be come on the cap table, you can have a little say, you can see we’re doing and I don’t see any problem with that. And then they change their mind is that what led to the whole thing? And we said, Well, no, no. So it’s not just just to be clear on our series, it’s not just hurt. So we have a couple of others invested as well, they were the largest part of the series a for sure, but as a several millions from other investors as well, including existing investments. So we let them take the lion’s share of the investment. And it’s not just about money. So we we’ve done a good we have an agreement with Hertz. And we’ll be announcing this shortly, to basically use our platform and a white label operation from many of their locations under electric cars. So as they transition from the old business model of desk, and keys and operation headache, to slick digital model, they will use our platform, and that’s a massive deal for us, because obviously hurts are huge. That’s the first the first part of the agreement. The second the second part there, and as we agreed, you know that we will do some stuff around locations on fleet in terms of fleet sharing, and everything else. And that that’s working very well for us. So we’re very positive on that. And then the third part is some people I was actually asked yesterday by somebody about our independence, and they said, Why did you give up independence, so we didn’t. So we gave up zero independence with a deal with hertz, they are just investors, they have no special vehicles or reserve monitors or anything that a normal investor wouldn’t have. Don’t have a controlling interest. They’re just an investor. So that that’s what gave us peace of mind. And we thought long and hard and soft, some external advice before we decided to go with hertz, because we don’t want to, you know, look like we’re setting out to the competition, right like that. And we haven’t, so we’re independent, they’ve given us some money, we’ve got some strategic partnerships in place to help accelerate the world towards electric. We’re very, very happy with the fact on Monday, I was in London, and I met a new CEO, Stephen shear, he flew over and met us in London, and one of our locations, and we gave a demonstration of everything. And it went very well. And, you know, I think the relationship is can be very positive in the long term for us.
David Hunt 27:30
Yeah, yeah. I always say that. Strategic partnerships where there’s money and additional, obviously, the either routes to market and or support is, is kind of, often at least the best money because it comes with opportunities. I guess one of the things I know,
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 27:47
David that the owners, sorry, apologies, the owners of hertz, new owner sitars, knighthood, they were pushing as much as we were to keep us independent from the hurts machine, because they want us to be successful independently.
David Hunt 27:58
You know, as well, as anybody having come from corporate life, you know, innovation is very difficult to implement in larger organisations, and the pace of things are phenomenally different. So yeah, I think that’s always a challenge where we’ve seen in the past, I think it’s certainly better than it was, but for many years in large organisations would buy an innovative, disruptive company to try and learn from that, but it ended up suffocating it. And yes, I think it’s certainly improved over the last few years that there’s much more of an understanding of you, you’ve got to let what you bought be what it was, and the reason you bought it, or invested in it, which has a genuine
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 28:32
interest in changing and becoming, you know, 21st century operating model that are genuinely pushing to try and do this and and beat the others in the market. So
David Hunt 28:40
yeah, no, absolutely go back to your original point areas where there’s been so little disruption or change for many years, we’re always primed for, for success, as you’ve as you’ve obviously demonstrated so far. Looking ahead, the next sort of three to five years, a couple of things, really, I mean, one of which is clearly from an internationalisation point of view, that there’s massive opportunities for organisations like yours, and of course, for you to drive. But picking back as a tech company is an interesting one. Again, and I know a lot of companies that we’ve worked for in the past have started providing a solution. And in the process of that they’ve created some phenomenal software or back office solutions, which then actually becomes sometimes the primary but certainly a part of the growth model to either white label or outsource or licence that that sort of technology. So yeah, in the next three to five years for you for driver that’s looking at first what’s kind of in store from from an instant answer internationalisation but also from, I guess, a diversification point of view for the organisation.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 29:44
Yeah, and the next thing gonna say it’s gonna sound a little bit strange, but we don’t really care about the cars. I know we’re Carlin company, but anybody can buy a car, you know, and stick it on the road for someone to rent. That’s easy, and everybody will have electric cars. That’s guaranteed. So we always focus on the technology. Delivering a really slick customer experience. And you know, maximising the assets in terms of the investment you put in the car through offshore operations platform. So we decided, and this is day one decision, by the way, and when we start building it for Drive, I always had a phrase in my corporate life, when it comes to software, always buy where you can and build where you must, because building software is hard. And anybody listening to this that works for a bank or anything like that, or any sort of institution that has run software development teams, they know it’s hard, it’s difficult. And it’s messy, and it’s fraught with problems and overruns and budgets, and the usual things that happen. So we decided day one, look, let’s try and buy the software, you know, we couldn’t find nothing existed, to manage an end to end electric fleet and deliver a digital experience for customers for car rental. So we decided to build it ourselves. And the day we decided to build it ourselves. The first thing myself, when I said was, well hang on crazy building this for ourselves, from our corporate experience, we should make this white label from the outset. So maybe we’ll sell the software later. That’s exactly what we did. So everything we have built, we’ve always done it with a view to Can that be plugged into somewhere else in a white label environment? The answer now is yes. So we have a very extensive platform like it’s almost five years in the making. And it’s designed to be white labelled for all forms and mobility shipping to electric. So we decided then, and the pandemic, you mentioned earlier, that you know, the things change and unexpected outcomes, the pandemic accelerated this actually, because when the pandemic hit, and we kind of slowed down the car rental growth, we decided to focus on getting the software ready for SAS. So we launched the SAS business, which is basically emobility. In the box, we launched about a year earlier than expected because of the pandemic pandemic. And we kind of did a soft launch, we said, look, this platform is available for others. And that’s where it hurts, you can worry of us. Yeah. And since then, now, we have 11, as of this week of 12, sorry, 12 Mobility companies now on our platform. And they range from subscription service that’s going live in Switzerland today, actually, to traditional car rental, small car rental companies around Europe, everywhere, from Hungary, to Greece to the Baltic states, we also have a couple of car sharing companies who are on our platform as well, who are making the transition to electric. And we’re talking to big corporate fleets, last mile delivery, and so on, about using our platform to manage their fleets, because we give a better return over management. So you could then say, well, what are you doing? Currently all I want to just focus on the software and the potential there is massive millions and millions of cars around the world? Why not just do that? And the answer is, yes, we may in the future. But for now, we still need to prove our model in multiple markets, particularly markets where we’re not like like Spain, Italy, and, and the US and Canada, and so on. So really, our rental business and our high customer ratings. They’re kind of a showcase for the software. And we’ve already had a couple of people, cup of companies who have bought our software have said, Well, what I like about you guys is you’re doing it for real. I can see in Hamburg, you’re getting 4.5 stars on Trustpilot. And people love it. I can see it works, you know. And that’s exactly what we do. So there was never ever Uber drivers never above buying hundreds of 1000s of cars and trying to compete with her. So now you listen six and those guys never gonna happen will take the rest of my days to do that, you know, I’ve been it’s been it’s been a thorn in the side, as you mentioned earlier, being a disrupter on the technology side and doing something innovative, which they’re too slow to do. That was always aware of it. Yeah,
David Hunt 33:11
yeah. Sure. One thing I love about working in a sector, which I’ve done for many years now is, again, back to your first point, there’s there’s absolutely no problem with being a capitalist looking to make money and also make an impact in the world. But there seems to be that much more elements of collaboration and the willingness to just accept and almost embrace that you’re going to get competitors and to, you know, essentially end up working for or with them at some point. Because the rising tide floats all boats, of course. So I think that’s really interesting that openness to say, well actually, like say, ultimately, the SAS might be the predominant business or where most of the money comes from. But the car rental business is, as you say, the platform to proof of concept in many ways to sell it. This is living and breathing and working in various locations on a day to day basis. But I love how businesses evolve and how that interaction and that collaboration works. And it’d be great to see, I wish we’ll move on to the topic of broader mobility, more and more as we’re doing, you know, electric vehicles of different types, shapes and forms, playing a part in the planning part and the transition. So part of that was to look at then what do you see next, and it might lead into the book compensation, which I wanted to end on. But where do you see or what other disruptions within mobility do you see in the next three to five years on a on a broader sense, not just related to your own business?
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 34:34
I think I’m not the first person to speak about this. I think car ownership trends are changing dramatically. You know, I’m sure I think we’re probably saying vintage David, but when I was 1617 years of age, all I wanted was a car so the number one thing in my life was to get a car and I saved up and worked in a fish and chip shop and got my money and bought my first car was 19 of the lightest, gave me mobility and freedom. I have I have sons and daughters who are approaching that age right now. No interest I might even talk about it. I even said to my son yesterday, who’s 18 and said, Look, jump to teach you to drive during the summer. No response generation, I was I was rubbing the car keys on my dad at that age. So and the reason is there’s just so much more mobility choices that we didn’t have, like, you know, you can there’s, there’s Ubers, there’s car sharing, and I’m just picking Dublin as an example. You know, you’ve got free now app, cab, a taxi, adorn 10 seconds and no much going to call to get from A to B, you can have 10 seconds, 10 minutes, you can have, you know, you’ve got currently got them for drivers, and car companies like that, where you can take a car for multi day rentals, you’ve got better public transport, most cities, a lot of trams are reinstalled. So really, this, I couldn’t, I only had a bus or a taxi option back in the 80s and 90s to get around with your expense. And I couldn’t afford or better to save up and get a car. Those the kids now don’t have that they have got a whole range of mobility options. And they don’t really see saving up and putting huge amount of capital into an expensive item like a car, which depreciates which is a crazy investment. We all know that buying a car is not when you walk in the door. It’s not an answer. It’s around 90% of time not used. You know, it’s a crazy investment. And I think that’s the growing growing trend. You see more and more companies moving into car subscription services, a lot of the OEMs are considered car subscription services, we’ve launched a subscription service ourselves for Dr. And it’s on our platform to launch additional services. And that’s that’s a growing trend. I think it’s a demographic thing. I think people in their 20s and 30s and maybe even early, early 30s and 40s. Yeah, they’re happy to use those services, I think we move on to suburbs that are having kids to come in and your own car, you know. But that’s reality that’s changing dramatically and OEMs know, this, too, they’re all getting in, in this app, as well as a huge change in mobility habits, which is a good thing. You know, there’s no point in buying this metal consuming resources, which it does, sitting outside your driveway for nine out of 10 times not used or depreciating burning your own money. It’s a lot of decision. I noticed an emotional aspect of buying cars as well I get that. But this is a much better idea if people can share vehicles, if there’s a opportunity to you know, to subscribe to vehicles even try before you buy. We think about going metrics will try electric car for two months first and so on. I think that’s That’s definite growing trend. And, and everybody’s getting wise to that now.
David Hunt 37:09
Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. There are there’s just there’s always the case when there’s disruption there sort of multiple levels, or various different technologies that come into play. And again, when I was 19, I couldn’t quite afford a car. So I used to cycle around London everywhere. Still do a little bit but not certainly not as much as them because I couldn’t afford a car at the time. And because options were limited. These days. My kids jump on scooters, here there and everywhere scooters,
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 37:33
David Hunt 37:36
It is a different dynamic. And the thing I think that’s really important and is perhaps underrecognized, you touched on there is utilisation of the vehicle. And it’s not just from a personal perspective that, you know, traditionally, I’ve always never bought very nice cars and you know, spent 95% of the time looking out the window at them or have them in a car park somewhere. So on a personal investment thing, absolutely. That makes absolutely no sense. But from going back to the environmental impact point of view, we are creating these vehicles and all of the energy and carbon and that’s created in the in the creation of of that vehicle. So the mass utilisation of constitute utilisation of vehicles is incredibly increasing the same the sustainability of all of this stuff. And it’s interesting, if you ever read or watch any of Tony Seba stuff, a great, great fan of his work, but again, looking at sort of the future and get your thoughts on this amount in terms of autonomous driving where, you know, you can have vehicles pretty much being used for electric vehicles in particular, because it doesn’t have all the issues that are nice vehicle has pretty much on a 24 hour cycle if the demand is there, which is massively increasing, you know, exponentially increasing the utilisation of the vehicle.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 38:48
Correct and electric cars, and this is our experience now in your for business. They don’t need anywhere near the maintenance level of traditional ice cars. You know, there’s no I’ve had electric car for four or five years apart from tires and one small fault. I’ve never even been to a service station with a thing. So it’s it comes Yeah, so it can be used. Also, the ultimate lifespan of electric cars still hasn’t been figured out. We all know, you know, most ice cars are dead by 1213 years, they’re pretty much members, you know, they’re getting to the end their lifetime high maintenance, keep them alive after that date. But electric cars, we don’t know until we could open electric car for 20 years. And the battery degradation is relatively minor Hang on, I’m down about eight or 9% on my car after five years. It’s not huge. And, you know, we don’t know we don’t just don’t know how much you can get out of an electric car. So therefore, yes, it could be used as you said on a near continual basis as opposed to just sitting in your in your driveway. Now I get the emotional thing you know, I do get it and I liked my cars and I’ve had my stars over the years. I actually don’t own a car now all my cars I just you know temporarily take you for drive cars and I need to put bullets and or other services. I get that piece that’s hard because it’s something you know people like there are classic cars and like they’re like they’re After metal in her driveway, she said to look at, that’s a possession thing. But the cost of that is phenomenal. And I’m talking about money I’m talking about, you know, the resources we put into developing these machines. And I always use the analogy of an alien arrived, arrived on our planet and look down and start analysing it to see how we live our society. And you told them, you know, we burned all of this capital created all this carbon and fossil fuels to produce this machine that we only use one of the 10 times, they just think we’re nuts. But that’s what we do. That’s what we do. And then if you told them for in the case of ice cars, by the way, the energy we put into those cars, the effort we put into extracting fossil fuels from the ground, refining them pumping petrol stations, putting them into the cars 80%, that energy is wasted 80% Because internal combustion cars are so inefficient that 80% of loss and heat loss and mechanical loss, yeah, they will take our duck, we’re doubly insane what you doing. consuming resources like this, like no other creature on the planet does this, you know, if a lion went around catching other bees, and they just left them there to record what’s going on. So that’s the reality, we do this, and it’s not sustainable, and it cannot be continued. And you have 1.4 billion cars on the earth today. And you’ve got a growing population and and more scarily, you’ve got nations that were typically impoverished are now moving into wealthier status, which they showed about every right to do and they absolutely should enjoy a better lifestyle, but they’re going to want cars and they’re going to want to consume, consume. So have you applied the model we’ve lived in? So let’s call it Western countries, have you applied that to the countries which are now developing and getting up to our level of economic lifestyle? It’s not going to work? It’s just not gonna work? You can’t have another billion cars on the planet, they were dead or finished?
David Hunt 41:35
Yeah, yeah, no, only secondary points, as you jump back quick, it’s always one of my favourite Mythbusters in terms of the actual efficiency of a, of a nice vehicle, let alone all the crap and everything and cost of getting vehicle into the thing in the first place, that the fact that only about 30% of it ends up in motion. Yes. But that leads us on to and we’ve been talking about, I’ve loved the conversation. I always close with book recommendations, which probably leads myself perhaps you have one in mind, as a start. So you have recently, obviously published a book now how you’ve had time to write that whilst having five kids and and running a startup for a pandemic, I’m not entirely sure. But just if you obviously will point people in the right direction, so they can take a fuller look, but perhaps you can just give us a quick flavour of why and what it’s all about.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 42:23
Yeah, so never saw myself as a book writer ever. And but, you know, when I entered this world of E, mobility, electric mobility, and karma, and so on, I’ve had the privilege in the last five years to meet hundreds of people, you know, investors, I’ve met some climate scientists, people developing solar panels, I’ve met environmentalists and met the opposite of oil, lots of oil companies and how they think, and constantly David, I mean, constantly, almost on a daily basis, when I talked about electric cars, and talked about what we do, and talked about the future, disbelief, and more scarily, a pre predefined conception or a predefined belief of how electric cars work, with no evidence or basis whatsoever, straightaway, without any without any response I got. Oh, yeah. But you know, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t be able to take those now to look smarter Frankfurt. So he talked about, of course, you can, you know, or am I, you know, but I wouldn’t want to buy a car now, because it’s going to be out of date in two years. And we weren’t nothing. Or, you know, I’m going to want to buy electric car because the battery will be literally sent degraded within a year or two, or I don’t buy that car because it’s nowhere to charge nor your charge. This is this is what said to me, sent me a daily basis. And or, you know, electric cars actually are worse for the planet parachute. Yeah, absolutely worse. And you’re better off with diesel. This is the test have said to me, I mean daily. And the deeper I went and I don’t want to come across as a Luddite or somebody that’s kind of pushed these things down people’s throats and make wrong choices. But I just get frustrated with the conversations. And I had a very senior guy in a major American VC, a very well known VC, top top tier VC about two years ago talking to us, and he said, Look, man, you know, I love what you’re doing. I love to direct the car and no lines and all that is fantastic. But Why on earth are you messing around with electric cars? And he said, I was like Jesus. I also had, I also had a meeting with a major oil executive about funding as well a couple of years ago, and he when I started talking about electric cars, he told me apart I literally tore me apart, you know, you never beat the convenience of a petrol station is never going to action until you can fill up your car electric car in two minutes. No one’s ever gonna buy them and all these kind of things. That’s the genesis of the book. I said, My God is destruction, start writing stuff down. So I did I start writing it down. And you asked how I got time to do it. I kind of want to get focused and obsessed with things I get focused on obsessed with things. So I decided I’m going to book in a couple of months. And I blocked out 10 o’clock to one o’clock in the morning, every night religiously. For three months of last year, I wrote the book. And it it. It was grateful and have to say and I again thought I knew everything. But when I started digging into certain subjects, I learned huge amounts, particularly about the climate change again, I learned a huge amount about pollution. I learned a huge amount of energy efficiency and green tech and that’s the most exciting part actually, the last chapter of the book is all about the green energy trends. Should I really enjoy talking to people about energy storage solutions and the fantastic work taking place, they’re actually finished the whole project quite hopeful on our future, to be honest with you, it starts out quite pessimistic realise the air pollution, the particulate matter and the deaths, you know, the four and a half more deaths from COVID Every year, then that comes from air pollution, so on the human costs of air pollution, and when I start getting into that, it’s quite depressing. And I realise how bad things are and global temperature rises, and we’re doomed, we’re doomed. But then you get into what’s going on, and how much human effort is going into trying to solve this problem with energy storage, you know, more efficient batteries, solar panel, technology, renewables, so on so forth, there’s a huge amount taking place. And it’s definitely a hopeful future for us if we act fast enough. So that that’s the genesis of the book, I put it all together into, it’s about 80 sections, actually, the book doesn’t need to be read and and it’s like 80 sections from you know, range and charging for electric cars to, you know, what really is air pollution to, you know, the green energy solutions, which are coming and are in place, and so on the cost of electric car as a class of electricity, which is efficient, our electric cars more cleaner than, than petrol cars, and so on. So I research all of that, put it into a book. And yeah, it was more of a fun project and anything else. We launched it, then a few a few weeks back, we launched it. And it’s been very quick response so far.
David Hunt 46:16
Cool. Ya know, it’s interesting how these things start, I started this podcast as a hobby and went knocking on the door of 100 episodes now, and I’m a huge global ranking, so it’s great to take a look at the room. Listen, it’s been absolutely fabulous to spend some time with you, Aidan, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts will obviously on the podcast episode, page share links to your overdrive and to the book and all and long may your growth continue and look forward to jumping in more and more electric vehicles either through your driver others and hopefully, our US audience will soon get a chance to take advantage of that as well.
Aidan McClean – UFO Drive 46:52
Yep, coming soon. Listen, thank you very much, David really enjoyed that. Thanks a lot for having me on.
David Hunt 47:00
Hello, and thanks very much for joining somebody in the clean tech podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed that episode. And appreciate you joining us again, please do subscribe if you haven’t already. And please do share any episodes that have particular interest within your community. If you do get an opportunity to write us a review on Apple podcasts or your platform of choice, very much appreciated. Hopefully see you on the next episode.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai