To our stakeholders,
Volvero is an app that provides access to a $200 billion market,
enabling vehicle owners to earn by sharing them from one day on.
It’s with immense pleasure that I am coming back, one year after, with my communication to stakeholders. Traditionally, this is the moment and the document where in just a few pages a recap of the good stuff that happened in the last year and future expectations in the management of the company is shared. If you’ve missed something, sit down and relax while reading the following pages! You will get a quick glimpse of our 2020 while in the second part you will read about the expectations, plans, and challenges for 2021.
Volvero is an app for vehicle sharing.
Through our service, private owners and businesses recover ownership costs. We use the latest technology to create an easier, smarter, and safer drive sharing experience that connects owners with people who are looking for a better solution for their transportation needs.
Reading back to my last “letter to stakeholders”, dated exactly 365 days ago, one can see how big I was on topics like AI, innovations created via corporate-startups synergies, and, of course, transportation. The focus, in particular, was on the huge investments poured into long-term projects (i.e. self-driving vehicles) vs on those of short-term-immediate impact endeavours. I was thereupon arguing that institutional investors should have shifted the target more on solving pressing mobility and transportation pains such as lack of well-developed options in public transportation, micromobility, and of course shared mobility. One year after, I can say that I am generally satisfied with how the support of these 3 subdomains has changed since then. There has been indeed a lot going on, both in the US and in Europe. In the US, some of the most relevant VCs increase their stake in micromobility startups, last-mile mobility, and delivery and shared transportation. We also witnessed the fact that some startups finally became profitable. I am not a supporter of those doped companies that rely on investors’ money for years -if not a decade-, as that negatively affects the global market and hinder sane competition in those areas of the world where founders try to build financially viable businesses from day one. In such companies indeed, founders and the management team tend to forget some basic principle of how a company should be managed and that a business should be profitable, if not in its early days, at least in the vicinity of that moment when founders were able to raise a well-endowed series A (or B). While in the US private investment accounts for the majority of the investment in startups, in other parts of the world, the EU and China, there is another important subject worth to be mentioned when it comes to supporting newborn technology startups. That’s the role of public money.
In Europe, there is still a gap for startups between their pre-seed and seed-stage due to local cultures (risk aversion of most of the private investors), lack of financial shrewdness of households and families when it comes to investing in financial markets or startups, and an underdeveloped early-stage capital market. It is true for these reasons that public EU institutions are filling that gap by supporting more and more startups. Startup investments keep rising all over the world. In fact, the total venture capital investments in Europe reached $41 billion (compared to 38.6 billion last year). A new 7-year plan is starting, and the intervention of EU funding and supporting programs for startups will grow even more. Among them, the most relevant ones are: the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Europe’s largest innovation network aimed at strengthening cooperation and partnerships among businesses, research centres, and universities (Knowledge and Innovation Communities-KIC) to find solutions to major societal challenges; the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator, providing startups and SMEs with funding as well as business acceleration and coaching services throughout the final development stages and market launch of their solutions; Eurostars, co-founded by Eureka national funding bodies and the European Commission to support SMEs involved in R&D projects with funding opportunities.
In the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) plan for 2021-2027, a significant amount of funds will be allocated to the development of a “smarter Europe” (through innovation, digitization, and support to SMEs), one of the 5 main objectives.
The EU is betting high on topics like digitalization, sustainability, transportation, food waste, and communities’ empowerment.
Thanks to this effort, successful outcomes are already and the EU early-stage startup scene is at a Renaissance. According to the “Deep Tech Europe, EIC Impact Report 2020”, EIC Accelerator portfolio companies attracted over €5.3 billion of private follow up investments (as of 05/2020). Furthermore, 73% of the analysed companies have recorded an increase in their operating revenues, with an average increase per company of €1.63 million over 2 years. The European startup ecosystem is experiencing a sustained growth pattern. According to the “Tech Scaleup Europe 2019 report” conducted by Mind the Bridge, Europe registered 1386 new scaleups in 2018 (compared to 1227 in 2017) with an overall total of 7,037 scaleups, diminishing year after year its gap with powerful economies such as the US (total of 22,910 scaleups) and China (total of 9,935 scaleups).
Coming to Volvero, one of the biggest achievements of our 2020 is indeed linked to this investment policy of public institutions. Right at the beginning of December, the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) became a shareholder of Volvero, by investing through its Urban Mobility operating arm. This is a significant pivotal moment, as thanks to this investment a part of our seed round was covered, in addition to that, we now have access to a wide network of experts in mobility and transportation and direct access to relevant public and private institutions that will be significant for our commercialization in the coming months. Along with the EIT, another grant was awarded to Volvero via a Horizon2020 funded program, the Block.IS. That was a second notable moment being as important as the EIT investment. If with the EIT acquisition we will have major commercial benefits, with the Block.IS support the perks are extended to the technical support as the program comes with an extensive network of technology experts in blockchain and AI, two fields that are at the base of Volvero platform and that significantly increase user awareness by adding transparency, reliability, and stability to our drive sharing experience.
Our 2020 saw an increasing Volvero’s community and the requests coming from institutional owners of vehicles that want to use our unique service for renting out their vehicles, as well as private owners to share them. Aside from these subjects, other institutions supported and contributed to our growth. Thanks go to BGI Portugal, (due to the pandemic a pilot of Volvero in Santiago had to be postponed to the summer of 2021), Mind the Bridge, Casa do Impacto in Lisbon, Eni Joule, University of Bologna, The Kazan-OIC entrepreneurship forum, The MISE, and ITA for the Global Startup Program in Dubai, The EIT GreenQ program.
The impact of COVID
How not to mention the single biggest factor that affected this year? Of course, COVID had its say also in our business. With the expected commercialization of Volvero due for mid-2020, COVID disruption severely impacted our execution and planned go-to-market strategy forcing us to push it to 2021. With major lockdowns going on everywhere in the EU, travel restrictions, and credit crunch, we decided to postpone every official commercial activity to the first part of the new year to save resources and hedging risks.
I do not like complaints and try to flip challenges into opportunities. With the necessity of slowing down commercial activities, the team focused more on our platform improvements, redesigned the UX and the architecture of the app, the enhanced platform, and stability, we extended the features for the new app to be soon released. As said major activities were also carried on community creation (now a thriving 2k LinkedIn page followers) and market analysis and a further developed go-to-market strategy analysis, while going on with organic marketing and other low-cost marketing strategies (zero budget marketing, inbound and brand awareness).
How Volvero’s 2021 will look like
With an overall change of the world happening at the speed of light, setting targets for 2021 is probably one of the most difficult things that can be done right now, as there are also many external factors out of our control. Speed can be positive, especially for startups like Volvero that are introducing to people new services and creating new paradigms, as people tend to be far more receptive in these conditions and more inclined to try new services. P2P Shared mobility is showing encouraging trends in the US, as people are dropping public transport and are flying for renting vehicles when they need them. I expect the same will happen in Europe in the next months. But speed can also be harmful, especially if one is moving in the wrong direction. My main task will be to continuously improve my understanding of what’s going on out there to be able to pick the best business opportunities for Volvero and risks’ mitigation and stay receptive to signals and indicators. Of absolute importance is also to effectively roll out the app after the tests that have been performed earlier last year. As per our approach, we indeed believe that blind attempts to launch the service without prior parameters’ set in a proper way (defined areas for the subsequent expansion of the service, a clear list of early adopting communities, marketing strategies, etc.) may just derail our execution and make vane the job done in these 2 years. In hard times we have developed flexibility and resiliency, while in good and positive ones we have built consciousness and confidence. News on our commercialization will soon be shared as the very last things are being tuned in these first days and weeks of 2021. A final set of activities will regard the team expansion, crucial in a moment when we are hiring (software developers, a data analyst, and soon a CMO) the fund-raising process and finally, the approaching of the scale-up moment that could happen during the IVQ 2021.
The first part of the year -IQ and IIQ- is going to be focused on the commercialization of Volvero. A community of 2.000 users and 200 vehicles is already established for day 1. The main KPIs for this phase are retention rate and the number of vehicles available. We expect this latter data to reach 700 to 800 units within the end of the summer. For the second part of the year, the strategy is to consolidate the core business while extending it on a national scale (Italy) plus a test on a second country that shares similar traits with our beachhead market to leverage scale economies. We are already planning and working on this. The main KPI for this phase will be the number of actual uses of our service, with some 1.500 monthly active users and 1.500 vehicles available on the marketplace.
Soon we will be sharing relevant updates on the launch of our service so please stay tuned.
As in the last year, I would like to conclude this year’s letter with an appraisal of the amazing team of talents that every day, next to me, works relentlessly on Volvero.
Like in every family there have been some goodbyes (good luck to you all with your next professional chapters guys!).
But Volvero family keeps growing and I want to say a big thanks to new joiners and old chaps that are still totally passionate and in love with running our business together.
Kayode Maksat Max Assim Ekaterina Matteo Maria Chiara Amer Luigi Roberto Ettore Antonio.
Every single success of Volvero, is your success as well and this amazing journey could not progress without you.
The new year is set to be the year for finding a new equilibrium in everyone’s life. It is wrong to say that we will go back to normality as the previous “normal” doesn’t exist after something has changed. Moreover, there can’t be normality when a global pandemic is disrupted for the first time in human history, the course of the entire global population. Significant changes happened, are happening, and will happen in the coming months.
My role as the CEO is to steer Volvero out of this complicated moment while growing the company to become a global player in the mobility domain while keeping a user-centric approach thus helping people solve their transportation needs, for good.
Founder and CEO
Volvero, 31st December 2020