By Sven Heyen, Head of Business Development & Public Affairs at SHARE NOW

The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

In this article Sven Heyen discusses SHARE NOW’s interesting approach to tech architecture and why partnerships are key to building a winning car sharing company.

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The land of iconic cars

I come from a small rural town in southern Germany. You needed to own a car to get around and in my friend circle we all aspired to getting our driving license and owning our first vehicle. When I moved to Munich – such is the excellent public transportation system – owning a car was no longer a necessity but something of an encumbrance. Not only that, but environmentalism is the cause of our generation and I wanted to be on the right side of change. That said – like many other Germans – I also love cars, of which the country has produced some iconic models: e.g. VW Karmann Ghia, Porsche 911, BMW 507, Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, to name but some. And like many other youngsters I aspired to work for one of these brands.

A cause I care about supported by brands I love

In 2014 I managed to land a job at DriveNow, which BMW established in 2011. Dedicated to shared mobility, I was fortunate that a cause I cared about was being supported by a brand I loved. In 2018 I was made Senior Manager of Strategy & Business Development and then in 2019 we merged with Daimler’s car2go, and not long after that I was given the job of heading up Business Development & Public Affairs for SHARE NOW.

The challenge of making carsharing commercially viable

We all know the carsharing dream: drive any car you like, whenever you like, at a fraction the cost and inconvenience of owning your own car.

Getting from dream to reality takes a lot of sleepless nights from our tech team. Thanks to our backers we have an exciting stable of vehicles (BMW, Mercedes, Fiat, Mini, Smart) that customers are keen to try out. But matching customer desires with a flexible, reliable, and readily available solution that’s just a tap on the smartphone away, is the real challenge of this business.

Microservices for a better tech stack

To build tech architecture right from the bottom up, SHARE NOW adopted a modular approach, arranged into an entire digital ecosystem of around 250 microservices. We find that we can manage our tech better by breaking it down into a bunch of smaller discrete services. These services are separated from each other according to criteria like business domain and data boundary, each one focused on specific app functions that may or may not be customer facing, e.g.  geofencing, invoicing, billing, customer identity, or keyless vehicle access.

In this way we’re able to push for absolute precision and excellence in specific areas. For example, we’ve reduced the time it takes to open a car to a couple of seconds.

An app for customers and an app for suppliers

The tech environment has two hemispheres: customer-facing and supplier-facing. The customer relationship is about signing the customer up, giving them access, charging them correctly (by the minute, hour, or day) and then ensuring they’re correctly parked and invoiced. They exit the service and we don’t bother them again, unless it’s to encourage them to join our loyalty program, SHARE NOW Rewards.

And then there are our suppliers, the third-party service providers who support us in ensuring that our fleet of 11 000 cars (in 16 cities) are clean, in good working order, and in the right place. This aspect of the business has its own tech platform – managed via an app – allowing us to use customer feedback (optimised with smart algorithms) to help predict when the service providers are needed and on which car.

Partnerships are key

SHARE NOW is dedicated since 2010 to creating more liveable cities by encouraging multimodality and reducing car ownership. We give effect to this by partnering with cities and public transport operators, as well as with other mobility providers. We’ve consolidated our service (we operate in 16 cities and 8 countries) to focus on those cities where we can build good partnerships and make a positive impact for sustainable mobility. We started, for example, in Copenhagen in 2015 as DriveNow, and we’re still there (as SHARE NOW). Except the business there is being run by a franchise partner.

We’ve had success in Copenhagen (partnering with Arriva) and in Budapest (partnering with Wallis Group) with the franchise model. It means we can focus on creating world-leading tech architecture, while the franchise partner leverages its local relationships and knowledge to keep customers happy.

The future of car sharing

Electricity is the fuel of future mobility. Currently around 25% of our vehicles are pure electric, a proportion that will increase with time. I think carsharing will continue to grow and mature as the MaaS offering becomes more sophisticated and we’re able to better integrate carsharing with other modes. I have no doubt that Europe will be a world leader in this. For cities like Vienna and Munich, part of the conditions for operating in these localities is that you share the availability of your vehicles with their MaaS app. I think more cities will adopt this approach, which will ultimately be better for customers and will also help make cities more liveable.

We are in the consumer experience business and companies that can deliver a great experience will thrive. To do that is a complex and multifaceted challenge, one we’re dedicated to solving.

Don’t miss SHARE NOW at Autonomy Digital 2.0, where they will be speaking as an Industry Partner on the subject of turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity – Thursday, May 20 at 3:30pm CEST! Register now.