In the fast lane: eScooter-Sharing COUP launches as spin-off of Robert Bosch GmbH in Berlin
Since 2016, the eScooters from COUP have been an integral part of Berlin’s city traffic. As a wholly-owned Bosch subsidiary, the startup offers a great alternative to car sharing and public transport. After all, a trip on the environmentally friendly eScooter costs little more than a ticket for a bus or train. We talked to CFO Thomas Mauer about his personal experience since the company was founded.
With COUP as a mobility service provider we want to make a contribution to mastering the growing problems of urban mobility on the basis of a sustainable business model and bringing fun back into individual transport in cities.
With its premium eScooters from the manufacturer Gogoro, COUP offers its users hardware that is intuitive to use and therefore not available in Europe. The registration in the COUP App only takes about 5 minutes, after that you can directly reserve the nearest eScooter in the app, book it and drive off. The more providers there are, the greater the relevance as a real alternative to existing means of transport is. We don’t see ourselves primarily as competitors, but as market makers, in order to help eScooter-Sharing make its breakthrough.
Why did you decide to spin off as a Bosch subsidiary? Were there more options?
Bosch identified networked mobility services as an attractive growth area. Networked services are also part of Bosch’s Connected Mobility Solutions corporate strategy. The spin-off has helped us to quickly implement the new business model for Bosch.
How does the proximity to your parent company influence your daily work? Do you have to coordinate many decisions? What kind of freedom do you have?
At COUP we try to combine the advantages of both worlds, i.e. the corporate and the startup. The parent company is a strong investor that is already represented in many cities worldwide. At the same time, as a subsidiary we have the necessary freedom for entrepreneurial decisions.
What are the decisive advantages of the spin-off for you as a startup?
Bosch is a strategic investor in our business model and gives us the freedom we need. It also gives COUP access to Bosch’s core competencies, e.g. for the evaluation and development of vehicle and connectivity technologies.
What interests does Bosch pursue as the sole investor in COUP?
Bosch is pursuing several goals with this investment. The short and medium-term goals include the establishment of an attractive sharing business and the development of competencies and customer bases in the end-customer business. The long-term goals are to improve mobility in urban environments, to enter the Connected Mobility Services segment and not to be underestimated today, to make the company more attractive as an employer for digital natives.
Why is the e-mobility sector particularly interesting for Bosch?
Bosch identified networked mobility services as an attractive growth area. Networked services are also part of Bosch’s Connected Mobility Solutions corporate strategy. Bosch is already developing solutions for networked parking management, cloud-based fleet management and app-based mobility assistants for the multimodal use of different means of transportation.
Is it possible for other young founders to approach Bosch with startup ideas? What is the best way to reach the right decision-makers?
Bosch has its own venture capital division, which examines numerous company ideas every year and decides on financing.
What challenges should entrepreneurs who want to work with large corporations be prepared for? Are there also risks?
There can be challenges in any cooperation with investors – regardless of whether they are a corporate group or not. In my view, it is important to be aware of the interests of investors as entrepreneurs and to discuss these openly with stakeholders.
COUP has been in the fast lane since 2016 – In your opinion, what are the prerequisites for a successful startup?
The business idea should serve an actual customer need. Urban mobility today often is not a positive experience and we want to bring driving pleasure back into individual transport. COUP would not have been founded if no significant business potential had been seen in the market.
After Berlin you are currently starting in Paris and Madrid. Why these three cities? What big steps are planned next?
Our City Zero Berlin has shown that COUP is very successful in large cities, which is why we chose Paris as the second and Madrid as the third location. All three cities are connected by the lack of parking spaces, traffic jams, etc. COUP wants to help to solve the challenges of urban mobility locally and therefore offers its customers an alternative to the mobility services offered in the metropolises. In addition, COUP is currently testing the expansion of its existing business model with a pilot project in Tübingen by working together with local partners even in smaller cities.
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