Interview With Olly Jones
Describe your product or service:
“elmo is an all-inclusive electric car subscription service on a mission to be the easiest way for drivers to go electric. elmo’s subscription model re-imagines the traditional lease to suit the needs of modern consumers and help make electric cars accessible to more people sooner.
Customers (both individuals and businesses) can book online in five minutes, get verified in 24 hours, and have an electric car delivered to their door after four working days. Unlike a traditional lease, with elmo, there’s no deposit to pay, and customers are only locked in for a month and can then choose to hand back the car whenever they like. Drivers get all the benefits of owning an EV without the hassle.
With an ever-expanding fleet of 100% electric vehicles, one monthly payment covers everything for drivers: insurance, maintenance, servicing, breakdown cover, road tax, and a carbon offset donation (to account for manufacturing emissions) included as standard. There’s also the option to customise with various charging options selected by our EV experts.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“At elmo, our mission is to be the easiest way for drivers to go electric. The transport sector contributes 26% of the UK's annual carbon emissions, [and] helping consumers to switch to an electric car can make a huge difference as we all work towards a net-zero future.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We're backed [by] corporate investors in the automotive retail sector.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We're a growing team made up of people who share our purpose to make electric cars more accessible. We have full-time team members based at home or from our office near King's Cross in London as well as freelancers, agencies, investors, and advisors from all over the world.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“My co-founder (and childhood friend) Luke Gavin worked at Octopus Energy and Element Energy (a leading strategy consultancy focused on sustainability). This background led him to the realisation that, while the electrification of transport (responsible for 26% of the UK’s annual emissions) is seen as low-hanging fruit in reducing carbon emissions, there was still a consumer adoption problem when it came to EVs.
Knowing my background in marketing and startups, Luke pitched me the idea over a catch-up drink in the New Year of 2019. His pitch was something like this:
Mass market consumers aren’t switching to EVs fast enough. They are put off by higher upfront costs, unfamiliarity with charging, fear of being inconvenienced, and concerns around asset value.
Reduce these barriers by removing upfront costs, allowing people the flexibility to change their mind and bundling all costs and services required to run the car into an integrated and seamless package.
And so, elmo was born.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“It's honestly such a hard thing to do and feels so important. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing we settled on 'elmo,' a syncopation of 'electric' and 'mobility.' It's also duo-syllabic and sounds friendly. Finally (and more esoterically), it refers to St. Elmo's fire — an electrical light that appears on the masts of ships in a storm. There were other attempts at names, but I can only remember how bad they were.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I started my career at Angel Investment Network — a platform trying to democratise access to angel investors for startup entrepreneurs. While I was there, I also launched a podcast interviewing startup and scaleup founders (like Huel, MADE.COM, and Startup Savants) called The Startup Microdose Podcast. Through these experiences and exposure to some unbelievably purpose-driven and innovative founders, I began to develop an itch to launch something myself, especially within 'impact' and sustainability.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our company's purpose is to make getting an electric car easy for everyone so that we empower people to reduce their carbon emissions caused by their transport choices. So, if you've got a car and it's not electric, you're probably our target market.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We released our Suitability Tool — an interactive tool to help people understand how an electric car could fit (or not) their lifestyle. We collected engaged loads of potential customers through this, which gave us a community to promote to when we launched our subscription offering for the first time.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Some key KPIs we review weekly are: Active subscriber growth, Fleet growth, and % utilisation of our fleet. There are plenty of tier 2 KPIs which fall off these ones, but these are the three key drivers of our business model.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘Measure What Matters’ by John Doerr. Even if you don't want to implement OKRs in your business, it's a great story about the value of goal-setting.
I can't not recommend my own podcast (though there are undoubtedly better ones!). Check out the Startup Microdose!”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by the help run your startup?
“Notion — we use it for everything. It's our team brain!”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“The empathy between fellow entrepreneurs.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Have rigour in carving out 'life time.' Work will always insidiously and seductively try to encroach, but you'll benefit by making rules for downtime.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Schedule focus times in your calendar, so people know not to expect a response (and pause notifications on Slack/WhatsApp/email) during that time.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“One in particular stands out: I had to learn and constantly have to remind myself to temper my instincts by listening to the advice and opinion of team members and advisors.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“It was packaging dung for garden manure. So, literally shovelling s***. It taught me that there are different types of hard work, and I wanted to do hard work that scales!”
More on elmo
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Olly Jones of elmo that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.