We talked to Paweł Maliszewski about blinkee.city, a company established by three friends, new technology and two-wheeled vehicles’ enthusiasts and he had the following to say about it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded blinkee.city.
Paweł Maliszewski: Three people established the company: Marcin Maliszewski, Paweł Maliszewski and Kamil Klepacki. We met at the Military University of Technology in Warsaw, Poland, where we studied electronics and computer science and lived together in a dormitory. After graduation, each of us ended up in a corporation, but at the same time, we worked on an idea: how to finally stop standing in traffic jams and at the same time not invest a lot of money in a vehicle. And that’s how blinkee.city was created in 2017 with the first electric scooters. We assembled the scooters ourselves and made an IT system and applications for its operation. For over six months, Poland is not a very warm country, so many people did not give us hope for success. Nevertheless, we took a risk and today electric scooters and blinkee.city scooters and scooters ride in Poland and several other countries.
How does blinkee.city innovate?
Paweł Maliszewski: Innovation is our everyday life. “Sharing economy” is one of the most innovative and dynamically developing businesses and ideas of recent years. We constantly change and develop our application and services. We started in 2017 with mopeds, and already after a year we expanded with electric scooters, maybe soon we will have drones. However, the most important source of innovation is the application, which increases its capabilities and functionality for users from month to month. We cooperate with other entities on the market and look for common business.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Paweł Maliszewski: The lockdown in Europe started in early spring. Until then our plans were realized: we started the service in new cities and planned to open in new countries. It started in mid-March and as the only company in this business in Poland, or maybe even in Europe, we never disappeared from the streets. All our competitors and international corporations stopped working and operating, but we continued. People still had to move around and were afraid to use public transport – they needed us – epidemically safe vehicles. Secondly, we have employees we care about, so we couldn’t just shut down – we wanted to maintain jobs. With a sense of duty and solidarity, we did charity work. For example, we made our vehicles available to rescuers and medics free of charge. We continue to do so.
Although by closing the borders, we could not open up to international markets and part of the expansion will take place in 2021, the Czech Republic, for example, was still a success. In addition, we opened up in new cities in Poland. In total, during the season we were in almost 40 cities in Europe.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Paweł Maliszewski: The moments in business are different, but the most difficult one was probably the beginning of the lockdown and the fight for employees. Despite the limitations, the decline in business, we set ourselves the goal of maintaining jobs – at the expense of profits, growth, and even the business future. Blinkee is about technology, innovation, but most of all, it was people, and the fight for them was the most important. Today, despite an uncertain future, I feel that the worst is behind us.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Paweł Maliszewski: We are a European company, located in the middle of the continent (Poland), and from this position, we are leading a two-way expansion: local and global. In Poland, we are in 30 cities and are planning to expand further. At the same time, we are implementing a plan of expansion into European markets. We are interested in both large and medium-sized cities. We are committed to good cooperation with franchisees. The most important for this business are innovations and people who know the needs of the inhabitants of the city or region. We operate globally, but we think locally with our partners. Cooperation with local government, services and regulators is also important to us.
This year was surprising and difficult. It turned out that innovation is not only in technology, but also, and perhaps above all, in management and quick reaction to completely unexpected changes. At the end of the year, we feel that we passed the exam and look forward to 2021 with optimism – it will be fine. We can all do it!
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