First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Pieter Waller: We’re doing well, thanks. Like the rest of the Netherlands, we’re rolling in the trough of the second wave. But it looks like things are getting better.
Tell us about yourself, your career, and how you co-founded Chargetrip.
Pieter Waller: I have a background in marketing and innovation, and began my career at Bacardi and Louis Vuitton. I also launched several businesses over the past few years. In 2017, I founded Chargetrip together with three friends. We realized how difficult it was to drive an electric car. For a while, we searched for a route planner to help us drive around, and there weren’t any. So we built one.
How does Chargetrip innovate?
Pieter Waller: Well, our company innovates by making solutions that accommodate for the differences of an electric car. If you didn’t know, using an electric vehicle (EV) is way more complex than a traditional one. Charging stations might have different plug types, charge speeds or payment systems. Also, the range of your battery depends on many outside variables; like weather and terrain. All of this makes traditional navigation systems, what you might find on web maps, for example, perfectly useless for an EV driver.
So, that’s the pain point. We solve it by developing a new routing engine that absorbs all of the variables impacting an EV journey. Our system identifies the optimal route from A to B, catching the best charge stations in between.
We operate as a SaaS platform, exposing our routing engine through our proprietary API. Clients can integrate this into their driving and fleet management applications.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
Pieter Waller: Our lead generation was slower in the first part of the year. However, the impact on our customers has been tolerable. Honestly, I expected the pandemic to damage our business, but we’re doing much better than I thought. Some of our clients have suffered from shrinking sales, but it seems their budget for innovation didn’t change.
Overall, we’re lucky. Chargetrip HQ is located in Amsterdam, and so we’ve also benefited from relief packages for businesses like us. We haven’t experienced the meltdown that other industries have.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Pieter Waller: We didn’t have to make difficult decisions. From the very beginning, we made it clear it wasn’t necessary to lay off employees.
One lesson learned involves our office space. Socially, the HQ in Amsterdam served as our beating heart, even though we often work remotely with international teams. But this entire dimension had to be rethought.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pieter Waller: There are only about three companies in the world that develop routing engines for electric vehicles. And that’s aside from incumbent players like TomTom or Here, which offer broad services not specifically related to electric mobility. As for staying in the game; we’ve already worked in Norway — the most mature EV market in the world. Thriving in such an environment presented a steep learning curve, compelling us to deeply understand and optimize the UX of our products. This will give us both poise and staying power.
Your final thoughts?
Pieter Waller: This pandemic is straining every corner of our society. I’m afraid the debt our governments are incurring may suck funds away from fighting the climate crisis. Nevertheless, environmental policies form the pillars of the Next Generation EU initiative. I’m curious to see the plans of individual EU member states later this year.