For the first time, an audio interview was conducted with Movatic CEO Ansgar Strother, discussing the significance and future of micromobility in our lives. Listen below, and scroll further for the condensed text version of the interview.
Ansgar Strother, founder and CEO of Movatic.
How would you describe Movatic to somebody who has no knowledge of the company whatsoever?
To describe Movatic I like to think of it as- we’re really your partner in technology. We happen to create some of the best technology in the industry to allow you to share scooters, bikes, e-bikes, kayaks, and a whole host of other assets. But first and foremost, we’re your tech partner.
What made you start Movatic?
Movatic really came organically out of my first startup which was a bikeshare/hardware company. We ended up licensing it off to several companies including Motivate, Zagster, and On Bikeshare. As we were doing that licensing process, Onbikeshare (check out their interview here) came to us and said “hey we really love this lock, but we’re not a software team.” As we went out into the marketplace, we were seeing that everyone was looking towards “how do I start bringing my experience to a smartphone? How am I going to start adopting sharing as part of my business model?” It became really clear very quickly that it didn’t make sense to every company to be out there to be building the same core functionality around managing users, rentals, and assets.
As a second point we also really felt that as more operators came into the space that it would be important to build out an ecosystem and have a marketplace app, which we’ve created with the Movatic app where you can have a bunch of different operators all living together.
Who are the ideal customers that you look for, and what specific problems do you solve for those people?
We’re really looking for any entrepreneur or any large scale operator who is looking to have that tech partner so they can be able to scale faster and focus on what they really care about, which is their community. We really believe that local operators understand their markets better at a fundamental level. We want to be there to give those companies the scale to have world-class software- something they could never develop on their own.
How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things as your role as a CEO and a facilitator of these services?
I think I’m lucky because we’re working with some of the smartest, most motivated people in the industry and I think for us, we’re looking to listen and understand what’s working well, what isn’t, and what the future is. By working with so many different operators, we have our ear in every market across the world, so it gives us a unique perspective that we’re then able to return to our partners with.
What’s something you wish you knew when you first entered this place?
That’s a great question and one that’s asked pretty commonly. The thing that I wish I understood in this space is just how creative people can be in setting up a system and configuring a business model to really target their specific customers. One of the things we’re really proud of is as we’ve worked with customers, we’ve really understood how to make a system that is highly configurable. You can operate at scale, but still make the system (at a local level) feel like it’s designed for that specific community.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the micromobilty industry growth?
The challenge that we’ve seen is that it’s hard for operators to expand geographically but it’s easy for an operator to expand within a community- to go from just offering scooters to then offering e-bikes or other assets. So as we talk about that configurability and flexibility, that’s where we really see our ability to come in and help operators to expand by allowing them to launch multiple asset types and multiple business markets all in the same market.
How has COVID-19 impacted Movatic and the industry as a whole?
I think it’s been a double-edged sword for the industry because on one hand, what’s safer than or more socially distant than getting on a bike or a scooter? You’re outdoors and not in a confined area. On the other side, it’s decimated out of state and international tourism, so I think for a lot of operators, what we saw was an initial shock, then a reposition to focus more on recreational usage. Our software really supports recreational usage well with the ability to do multiple rates and couponing, so we were able to really support our operators in that transition and it’s something I’m quite proud of.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment professionally right now?
I’m really proud of the team, product, and partners we’ve pulled together. Movatic is a bootstrap company so I think it’s just been incredible what the team has accomplished.
How would you describe your decision-making process? Is it based more on gut or data, and why?
First off, I have to give a plug saying that I’m a Michigan man, so I believe in “the team, the team, the team.” I think it’s about everybody being empowered to make data-driven decisions. If you’re doing the entrepreneurial process right, is about going and trying something and then collecting some data to see if it worked. Being an entrepreneur is creating something new, so there is a level of gut in all of this here. Doing your homework, taking that risk, and measuring religiously to see if that bet made sense.
What key things should somebody in the beginning phases be focused on?
Figure out what you can be best in the world at. When you’re starting off as a small company...not a lot of things that you can be best in the world at, but you do have some advantages. You know your market better than anyone, especially someone at a large corporate headquarters. So finding that specific market (hotel, college campus) and differentiating yourself by finding the right hardware/software partners and once you have success, scale rapidly.
Are there any particular common misconceptions that you hear about from people on the outside looking in or new to the industry?
I think people don’t talk enough about how much this industry is driven by recreation. When you talk about micromobilty, we all think about quick trips from getting to point A to point B. But if you look at the ridership, it’s really around recreation- cruising around town or heck, just enjoying the ride. Not saying one is more important than the other, but that they’re 2 equal parts in the industry, one of which doesn’t get as much attention as the other.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I really enjoy construction on the side and renovation stuff. Getting outdoors, I really enjoy hiking, backpacking, and skiing.
Is there anything you’d like you add?
It’s never been easier to find a niche to go out, partner with a company like Movatic, and launch a business that brings something to your community and provides you with a stable income that you can continue to grow. For anyone looking at doing it, I encourage you to follow through and you won’t regret it.