E-mobility and electric vehicles present an exciting domain for startups. For many bright brains from the sciences and engineering (and not just software whiz kids), this domain offers a rare opportunity to use their engineering skills and build exciting ventures.
This alone – the diverse profiles of the founders compared to many other emerging domains – makes electric vehicles startups quite distinct from startups in many other fields.
Diverse backgrounds of founders
Perhaps following from the above characteristic of the industry, the startups in e-mobility industry also have founders from diverse domains – from material sciences all the way to finance experts. One of the EV startup founders from India, whom I once had on a panel I moderated was from the field of astrophysics and had even discovered a star – a real star.
The other diversity I see in many EV startups is with regard to age. While I have interacted with over 25 startups started by youngsters, some of them fresh out of college, I have been involved with over twice that many startups where the founders had at least 15 years of industry experience. While it is too early to say which of the two sets will succeed more (and success might mean different things for these two types of founders!), I can say with confidence that E-mobility is a field where gray hair and 50+ age is not a liability, as it could be in many digital startups.
For the past three decades, startups have been predominantly associated with software and IT. Even in the case of successful startups in non-IT fields, most of them were based dominantly from one science, engineering or business subject.
The field of e-mobility is in the intersection of many different engineering and science domains – mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, IT/software and material sciences. And most of these sciences have a substantial role to play in e-mobility. Such an eclectic mix of subjects also renders e-mobility startups to be quite different from those in many other domains.
In a way, e-mobility could be the industry that has provided entrepreneurship and startup opportunities to the widest possible engineering disciplines in the last 50 years. The only prominent scientific/engineering field I can think of that has little relevance to EVs is the biological sciences/biotech sector – even that could change if in future it becomes feasible to derive hydrogen from biomass. (to a certain extent, biomass is already playing a role in e-mobility as many auto companies are keen to have sustainable materials made from biomass – instead of plastics – to be in their car interiors).
Dominance of corporate investors
Many startups are seeing a high level of corporate (as against venture capital) investment. It has been traditionally angel capital or venture capital that had pushed exciting startups in many fields, and perhaps private equity at a later stage. In addition to these investor sectors, e-mobility startups are seeing significant investments from corporates, who are putting in their cash as strategic investors.
In the past four years alone, about 250 startups involved in some aspect of electrification have attracted more than $20 billion in venture capital, notably from a broad array of corporations across multiple industries. Interestingly, one of the prominent investors in EV startups has been Intel, which has backed battery startups Prieto, Qnovo and Enovix and charging startups WiTricity and Chargifi.
Business model startups
To an outsider, electric vehicle startups conjures up teams of bright electrical or automotive engineers. Not always. Many EV startups are focussed more on business model innovation – for example, offering electric vehicles as a service or batteries as a service – than pure tech.
Aligned to autonomous, shared, connected transportation
As many of the startups are entering the EV field when the trio of Shared, Connected and Autonomous are also thriving, you will find a number of startups that are not really EVs at their core but actually centered around one or more of these three trends, but having EV as the drivetrain.
Aligned to the sustainable transport phenomenon
The e-mobility movement is happening as part of a larger sustainability movement in which transport is a key industry, as it is one of the largest emitters of CO2. Many stakeholders – and also startups – see EVs as a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change and global warming. This goal is resulting in many startups also having an idealistic streak in them. An Indian startup, B Live, has combined eco-tourism and electric vehicles in a neat package.
EV Innovation Insights from EVNext
Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility | EVs versus ICEs | Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation | Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery | Battery Startups versus Giants | Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors | EV Startups – a speciality | Oil Companies’ Strategies | EV Adoption Paths | Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |
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