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MoveMakers #1: Exploring the infectious entrepreneurial mindset

MoveMakers is a new Zag Daily series where we sit down with mobility entrepreneurs to discover how they set off, what keeps them moving in the right direction, and the lessons learned on the journey to success.

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Zag Daily’s Partnership Manager Tom Woods travelled to Oslo for a sit down with Øyvind Sævig, co-founder of Beta Mobility. Beta is a Nordic advisory firm specialising in New Mobility. It works with both startups and established companies, both private and public, to promote sustainable mobility.

It also has a database of nearly 600 Nordic mobility startups to understand what is out there, and how this affects market dynamics. 

At a volatile moment for the industry, Øyvind talks about the people and companies who are getting it right, and takes a deeper dive into why.

Zag: Can you talk about your entrepreneurial journey and what really got you started?

Øyvind: “I began my career in consulting at some of the more established companies like PWC, Capgemini, and it never really occurred to me that starting a company was an alternative. But that all changed when I joined the incubator and accelerator Startuplab, and was responsible for their programme ‘Startuplab – Mobility’.

“My job was basically to learn as much as possible about mobility and meet as many mobility professionals as I could – all with the aim of providing value to the startups and partners that took part in the programme. It was a perfect entry point and introduction to the entrepreneur and start-up scene. When you surround yourself with founders and entrepreneurs, it really changes your mindset.” 

Zag: So by osmosis and association with these entrepreneurs it changed your mindset?

Øyvind: “One hundred percent, it was very, very inspirational.”

Zag: What was the main catalyst for creating Beta? 

Øyvind:  “As head of that programme, I was frequently asked if I could help teams or help on projects and specific tasks, both for the startups and larger parent companies. The facilitator role did not really allow for that, and I was restricted on how much I could get involved with companies, despite how tempting it was.  And when I told them I couldn’t get too involved, they responded ‘okay, fine, you can’t do it, but who can?’

“And while there are several very knowledgeable mobility advisors in established consultancies, there wasn’t one with a dedicated mobility focus. Given how big the mobility sector is and how complex the tasks were, I found this a bit strange.

“We thought surely there was a need for industry specific advice.  After long walks and a lot of coffee with my co-founder Johan, we decided to form Beta Mobility.”

Zag: You’ve mentioned previously that Beta builds on Nordic ideas and values, can you explain a little more about what you mean by this?

Øyvind: “When we refer to Nordic ideas and values, we refer to collaboration, openness, sustainability and innovation. And I’d say that that underpins how we work both with clients and internally. We really believe in bringing people together – regulators, property developers, startups, incumbents, municipalities. 

“One example is the informal mobility network events we host.  Mobility is complex and it takes a lot to create meaningful change.  At these events we gather representatives from the mobility ecosystem with no agenda other than getting to know each other. My impression is that people have a good time, and leave with a larger network than when they came in.

“Then we have our shared database of almost 600 Nordic mobility startups which serves the same purpose.” 

Zag: Yes I’ve seen that on your website, it’s very impressive.

Øyvind: “There are many interesting mobility startups in the Nordics and our hypothesis is that the more people know what’s out there, the better.  

“The same goes with an AI we are training to identify cars from satellite images, that’s something we’re currently working on. We’ve been sharing our progress so far on LinkedIn because it’s such a great conversation starter. Hopefully it can continue sparking important conversations.”

Zag: How has your offering evolved as the market shifted from the initial gold rush phase to the period now of rationalisation and consolidation?

Øyvind: “It has been somewhat of a shift for us from mainly advising VC backed companies to now more public clients. This is a combination of the inevitable spending restrictions from VC backed companies, but also more interest from the public side of mobility.  There is a lot of interesting development here with sidewalk robots, autonomous ridesharing, shared mobility integrations, and more.

“Also, with Robert Martin we are increasingly working with property developers. Getting him onboard definitely broadened our service offering, and has helped us into the urban development scene. We are already doing a lot there now, but I think it will be even more going forward.”

Zag: Which companies are getting it right at the moment and why? 

Øyvind: “Well, Ryde seems to be doing something right. Where most micro companies have a roadmap to profitability they have had a positive bottom line since the beginning. A lean and focused organisation seems to have worked really well for them.

“While maybe a little more adjacent to new mobility, ‘Enode’ is one to follow. They basically make an API platform for energy devices, which also includes EVs. They have been super focused on building products and stayed clear of non-value adding circus activities that are so easy to get sucked into.

“They spent time getting international validation on the product and solution early, making them scale ready. Basically a “go slow to go fast” mindset. They were a strong founding team to begin with and now they are attracting some very impressive people. Very interesting to follow.”

Zag: What is the most underappreciated aspect of mobility that you feel needs championing? 

Øyvind: “Very good question. While it might not be the most underappreciated, I really like the concept of the trip economy framework from Olaf Sakkers in his book ‘Mobility Disruption Framework’, which is not spoken about enough. 

“I find this framework super helpful when facilitating conversations on new mobility, it’s very clear and easy to understand. I find myself going back to it frequently no matter if i’m talking to regulators, startups, property developers, or anyone else. Everybody in mobility should read this book.”

Zag: If you were talking to a younger version of yourself setting out, what advice would you give?

Øyvind: “Surround yourself with smart people, inspirational people. And don’t be afraid to take a chance with people that inspire you.”

Zag: Who have been some of your biggest sources of inspiration entrepreneurially?

Øyvind: “Initially, it was the team at StartupLab. I have to give a mention to my predecessor Henrik Hatlebrekke, amongst others.   Henrik and the other StartupLab founders were tremendous. They have been the backbone in the Norwegian tech and startup ecosystem for a decade now, and have played a very important role for the market in general.

“Now it’s team Beta! What particularly strikes me is that while everybody at Beta are by all accounts mobility nerds, our paths into mobility were all different. From architecture, design, business, technology. It’s really easy to stay curious and inspired when you surround yourself with those kinds of team members.”

Zag: This links back to your thoughts on diversity and surrounding yourself with people from all walks of life. 

Øyvind: “Definitely, it creates a great culture. Also with different mobility backgrounds come different fields of interest, networks, and expertise. I truly believe we have something special in terms of building a mobility specific advisory.”

Zag: What’s next for Beta?

Øyvind: “We will continue to work with small companies, big companies, private and public. Up until now, we’ve been working mostly within the Nordic Region, meaning that we help international companies understand the Nordic region, but also Nordic companies expanding out of the Nordic region.

“Going forward, I hope that we will increasingly cater for Europe and beyond. The company is only two-and-a-half years old, we are just getting started. We are recruiting in Norway and Denmark. If there are any potential mobility advisors out there, I urge them to get in touch. 

“We’re also experimenting with different models. We do traditional advisory services, but have also done sweat-equity projects and are interested in exploring the potential in venture building. This can be done by Beta alone, or in partnership with someone else.

“Finally, we’re currently building some different tools. One is our ‘Mobility Assessment Framework’ that helps evaluate the potential for new mobility in a specific area based on publicly available data and customer data. Watch out for this.” 

Zag: Who should we interview next and sort of what questions would you like to hear them answer?

Øyvind: “I think you guys should interview Enrouteq, a Swedish company that’s enhancing public transport by using GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification), with the goal of developing countries in the Global South. Essentially, they’re making not so smart buses into very smart buses. It’s so important to establish a solid public transport offering. With the market they’re aiming for, I’d ask them about potential ‘go to market’ strategies or philosophies. That would be very intriguing.”