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“My ambition is to create a global team but with local flavour”

Zag Daily speaks to Haya Verwoord Douidri about her recent promotion to the role of VP (Global market development, policy, and strategy) at Superpedestrian.

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Superpedestrian recently promoted Haya Verwoord Douidri to the role of VP (Global market expansion, strategy and policy) following her success in Europe.

In her previous role for just over a year, Verwoord Douidri helped the company expand its operations rapidly.

Superpedestrian is now present in six European countries and has senior-level staff in another four.

In an exclusive interview with Zag Daily, she discusses her plans for the future and how her past experience can allow her to succeed in the new position.

Zag Daily: To start off, tell us a little bit more about your new role.

Verwoord Douidri: “I joined Superpedestrian last year on 1 July, when they were actually quite small. We were in four or five cities in the US with very small fleets and had only just started our expansion journey. The company was founded in 2013, but the shared e-scooter part of it is quite new. So, when I joined, I was tasked with forming the strategy and deciding on expansion plans in Europe. I was the first employee in Europe and over the last year, we have expanded to more than 30 cities in Europe. We have a presence globally in more than 50 cities. We are in six European countries – Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, and France – with more than 60 per cent of our global market now in Europe. The expansion in Europe was quite a big success and our CEO Assaf Biderman wanted me to move to a more global role as VP (Global market development, policy, and strategy). I have worked on almost every continent, I studied in the US, and I have worked in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and Africa.”

Zag Daily: Why has Superpedestrian switched your focus from Europe to a more global one?

Verwoord Douidri: “I think it is quite normal in scale-ups to progress into different roles quite quickly, which is nice. I feel like I achieved what I wanted to achieve by building the company in Europe, with a fantastic team and a presence in a lot of cities, and I think they want me to help develop a strong global strategy. We have had success working with cities in Europe and want to bring that collaborative approach to a global level. Collaborating with city officials and making sure our programme meets their needs is really important to us. What is really unique about Superpedestrian is that urban planning focus, combined with a technology-based approach, and I think I can use my experience and ability to bring that focus across to create a unified global strategy.”

Zag Daily: What skills do you have that suit you to a global role?

Verwoord Douidri: “I like the idea that I will be leading the company globally from a market development perspective, as it allows me to compare and decide on markets and strategies on a global level. The e-scooter industry in Europe and the US are quite different and most people have experience with just one. But the approach to shared mobility is very different, with European cities more focused on public transport and the US having more car-based cities. Therefore, the shared e-scooter schemes have been quite different, and the needs of cities are quite different, and I want to bring my experience and learnings from both sides and apply them.”

Zag Daily: What key lessons do you want to apply to this role?

Verwoord Douidri: “My ambition is to create a global team but with local flavour. Globally, we have a team where we share a lot of ideas, but then deliver locally, which is really important. We have to run our programmes based on the city needs and this is something that I will bring a lot to this team. We can collaborate globally on strategy and vision but have to give our teams the autonomy to deliver the programme in a way that is driving the needs of each city. In Europe for example there is a lot of discussion around pavement riding, so we need to work closely with cities to ensure solutions are in place through providing extra parking and with technology.

“Another thing I am keen to achieve is helping to show that micromobility can be profitable. I understand what the city wants as well as the business perspective and what it takes to build a sustainable model. If we can show that micromobility schemes can provide value for cities but also in a way that is profitable, that would be a huge accomplishment.”

Zag Daily: What are your plans for European markets like the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands where e-scooters have not yet been legalised?

Verwoord Douidri: “So, Ireland is a bit further than the Netherlands in terms of the regulatory process for shared micromobility. The Netherlands has quite a bike-heavy focus so there has been some scepticism and it has been taking a little bit longer. In Ireland, where legislation has just been approved by the government, I think that being in the conversations and helping countries and cities shape the regulation is extremely important. Micromobility is a very competitive sector, and it is really important that when a tender takes place, the decision is made in a way that actually brings the most benefit to the local people using the scheme, and that focuses on safety and sustainability. Furthermore, the companies also need to be able to be profitable in order to continue providing the service, with the MOBIKE situation in the UK one that needs to be avoided as the cities should not want a company promising the world and having to leave in six months.

“I really enjoy helping shape terms and working collaboratively with cities because I think the only way for an e-scooter programme to be successful is to have that public and private collaboration. We need to ensure that the goal of the programme is to bring benefits to the local communities, while also providing a safe and sustainable service with no incidents. That is something I am really excited about, and I think you are going to see a lot more of those countries, embrace micromobility.”

Zag Daily: Finally, you were promoted while on maternity leave?

Verwoord Douidri: “Yes, so I was promoted while I was on my maternity leave and that was quite nice because as a woman, sometimes you have fears about these situations. I have always been very career-driven and it is really great to be in a company that is not just a boys club. Going on maternity leave and taking time to be with my family has made me love what I do even more. I have the flexibility to work any hours I want to work from home, and I was told I was getting the promotion but to take all the time I needed. That was absolutely fantastic. It is something that I really appreciate and I think that is really important for the company to support our choice to raise families. As much as I am loving the micromobility challenge, I am also loving the motherhood challenge, and I am loving the opportunity to experience both challenges at the same time.”