Lawrence Leuschner is the co-founder and managing director of TIER Mobility, a Berlin-based e-scooter startup that raised €25 million in Series A funding just a few months after they first began — something which TechCrunch notes is “the biggest financial backing for a European company in the space.” Lawrence took us through the startup’s biggest highlights so far.
I first became an entrepreneur aged nine years old. My dad owned a warehouse with goods from South America – hammocks, glasses, carpets – that he imported and sold to Germany. I started selling on returns at a fleamarket on the weekends and that’s what I kept on doing for the next seven years. I founded my first real company in high school called Trade The Game, which exchanged video games. Then I converted that business into Rebuy which is now the biggest retailer for pre-owned electronics in Europe, with a staff of 600 people.
What’s important to understand about TIER Mobility is that all of the founders are entrepreneurs. Our CTO Matthias Laug was one of the co-founders of the food delivery service Lieferando. He led it and sold it to Takeaway.com, a Dutch competitor. This made him the youngest ever CTO of a stocklisted company in Europe. Julian, my other co-founder, is responsible for product marketing and he co-founded COUP Mobility, which provide electronic mopeds.
I first came up with the idea for TIER Mobility when I decided to take a break from work. I stepped down as a CEO and a co-founder of Rebuy after more than ten years and I went on a world surf trip with my old van. The final stop on my surf trip was in San Diego, on the Californian coast, at the beginning of this year. I came out of the water and I noticed there were scooters on the street. I asked people on the street how they used the scooters and they seemed really happy about it. Then I delved deeper into this, because I wanted to build another impact business like Rebuy, where we expanded the lifecycle of products so that you didn’t have to continually buy new things.
Like Rebuy, this is also an impact business because we’re trying to change the way people commute and make it emission-free, noise-free and because the business doesn’t require the same space cars do. I got in touch with Julian to tap into his expertise from the mobility sector about how to grow the company. I came back from my surf trip in May this year and then we all got together and in July we said, “let’s do this.”
I first came across hubraum in August when I was introduced by someone who was also working there. We were looking for some seats and they gave us a chance to build the company here. Back in August, there were just three of us here and now I’ve got my team of 25 here, which is great. In the beginning we hired for business development, we needed people – I call them the Swiss knives – they can do, at a minimum, everything. That the same person writes a business plan, helps with marketing, PR, everything. The second wave was operations people.
We’ve been given the chance to use the garage downstairs to build our scooters, which is really helpful. My favourite thing about the hubraum space is the community. Of course you’re free to just work, but you can also connect with cool people — there’s a lot of entrepreneurs here but you don’t get the people from big corporate places that you’d get somewhere like WeWork.
Our first major breakthrough was discovering that when we came together as a team we inspired trust in people. We secured two million euros in funding without so much as a Powerpoint presentation. We were confident we could do this, but perhaps more importantly, we could also show that we had some experience in the market and that we had built companies before, which really helps with fundraising. Then in October, we secured 25 million euros more in funding.
I think our success is partly due to us tapping into a massive market that is getting disrupted. The future of transport is huge: the way we commute is going to massively change, cars will be banned from the inner cities in the future, nobody will want to own assets which lose money every day ie. according to The Economist, you’re not using your car 95% of the time so it’s just sitting there and according to CNBC, Americans waste more than their average work week (42 hours) worth of time in traffic jams and obviously there’s better things you can do with your time. So I think the market is particularly interesting because it hasn’t been very innovative over the last 20-30 years. The sharing and electric market, especially with scooters, is going to pose a massive disruption to the industry. Secondly, we’ve seen in the US that the players have been very successful. There have never been companies growing in numbers of usage so fast as with these scooter companies. Thirdly, we have a very experienced team and building a European player makes a lot of sense in the European market. So I think the combination of these three make investors very eager to invest.
We launched in Vienna because there were a lot of attractive factors: it was a combination of electric scooters being legal there (Ed: they are not yet legal in Germany, where TIER is based), Vienna being a good city to ride bikes in and the fact that they have the same language as we do here.
The response to the product there was amazing. On our first day, we put 200 scooters on the street at noon and we made a bet as to how many scooters would be used on the first day. And I bet we’d have 20 rides with no marketing whatsoever. When we picked them up in the evening, we’d had 300 rides. People just downloaded the app and took off! On Friday, we launched in Zaragoza – I think the Spanish market is pretty interesting and Zaragoza is a city where biking is currently very popular, so this was an obvious choice. We’re going to introduce TIER scooters to two more Southern European cities this month.
In terms of the future, we’re going to work from quarter to quarter right now. We just want to build an independent transportation company that can give you all sorts of vehicles for different situations, so if you’re just making a short trip, you take the scooter and maybe we’ll make other vehicles in the future available for longer trips. But whatever the vehicle, they’re all going to be vehicles you can rent and it’s all going to be 100% electric and emission free.
It’s exciting to work in transport because the sector is so bad. I’ve ridden a bicycle in Berlin for 13 years and when I take my vintage convertible to go to the lake I get angry driving out of the city because the traffic is so bad and you can never find a parking space. Every time I drive a car, I ask myself, why am I doing this?
I believe the future of transport is going to be a combination of flying vehicles, of vehicles on the street which are emission-free, a future without assets, where everything is shared and where everything in the next phase will be autonomous. I think there will still be public transportation (and I think it’s important to have that) but people who want to move or transport individually need to have options. And ultimately, it’s our mission to make that happen: to give people the option to drive or fly with cool vehicles.
As told to hubraum.
For further information please visit the TIER Mobility website.If you’re interested in becoming a part of hubraum as well, just click on the Apply Button and send in your application for the hubraum Campus in Berlin.