INNOVATION COFFEE PODCAST – INNOVATION IN MICROMOBILITY WITH DOTT

The INNOVATION COFFEE is a podcast born on the initiative of 4 young professionals. This is how it all started: “We met at University and kept in touch since then to discuss about innovation and sustainability. During the March 2020 lockdown we started having calls instead of physical meetings and decided to record some of them for sharing with a wider audience.”

Each episode (30’) hosts guests and experts to discuss about the different players involved in the innovation ecosystem and the several shapes innovation itself can have.

What is the future of micro-mobility like? How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the sharing mobility industry? These are just some of the questions that Andrea Giaretta, general manager for DOTT Italy has answered during this episode of Innovation Coffee podcast.

First of all, what is DOTT? It’s simple: Dott is an app-based platform for shared e-scooters and bikes operating in 14 cities across Europe. In Italy, Dott operates in Turin, Rome, Milan and Monza.

Who is Andrea Giaretta? Andrea Giaretta is a mechanical engineering graduate from Padova University.  At the beginning of his career, Andrea worked as a logistics and supply-chain consultant at Accenture. He then took a U-TURN in his career, in search of a place where he could challenge himself, be creative and inventive.  A place where he could make a decision one day, and “see the results the same day or the day after”. He decided to move to a start-up environment: he first worked at UBER and then at OFO, a bike-sharing company. While working at OFO he met the future founders of DOTT and then, in 2018, he joined the DOTT team still in the early start-up stages.

Andrea describes working in a start-up in Italy as very challenging due to the high level of bureaucracy that characterizes the overall Italian context and the lack of specific regulation, especially in the micro-mobility sector.

The micro-mobility industry has been receiving more attention and has seen an increase in investment from municipalities and state bonuses and incentives over time. The industry as a whole was already appealing as an investment opportunity even before the Covid-19 crisis, since Venture Capital funds are always searching for markets that are far from the optimal solution, to invest in innovation and to bet on companies that are able to “crack the market”. As far as Andrea Giaretta is concerned “Covid didn’t change anything, it only put everything on the table visible to everybody, not only the ones living in cities”. The Covid-19 emergency has bought some urgency into finding solutions to pre-existing mobility issues and challenges that have emerged with the so-called “new normal”.

The trend in the sector is clear: in the last year we have witnessed a move from big shared vehicles to small vehicles (from cars, to e-scooters). Technological advancements in battery life and gps precision, and the need to reduce congestion in cities, are the main reasons behind this trend.

Let’s picture a concrete demonstration of how micro-mobility is helping reduce congestion: an UBER Cab carries 1 person, in one car with one driver; 1 E-scooter takes up 1/20 of the space of a car but still carries 1 person. The maths is simple: with 20 scooters, we can carry 20 people in the same space occupied by 1 car that can carry maximum 5 people. The space occupied in the city is less.

How important is technology in increasing the diffusion of these new mobility systems? Why didn’t they evolve in the past?

Just “10 years ago gps weren’t accurate enough and batteries weren’t as long lasting as today” says Andrea Giaretta. Technological advancements have for sure made the difference in the industry. He also added that “I vision a future in which we will multiply space by “changing level”, with flying taxis, for example”.

European cities were designed hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago for small vehicles and pedestrians. This makes them particularly fit for these new mobility solutions. 

Scarcity of recourses, such as metal and gasoline require new ideas and solutions. Micro-mobility totally fits with the picture of a world of scarcity.

History says that “technology develops when there is a crisis” since people need to find new solutions and fast. This is why micro-mobility technologies and solutions have received more attention during the covid-19 crisis. 

DOTT tries to reach scale economy. However, both in hardware and software there are many obstacles to overcome: different regulations and different terrains are just some of these. DOTT’s strategy is to design “something that works best in the worst terrain” since it probably doesn’t cause any issues in the best one. This is to standardize design and production: efficiency in supply chain and in terms of experience.

How would you judge the market response to micro-mobility? Is Italy ready from a technological and cultural prospective?

“The country [Italy] seems very promising – says Andrea Giaretta – the high number of cities fit for small vehicles and pedestrians, good weather conditions and a culture of light mobility (see for instance at Vespa), show that Italy is ready” 

As for DOTT, Italy has shown the best trend in the company in terms of profitability. DOTT is able to combine efficient labour and small cities, not very widespread, densely populated, with a need for mobility. The public transportation system in Milan (ATM), for instance was moving 1.35 million people a day before the covid-19 crisis. With social distancing, the capability has dropped by 75%. What is the solution? Micro-mobility. The city’s administration reacted quickly by investing in infrastructures and by increasing the sharing mobility fleets. Some brave decisions have been taken, like the removal of one car lane from some streets, and as a result there have been significant improvements for the environment, both from an ecological standpoint and in terms of urban lifestyle.

When choosing where to expand in different cities there are different aspects to take into consideration.

Firstly, there is a matter of density: places that aren’t densely populated very often don’t have a mobility issue. Medium size cities still have parking and traffic issues: where you have mobility issues, sharing mobility can help.

Secondly, there is a matter of distinguishing service industry and product industry: in the service industry the key to success is to get the market share you need as quickly as possible; in the product industry getting the product right and the scaling up is the way to go.

DOTT has a calm and rational approach in its strategy and considers adopting a strategy closer to the one used in the product industry. There is something to keep in mind: difference in timing. It’s wrong to think of a start-up as something booming and becoming great in 3 years. There’s a need to build an infrastructure, a product, and so on, before being able to expand. 

DOTT’s strategy is based more on “thinking before acting”: “our approach is like a marathon rather than a sprint” says Andrea Giaretta. DOTT prefers to invest in some cities, grow, make them profitable and then conquer the market day after day, year after year. This is what append when DOTT won the Paris tender. The company entered the Parisian market in March 2019 as the 12th player and has now been selected amongst the 3 operators in Paris. “We invested a lot, we created value. We created a scooter that is designed by us and designed for sharing” says Andrea Giaretta.

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