The Smove journey started well before its official incorporation in 2011 with the frustration around living in cities and the access to cars. Below is my journey, but everyone else at Smove has a different story to tell, that is the fun part of working in a diverse environment.
Don’t get me wrong: I love cars! I love the engineering behind it and the technology advances that the car industry has seen over the past 100 years.
I was born in East Germany; as a small boy I would occasionally see all those shiny and powerful BMWs, Mercedes and Audis on the East German Autobahn. My family had a Trabant 601, the East German equivalent of the original Volkswagen Beetle, but just smaller, slower, more unsafe and made from a mix of paper & plastic to save valuable steel for other industries. To get a new car you had to wait 14 years (yes – not a typo that is fourteen years – my brother was able to order one when he was 18 years old & it would have been delivered when he turned 32 – luckily for him the wall came down before that and he bought another car soon after). To keep the car running my Dad had a second car in spare parts in our garage; he would fix things mostly by himself and it would take a lot of time away from the family.
When the wall came down it was like heaven in terms of seeing all these great cars that Western Europe, Japan and the US produced in person; all these highly engineered vehicles with lots of horse power and that were made for highway driving. As a small boy from a small town, that certainly made my teenage years great. I bought my first (and only car) that I have ever owned when I was 18, a Honda Civic and enjoyed driving and owning the car. My hometown was relatively small, space was plenty and parking was free.
However soon afterwards I started moving into bigger cities. Over the past few years I have lived in Berlin, Frankfurt, Sydney and then Singapore just to name a few. I love the city life, the busyness and also the access to so many things to do. But one thing didn’t really make sense to me: owning a car no matter how cheap it is. It was just a hassle to deal with parking; the maintenance and it would stand around for the majority of the day. Also, some cities were designed hundreds of years back without the car in mind & it was not just the traffic that was annoying but also that so many cars would just stand idle on the sidewalk, taking away living space from the people.
It was also at that point when I realised that the marketing of the automotive industry has done a great job over the past 100 years to trigger our desire to own a car. You know that image of an empty, mountainous road, with a wild horse running next to it, the world bows before you and your powerful car. Who doesn’t want that? Well should we ask the people stuck in traffic in the morning in Singapore, Manila or Jakarta? Or the person driving around the block for the 5th time to find a parking spot? Or the person waiting three hours to get their car repaired or serviced?
So that was basically it, Smove was started to make cities more liveable, give busy city dwellers the access to vehicles whenever & wherever they need it and yet make the living in the city enjoyable, keep customers mobile and in the end give the space back to people and not waste it on cars.
For customers to switch from car ownership to a mobility-as-a-service company like Smove, should not happen because of environmental, sustainability or financial concerns, but it should simply be the best option for that customer. Period.
By: Tom, Chief Executive Officer