Interviews
11 Sep 19

Kowo: "Carpooling is a hot topic"

Kowo looks back on its third-prize win at the 2017 Smart Mobility Start-Up Awards.

We are approaching our Smart Mobilility Start-Up Awards in November in Estoril. While looking for new startups to apply, we have a look at how our previous winners are doing. What have they achieved since their victory and where are they going? The sixth in the series is #3 of 2017, Kowo. Altough he passed the leadership on to the new management, former-CEO Nicolas Rampelbergs (who was in charge at the moment of the Awards) gives us an update of where Kowo stands now.

Introduce Kowo in 1 sentence.

Kowo is a B2B carpooling app coupled with an insurance of AXA. 

How does Kowo serve fleet managers? 

Kowo gives employees of the same company the opportunity to commute together. In addition, our partnership with the insurance company Axa guarantees employees will always get to the office, no matter what. For instance, if a driver does not show up last minute, Axa will provide a taxi to take the other commuters still to the office. Or, when an employee gets ill or has to leave the office earlier than expected, Axa will provide a taxi or a first class train ticket so the employee can make it back home earlier it they arrived carpooling at work.

How has Kowo evolved since the Smart Mobility Start Up Awards?

Kowo had a beautiful future ahead, but due to issues with the previous management of the holding we couldn’t realise them. Yet, nowadays the future might look better, since there has been a restructuring of the management of the holding group. 

How has Kowo evolved since the Smart Mobility Start Up Awards?

Kowo had a beautiful future ahead, but due to issues with the previous management of the holding company Barefoot&Co we couldn’t realise them. Yet, nowadays the future might look better, since there has been put a new management into place within Barefoot&Co.

Can you share a memorable moment of the time after the startup award in the development of Kowo? 

The belief in our product, the visibility and the launch of our partnership with Axa.

How has the award helped Kowo grow?

Kowo is like the corporate Uber, so being part of the Awards gave a lot of visibility and credibility to our app. In the end, we won various awards. Showing that carpooling is a hot topic. It provides partly a solution for traffic congestion. And we created the partnership with Axa. 

Yet, the big challenge is the cultural shift, the mind shift of people to start carpooling. In Belgium we live in a society of corporate cars. Why would people carpool if so many people receive a company car including fuel card? That was the biggest challenge – especially compared to other countries – for instance in France there are but a 10% corporate cars, while in Belgium the number is way higher. Hence, the market will behave totally different. 

What is your most valuable insight you could share with other smart mobility startups? 

If you want to launch something in the mobility market, you have to take the mind shift into account. You need to establish a change in attitude to get your product launched. There are various smart solutions out there, but we have to take the mind shift of the people into account as well, which is actually the most difficult aspect of the entire story, despite the geniality of your solution. 

It is not because you develop an awesome solution, that people will start using it immediately, you need a mentality shift. Especially in the carpooling market.

Do you want to play a part in the future of smart mobility? Follow into Kowo’s footsteps and apply for the Smart Mobility Start-Up Awards 2019 in Estoril!

Image: Nicolas Rampelbergs, Kowo, at the 2017 Smart Mobility Start-Up Awards in Estoril, Portugal.

Authored by: Fien Van den steen
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