London is such a wonderful city for tech startups with endless opportunities in terms of resources and networking. There are various businesses around, and we are here to discover them in all their dimensions. As we love to say here, startups are the change engines of the world; here is a great example of that: ChargedUp – Europe’s phone charging network.
This week, we interviewed Hugo Tilmouth – the founder and CEO. We asked many questions about their culture, values to customers, growth journey, funding history, challenges, tech tools they are using and more.
Before starting our interview with Hugo, we also had a chance to chat and ask a couple of questions to two-star members of the team – the Head of Growth (Mauricio García Liévana) the Head of Product (Pam Hernandez) to have a better understanding of their roles and their time in the company.
They will soon be starting their Youtube Channel too. It might be a good place to see what’s going on behind the scenes. So, watch this space closely.
Watch the documentary of ChargedUp
Uncut interview podcast
Pay-to-Play shared economy model
The core value proposition of ChargedUp is to solve the dead mobile phone battery problem with a charging network. They are essentially allowing you to borrow a portable power bank from the closest partner venue (which includes more than 1000 by now across the UK). Then, return it to any station in the network. You only pay for the amount of time used. There is also the option to keep the battery for £30.
It is a pay and play, sharing economy model.
Iterations for a product-market fit
Some ideas are deceptively simple. They look easy to do, but there are a million things that can go wrong before you actually bring it to market and create tangible value for your users. This is true for both B2B and B2C businesses with each their set of unique challenges. ChargedUp had to make some iterations throughout the journey to find their product-market fit as well.
They started by buying a load of power banks “ChargedUp” written on from Alibaba, direct from China and went to a festival to charge people’s phones. It went fantastically well, and they made £2000 in 2 days. The next stop was another venue in London called Magical Roundabout, where they also achieved great success.
At that point, they were inspired to create the first iteration of the ChargedUp station: a vending machine for batteries. That actually spawned the idea of generating something that would actually help to scale to more venues.
The key takeaway is that they started small and lean, confirmed interest from the market and grew step by step.
Accelerated startup growth
The business was founded by Hugo Tilmouth, Charlie Baron, Hakeem Buge and Forrest Skerman Stevenson two years ago. All the work was done by these four founders hustling their way to get to their first station. They’re trying to fill out the gap of the talent they couldn’t afford back in the day.
The first hire was Pam Hernandez -Head of Product (a short interview is included in the video). Then, after receiving significant investment, they started adding new talent to the business to speed up the processes and ramp up sales efforts. Today, there are 30 people in their London office and around the world for customer support roles.
They managed to scale to the point where they are today, with over 1.000 stations located in London. They have recently launched in Amsterdam as well. Yet to be announced, they’re going to be launching in another European country very soon.
History of funding
They entered a few startup competitions such as Shell LiveWIRE and O2 where they achieved great success. These achievements led them to receive funding from their first investor Davis Capital Partners LLC to kick off their idea and launch their business for the first time at the venue called The Big Chill. At this point, they had the chance to show that people are willing to pay to charge their phones.
After reaching up to 50 stations across London, they raised seed round investment which was led by the Garage Soho, JamJar, Founder’s Factory and a number of angel investors as well.
What is best & worst about being a London startup?
“There isn’t really a better place in Europe to be based if you are a tech startup.”
London is a perfect city for access to capital, access to talent, or finding an investor since many investors want to get involved with London-based startups. There is also a great startup community you can tap into frequently where the founders are going through the same problems and seeking the same investors.
On the negative side of having business in London is a huge competition for good talent. ChargedUp is surrounded by massive companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple etc., who can pay more.
Timing is crucial
Each year we get a promise from the mobile phone manufacturers to develop better batteries that last longer. But, in ChargedUp’s case, improved battery life might have a negative impact on their marketplace. It can even be considered an existential threat for the company.
But Hugo and the rest of the team believe that there won’t be a drastic negative effect just yet. Because the power usage on our mobile devices is going up, the rates of the energy density that can be inserted into a lithium cell are not increasing at the same rate. So it looks like the need for portable phone charging power banks will continue for a while.
The tech solutions
Software tools are the underrated stars yet powerful components that pave the way for businesses in various propositions. They can ease your work in tracking the progress of tasks, analysing data, managing projects, communicating, improving productivity and so on.
ChargedUp’s team is also using different types of software tools. These tools are actually core to their functioning in product development, operations (support team), data analysis and many other areas.
The perfect tool they recently implemented to create a bank of knowledge within the business is Notion. Therefore, even if more people are added to the team, the knowledge will not be lost.
Along with the subscribed tools, Hugo’s personal favourite is Slack.
What’s the culture like? Work hard, play hard, have fun.
It is fair to say that one of the most important components of a successful business is the “people” aspect. Therefore, creating an energetic startup environment and well-established core values will improve the company culture and communication among the employees.
ChargedUp takes this topic seriously and seems committed to building a robust culture. They really try to make sure that the culture and the core values remain protected as the team expands.
They encourage the employees by matching peers from different departments to have a coffee together—paid by the company. They are also organising team bonding events every two weeks and have lunch together.
Future goals & milestones
ChargedUp is a promising, constantly growing company. Their first goal soon is to expand their business internationally! Hugo says it will be an enormous challenge to interact with brand new customers in different cultures, currencies, and languages. On the other hand, though, they are ready and excited to achieve more. They also have some pretty exciting deals coming live soon.
Another big milestone is launching a new station and replacing the one they already have.
We are pleased to hear about ChargedUp wish them good luck on their venture.
We will continue to explore London-based startups each week. If you don’t want to miss insights about the London Startup Ecosystem, consider subscribing to our social media channels linked below.
Next week, we will be visiting Soldo. Stay tuned!