Part of :agile accelerator since 2014, our startup DRIVANGO is now counting its customers in the thousands. It’s no surprise: DRIVANGO’s loyalty program gives customers a number of benefits worldwide. Despite their current success, Alexander Miras confirms that the road has been bumpy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am married and have two lovely daughters aged 6 and 8. Career wise, I studied economical engineering in Kaiserslautern and Berlin. After three years consulting at Ernst&Young and six years at ThyssenKrupp, I joined E.ON in 2009 and worked there as vice president of compliance audits.
You joined :agile accelerator as an internal project back in 2014. What encouraged you to leave your position at E.ON and become an entrepreneur?
After 18 years of working for corporates I realized that I wanted to invent, shape and develop businesses rather than audit and control them. Although my corporate background was probably not the best pre-condition to kick off a startup career, E.ON’s entrepreneur program :agile created the right opportunity. I don’t regret my decision a single minute and without any doubt would do it all again.
What problem does DRIVANGO solve?
Fuel prices are changing up to 10 times per day and are generally considered to be too expensive. As fuel is an interchangeable commodity, the quality does not vary between different fuel stations. And that makes it nearly impossible for fuel stations to gain customer loyalty.
Since today’s reality is still based on combustion and not-electrical engines, we offer a platform for fuel stations and car drivers. DRIVANGO’s fuel card and app gives loyal customers discounts on fuel, goods and car washes. Our system can measure customer loyalty. Even better customers become visible and are no longer anonymous to fuel stations. I would say that Drivango is the Payback or Miles&More program for car drivers.
How many customers do you already have?
We acquired over 40.000 customers in the last year. On top of that we partnered with over 150 fuel stations. Our next goal is to acquire additional investors to scale our business.
DRIVANGO’s loyalty program is also available for E.ON customers under the name ‘E.ON Unterwegs’. Could you tell us more about it?
We have built a loyalty platform, similar to DRIVANGO, for E.ON Germany power and gas customers, called E.ON Unterwegs. It rewards customers for their loyalty with additional benefits outside of the classical commodity business. The rewards are discounts of mobility partners such as Deutsche Bahn, FlixBus, Car2Go, DriveNow, SIXT, E.ON Smart Home, E.ON Drive and many more. The next step is to integrate the loyalty program in every single customer touch point allowing customers to collect “E.ON points” that could be redeemed for smart home, e-mobility or other E.ON products and services.
You’ve been running DRIVANGO for four years. What would you say was your biggest challenge?
I wouldn’t say “was” but rather “is”. It’s not possible to define one, I could mention at least three. Firstly, constantly questioning our product to make sure that we offer a solution for real customer needs that they are willing to pay money for. Secondly, it’s a challenge to find and hire team members with the right skillset and strong motivation. And finally it’s not an easy one to persuade internal stakeholders and overcome the “not invented here” syndrome.
What would be your advice to all the startups in the energy sector?
No matter what your startup or new corporate venture is about: test and iterate the prototype with customers before you spend lots of money and time on building a product. What’s more, onboard a great team with the right entrepreneurial spirit from the very beginning. Finally, stop procrastinating and get things done and prove that you are better than anyone else. Not everybody in energy is familiar with the lean and agile approach yet. So you better be prepared for a marathon and be happy when you achieve a new record.