In April, a host of Scotland’s brightest tech entrepreneurs will travel to the US as part of the FutureX Silicon Valley Accelerate programme.
Now in its sixth year, the programme gives startup founders access to the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem, helping to boost engagement and relations between the two sectors.
This year’s cohort will include Andrew Parfery, co-founder of healthtech startup Care Sourcer, LearnBright’s Stephen Elliot, Scott Weir from Pillow Property Partners, and time2dine co-founder Florin Mandache.
DIGIT caught up with Biswajit Roy, co-founder of Nuvven, to discuss the inspiration behind the startup, future ambitions and what the Accelerate programme could produce for this dynamic young company.
Nuvven is a TravelTech startup that aims to simplify and personalise car rentals. By fully digitising the customer journey, integrating technology with rental partners and using consumer data to better understand preferences, the process of renting a vehicle is made easier.
Biswajit Roy: A Background
I am a technologist by profession and a problem solver at heart. The combination of the two means I am super excited by opportunities where I can solve customer and business problems by leveraging the capabilities that advancement in technology has to offer.
My management consultancy background has further shaped up my abilities to think ‘blue sky’ and imagine futuristic business models that are powered by technological advancements in the internet of things and data science. Most important of all, I have also learnt how to build great teams and I really believe that the Nuvven team has the all right elements and passion for success.
On a personal note, I love to travel and explore undiscovered places and cultures which has been my inspiration behind Nuvven.
Describe your startup company and how it can help people/businesses.
Nuvven’s fully digitised and cloud-based platform will provide a one-stop-shop car rental management solution to car rental companies that combines the best of telematics and artificial intelligence enabled capabilities, to not just transform how car rental companies operate and grow but also offer a superior rental experience to their customers through Nuvven’s marketplace proposition.
What was the inspiration behind Nuvven?
My travelling pursuits have led me to rent cars numerous times and it has increased my empathy for people like me who have to go through multiple hoops to save themselves from tourist traps set up by malicious car rental companies trying to make a profit through unscrupulous means.
The car rental industry is heavily cartelised by a few incumbents who have created massive barriers to entry and overrun any competition in places such as airports, train stations and key holiday destinations.
To make matters worse, the monopolisation has eliminated innovation in this industry, despite the advancements in automobile technology.
How has the company developed over time?
Like any other startup, the Nuvven journey has seen its share of ups and downs. While the original vision hasn’t changed, our go-to-market approach has definitely evolved since we first started putting together the bare bones of a business plan.
I have not done any UX design work for a long time, but the first thing I did was to create a concept prototype over one evening and then started to talk to people about my vision for Nuvven. It worked wonders and since then we have spoken to over 100 people (potential customers, partners, investors and business mentors) to validate our business model.
Getting feedback early to test and evolve our ideas has been key, especially since we do not have a market-ready product yet. Our current plans are to have a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) ready by the end of the year for our beta customers (car rental companies).
What are the biggest challenges the company has faced?
The biggest challenge for the Nuvven team has been to overcome time zones, and location challenges, to operate as a virtual team since we are split across several locations – Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Barcelona, Bangalore and Kolkata.
We also initially saw a churn in team members who were unable to operate in such a virtual team. However, it started to stick once we figured out our rhythm and the core team started to take more ownership.
Our momentum has increased a lot since the beginning of 2019 since we had our brand and website launch. Some of us worked for hours on google hangouts to get the website finalised and going through a big hurdle together has made the team stronger and more effective.
We have also adopted some collaboration tools which have immensely helped to embed the culture of agile and virtual teams within Nuvven. I am really impressed by how we have ultimately shaped up our team culture in this aspect.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or founders?
I do speak with a lot of entrepreneurs since I have started the company and speaking from my own experience, I always highlight the importance of having a clear vision and value proposition for your company.
Specifically, think about the customer or business problem that you are trying to solve. On a more personal front, I would advise them to develop resilience and a good support network around them because things would get tough. But having a good support network or a passionate team around you can make things easier.
What do you hope to achieve through the Silicon Valley trip?
I feel the Silicon Valley trip with FutureX will be a fabulous opportunity to engage with the best and the brightest in the tech industry. I am keen to learn and absorb from their experiences but at the same time develop some invaluable network into Silicon Valley.
It’s more relevant for Nuvven as the TravelTech sector there is well established and I would be keen to tap into their experience and funding opportunities. Most importantly though, I want to use it to experience the energy in the valley and bring back some inspirational stories into the team.
Why are initiatives such as these important for providing opportunities to entrepreneurs and startups?
One of the essential elements to startups is the network of support that they have. The best entrepreneurs are the ones who are well connected. I feel the SVA programme is great as it will not only allow startups to build new networks where innovation drives technology, but also provide a platform to keep coming back to as they grow. It is all the more relevant to startups who want to grow and cater to a global customer base
What lies ahead for Nuvven?
I see Nuvven as an enabler to the car rental industry and if we can get it right, we can bring in a lot of innovation into how customers rent cars. The model right now is quite rigid and lacks options.
With the closer integration with our partners that we are trying to achieve, we could roll out different car hire models in future and use data as our asset to really understand what customers want, to make renting a fun and desirable experience – kind of how Airbnb has made it exciting to find new places and accommodation.
We also see ourselves as a responsible tech firm and will be focusing on sustainable ways of doing business, especially in actively participating in cleaning up the environment and encouraging the move to greener cars in the industry.