Before we went into isolation, we caught up with Joe Lewin from Blue Zoom to talk about how considering the mobility of employees can improve engagement, how company's need to be mindful of their employees commute to work as they’re exposed to millions of other commuters on trains, buses etc and as cities slowly work toward becoming car-free zones. Let’s take a closer look at how alternative modes of transport can boost employee performance, productivity and wellbeing.
You have founded an incredible company, Blue Zoom tell me a little bit about yourself and your company, Joe.
Sure, 24, followed the entrepreneurial mindset quite early on, worked out pretty quickly that I wasn't in the mindset to be an employee. I have a lot of respect for that route but it’s a more linear pathway to success. I thought, there are great opportunities out there and it's no better time to start business than now. So Blue Zoom, we are filling the void for micro mobility solutions for businesses and properties. You've probably seen the red jump bikes, the green bikes on the street and if you've been in parts of Europe and the U.S. you've seen the scooters. They're just dropped in the city centres whereas that business model isn't very profitable because these bikes or scooters get vandalised. We help businesses provide mobility solutions to their employees or guests whereby we put these vehicles in private properties, it might be a hotel and it might be a university campus and from there they have on-demand transport from which they can travel to and from lectures or to and from the office or home meetings whatever it may be. It's very flexible. It's very fast and convenient.
What inspired you to develop this as a business?
We worked out pretty quickly that we didn't have the 3 or 4 hundred million VC money from Silicon Valley so as I've said, we adapted the business model a little bit and what we did is provide this turnkey solution. We apply a very slim margin on top of all these different services that we provide. The vehicles, the custom branding, it might be hotels logos on the vehicles, docking stations, rental software, maintenance insurance and account management, all bundled into a monthly subscription. We make it as easy as possible to seamlessly integrate these solutions.
Why do you think these e-bikes and lovely scooters are so important to develop within corporate companies or even a small to medium business?
The CSR element is becoming so important nowadays. Companies are really freeing up a lot of capital to invest in not just environmental causes but also wellbeing initiatives for their staff, that were previously never really taken into account, the way in which the employees get to and from work. We've done a lot of analysis and reports on employee wellbeing outside of the office and I think the ways in which people commute, whether it be cramming into a tube like a sardine or a bus, can have a quite a demoralising effect on people's wellbeing. We approach companies and we say to them, particularly the wellbeing departments and specialists, “Here's an opportunity to not only reduce your employees carbon emissions on the way to work but also help boost happiness or morale which ultimately leads to an enhancement of productivity”. I think the UK economy faces a loss of £1,500 per person in productivity due to car traffic so if you're commuting by car you produce 7.5 kilos of CO2 a day for the two trips and in total cost the economy about £1,500. That's due to being late or just stress, a number of factors.
So if you're being good to the environment it's good for your soul?
So more about you, what do you like to do in your free time? How do you get that work-life balance?
Sure I like to think I'm pretty passionate about a couple of things. I read constantly and absorb content, audio, podcasts, videos but other than that, watch a little bit of sport here and there but to be honest I'm just obsessed about business, reading various kind of growth stories and now I'm starting a podcast of my own and bringing on founders and athletes that have turned into business people and just learning about their stories.
With your colleagues and your staff that you have within the company, how do you inspire them to switch off?
I think a lot of people think about how to inject fun or energy into organisational culture but rather I think it's important to consider who you're employing to start with so in that initial recruitment phase, really finding the right people that can come into work, be hyper productive and efficient with what they do and they can contribute really innovative ideas but at the same time we would like to encourage employees to be able to switch off at the weekend. So I think I've learned from past career experiences to not bombard your colleagues with messages over the weekend, demanding things which could otherwise be solved on the following Monday. That's one thing I've learned and I've taken aboard for Blue. Just providing that necessary infrastructure to help your staff in the workplace itself may be a really attractive commission structure. Equity stake - that really gets people excited but then when it comes to switching off at least we can encourage people to do activities outside of work. I've actually joined a five-a-side team with one of my business development staff members and we play weekly which is really nice. It's like a bonding exercise completely out of the workplace.
A lot of companies think that's very successful so that would be something that obviously here at Staff Treats we encourage people to do, activities, competitiveness beyond the workplace. Within a business there’s always a competitiveness to do better and be better within yourself and within your team. So obviously within London, where we are today, scooters are becoming more popular as are the e-bikes. I know you mentioned earlier that there are quite a few places in Europe you'd like to get the scooters and bikes to. Where are you focused on at the moment and how are you planning to get into those places?
Looking back to the start of the market in late 2017, there was a company called Bird Drop Scooters in the streets of Santa Monica and people became obsessed with them overnight. Very quickly that expanded across to the major cities all around the U.S. then into Europe. As you probably tried them in places like Lisbon and Madrid and Barcelona, the scooters are everywhere, but that doesn't mean that the niche pockets of demand for micro mobility have been solved. So as a company like ours which is hyper flexible we aim to fill those pockets of demand with turnkey solutions. There are a lot of cities below a hundred, hundred fifty thousand residents but then it's about ten times that in tourists annually, a lot of places in Portugal and Spain, where we have already been speaking to the decision-makers from which they would look to install 100-300 vehicles that we would deploy on the street and fully manage. So unlike the likes of Madrid and Berlin where there are just quite literally thousands of them and it's a mess usually because not only is a pedestrian tripping over them but nobody really knows which app to download. We would look to go into these individual cities or smaller towns and localities and we would fully manage it. We would likely be the only company operating in that space so the residents, the tourists, love Blue Zoom and focus on using our vehicles.
In a lot of places in Europe they're already legal and we've heard in recent news that they're becoming legal in London. What are your predictions for that? How do you feel as a company and as a brand?
It's immensely exciting. I think the last couple months I have really had my head down, ready for this. We've been going back and forth with the various transport authorities about safety regulation and where to put them, where to use them and things but it is immensely exciting and definitely necessary. Traffic congestion on public transport and emissions is disastrous at the moment. I think the tube regularly breaches a hundred percent capacity and for anyone watching those on the Jubilee Line at 8:30 in the morning they’re packed in like sardines. It's not comfortable by any means. So I think offering alternative modes of transport is going to be essential both for relieving the system itself but also for the personal happiness of commuters. At road level traffic, again, it has reached capacity. I think the average speed at rush hour is around 5 and 1/2 miles an hour. Oxford Street has the worst nitrogen dioxide levels in the world. I think it's 2 times the legal limit largely because of all the cars but buses, taxis that are going down daily drop off up to 200,000 people. So there's the new road emission zone which keeps forcing out all non electric vehicles and basically trying to push out the cars in general. I think Oxford Street will eventually become car free and I think that's necessary. That's where we come in, to really fill that demand. There's going to become an ever-growing void for urban mobility solutions. London's only 9 miles or so across and driving it just doesn't make any sense plus it's a lot more expensive - parking, congestion charges. There has to be a solution and that's what we'll provide. We're helping companies help their employees get to them from work and meetings but also we're helping individual properties, apartment blocks - might provide a property developer a solution for their residents, university students the list goes on the need is there.
A lot of people watching and listening to this right now may feel a little bit weary of the scooters. How do you feel about safety and how do you tell someone that it's safe enough to ride an e-bike or a scooter in and around London?
Education on the roads particularly for drivers is really essential because there hasn't really been any regulation of these new modern vehicles particularly e-scooters. Nobody really is aware of their presence. A slightly large factor is existing infrastructure. At the moment cycling infrastructure is relatively good but there are places in London where cycle lanes aren't cordoned off with a nice curb, between the road and cyclists. There is a really nice example along the South Bank area, around Big Ben really nicely closed off. And that's ultimately what we want to achieve. The government's now investing over £20 million in the next couple years to develop that cycling lane infrastructure to ready for these new vehicles. E-bikes, I think because they're typically capped anyway at 16 miles per hour you can't actually go any faster than that, it's only slightly faster than traditional cycling. In terms of safety, obviously, wear the adequate equipment helmet, reflectives, particularly when cycling at night and just remaining aware. Over time drivers are becoming increasingly aware, they're noticing these vehicles on the roads and they're taking greater care of their presence.
So let's talk sales now, if I'm a corporate company why would you come in and say this is how Blue Zoom is going to benefit the company and the staff's wellbeing? How would you go about that?
When we approach companies, it's really tapping into their current organisational culture, their current status of their employees wellbeing and ways in which we can enhance that. I think as the workforce is beginning to become a lot younger we need to take into account other ways in which to motivate them other than providing unlimited caffeine during a week, maybe beers on Fridays and add new perks and benefits or amenities to really attract the top talent. Imagine a grad comes out of uni, they've just got an incredible degree and worked hard for it so they want to look at the best company. They might go and find three to four offers from different companies and when they lay them out on the table they want to be looking at companies that have modern appeal to them, to have electric scooters or electric bikes already integrated into the business that they can grab they can take to and from home or go to meetings on. They've got the brand there that they can be proud of. I think that's just one element that allows corporate clients to really stand out from the crowd. On a note of personal perspective, the employees want to see companies really acting on their CSR in areas of environmental impact, some of the big companies have hundreds employees they're subconsciously creating a lot of emissions both in the office itself but also the ways in which the employees get to and from their workplace. To be able to offer an amenity to help staff ditch the tube, ditch the bus and just jump on a scooter whether it's come from Clapham or Fulham or something, it's gonna be a game changer and obviously health and fitness is essential and to have that electric boost from the from a bike instead. It's really going to open up the appeal to the masses of commuters that might not get on a traditional bike but they will get on an electrically assisted bike just because you have that extra boost.
Also, you look hella cool doing it in the process. So back to you, Joe, what would you say is your secret mindset to your success?
In life, something I ask myself every day is about fulfilment. Ultimately for anyone looking to lead a happy life it’s to seek fulfilment and that's not necessarily about how much money you can make. I mean money's great, it's cool, but it's really about what my dad's always taught me. It's the impact you can have on other people, the positivity you can apply to other people's lives. I have this thing that I've been doing, it's called strike for kindness on Monday's, inspired by a guy called Ben Fogle who's also a lover of the outdoors. Basically on Mondays he does tasks for anyone else to help them in their day to day life. It could be as menial as reaching out to them. It could be a distant friend that you don't really speak to as much and just write a nice little message checking up on how they are. All the way through to taking your mum and dad on holiday or something like that, making them feel really special. So under the same umbrella of fulfilment, which ultimately helps you be successful in life, is the notion of being grateful for what you already have and obviously you've got the normal ones with health, friends, family, that support infrastructure around you but I think there's other things, little menial things that people forget you might do for someone else. Little things that will have a positive impact on your personal wellbeing. I've learned all the names of the staff members at TFL when you do the tappy tap device. Turnstiles? Turnstiles. I like waving them high-five. Even if it's just a one-off at least you had the opportunity to make them feel good about themselves, pay them a compliment or just smile at least, even if you're in a bit of a bad mood, I think and it's those priceless feelings that cost you nothing to do that you could be thinking “that makes me feel good and I'm grateful for for doing that”. Lastly, to be able to overcome any circumstances you might have in life, whatever they may be, I think it is essential in order to really enjoy every aspect of what you do. Giving every task that you might set upon yourself 100% effort. Never give up, never surrender. I think that's what my dad's taught me. I think it's actually a quote from Star Trek but we'll leave it there. It's a nice thought and just be obsessed about learning and improvement and I think over the next decade I'd love to be able to start an investment fund by the age of 30, maybe. I can open up a fund and invest in young entrepreneurs like myself who are really eager and passionate about what they do and that they're filling a market opportunity. I think for any entrepreneurs out there, there are so many market opportunities to fulfil needs and demands for all sorts of interesting requirements that people don't even think about. Ultimately people want to improve the speed of their life, convenience, and are looking for things which are more affordable. In the variety of industries out there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved with this.
Looking to improve the wellbeing and engagement of your employees with mobility solutions and more? Contact Staff Treats today to get a free demo from one of our engagement specialists.