The Attention Small Businesses Deserve
The Electric Car Scheme’s Business Model
Tom Eilon, COO
The use of electric cars is greatly encouraged in the UK—the government aims to end the sale of new non-electric vehicles by 2030 and achieve zero emissions at the tailpipe by 2035.
To make this possible, a program has been developed for businesses to buy electric vehicles more cheaply. The Electric Car Scheme project helps small businesses specifically approach this program.
Too many barriers
for small businesses
Hi Tom, it's very nice to meet you! To start, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background? How it eventually led you to founding The Electric Car Scheme?
Sure! Previous to The Electric Car Scheme, I worked in a company called Funding Circle. It did small business lending,
so I kind of got to understand the challenges for small businesses in receiving financial services. In general,
these businesses are very underserved because they're small. And the fact that they're small means they're quite
difficult to serve, meaning they're expensive to deal with. And they’re diverse. And because they’re small, you’re
not generally able to sell them at a very high value.
So they're mostly neglected by the financial service industry, especially in the UK, probably worldwide. And when I left that company, I was interested in what was going to be the next big growth area and what was going to be positive for the world.
That’s when I came across the transition to electric cars. In the UK, they're specific support for businesses to help
employees get into electric vehicles through effective reduction of taxes, so looked at all the benefits and support
that people are getting to access electric cars. But again, this was kind of a financial service that was just being
offered to large corporates with thousands of employees. And being made very difficult to access for small businesses.
So I thought, “Okay, this is a nice area, that's good for the world and in a space where I understand the customer's needs. Let's set something up for this customer group!”
On your website, it says that you were quite disappointed with the available program from the UK government. Why so?
The incentive itself is a powerful, high-value one. What disappointed me is that it was very difficult to access. Especially
as a small business! So I tried to call the suppliers who offered this. And the first question was, “Do you have more than
a thousand employees?”
You know, most people in the country work in small businesses.
How to encourage all those people to transition to electric vehicles if they can’t use the incentive? There were a lot of barriers, which meant that the policy that the government had set did not have the impact it should have had. And that was a good reason to get involved.
And what about other schemes in the UK? Non-governmental ones like yourself? Are they numerous?
Yeah, so the government sets the policy, and then there's some scheme set up to help people access that benefit. The government doesn't set it up itself—an organization like ours does. The government tries to stimulate others to provide these services. Sure, there are other competitors in what we do, and the industry has grown in the last year or two.
Initially, you only had these big companies working with other big companies, not providing a great service but very focused on the large corporate end. How we differ is we've grown to focus on small businesses and there's been a couple of other schemes with the same focus. They're going slightly different ways, but yeah, it's becoming more popular and more competitive in the space.
So your main client group is small businesses. Are there any other types?
The Electric Car Scheme is available for companies to offer their staff. As an individual, you can't just come and use it.
You have to convince the company you work for to sign you up for the scheme so that you can get the benefits.
Our main customer is the employer.
This can mean the director of a small business or of a bit larger one, of a hundred up to a thousand people. The person who contacts us is a finance director or an HR director. That's the key customer group to convince to use a scheme, and once they're signed up, then all their staff can access the scheme.
We’re not among the small businesses’ priority, but we’re trying to change that
Do they really need to be convinced? A good idea is attractive without persuasion, isn’t it? :)
It's a no-brainer, right? We try to offer a decision that’s very easy to make. What’s better than saying that you help your staff transition to something positive for the environment? But as a small business, you have other priorities all the time, especially in the current economic environment. A small business has a load of other concerns, like funding, sales, and competition, so switching employees to a scheme like ours is not even in the top 10.
It might be quite difficult to get to think it through and make sure it's right for the company, but even just thinking about it is a lot. So our job here is to make our mission as simple as possible to understand and the easiest possible to roll out. Only then it should be pretty straightforward for people.
What's the main user acquisition channel for The Electric Car Scheme? Did you do any marketing?
Sure. Our marketing is of two strategies. One is digital, we do standard digital marketing. And the second is direct marketing to small business directors, owners, HR or finance directors either through email or anything else as targeted. That works very nicely for us.
The communication with Anadea was the best
How did you find out about Anadea? Why did you decide to work with us, given there are so many other companies?
I started off on Google, looking for a website development agency to help me get started. I knew what I was looking for—the one with a dev center in Eastern Europe, that had a broad skill set, and was medium size. It also needed to have good references and communicate well. I reached out to probably ten different companies, spoke with five, and got down to the last two.
I think it’s the communication that affected my final decision. That was the best. It was a real understanding of my needs and then playing that back to me saying what I needed, like “Here’s how we're going to achieve, and here are concerns.” First, we started with a small piece of work and then built from there into a permanent team.
Has the communication been just as good for the entire development process? What was it like to be in touch with developers every day?
Yeah, it was pretty good. We did an initial project, which was around six weeks, and that was a good time to establish norms of communication. I was on my own at the time, besides, I had another job.
It’s now that The Electric Car Scheme is fifty people; back then, it was only me and I was busy. So I wasn't very communicative, which I think was difficult for the team. But we got into a rhythm and made it work for all.
Also, Tom, why were you looking into Eastern Europe? Why no other region to outsource software development?
It’s a combination of factors. First, time zone, it was pretty easy with time zones. Second, those countries are generally known to have skilled people.
Skilled, educated, good depth of talent. Then, a good level of English. And certainly cheaper than in Western Europe.
How Anadea works in the conditions of war
What do you find remarkable about working with Anadea? Any situation you can think of—fun, confusing, whatever.
It was for sure working through the period during which Russia invaded Ukraine. That was a really concerning time not
just for the people that we'd already established relationships with, but for our business and I'm sure your business.
We thought, “What's gonna happen? How can this continue to work?” We had one team member in Belarus and a couple in
Ukraine and obviously were really concerned for their safety.
First off, we offered support in terms of anything we could do to be helpful, like visas or anything, but none of that transpired.
There was no work done in this first week, but in the following already, it was nearly business as usual!.. The concerns and the background and talks about safety remained, but there was lots of work happening, almost like nothing occurred… Well, that was remarkable. It was within one or two weeks that it felt quite normal again. I commend the team for that, I'm sure it was very stressful.
You can get more things donewith a smaller team
Any pieces of advice for somebody who is looking to develop their own software project with an outsourcing team?
There are a few things to focus on and I think communication is number one. It’s about the level of English and
whether developers hear and comprehend your needs. Having a cross-skill set in an agency is number two. The team
needs to understand the business and the project needs. And then it's always useful to have a broad, kind of a
deeper bench as we'd say in the UK; this means many people who have a good skill set that can be relied on or
changed into the project if needed.
I think that sometimes, you can get more things done with a small team than with a larger team.
A few senior-level people are able of doing more than a bunch of juniors. It works well for us and all changes are made
really quickly. In a year, we might add one person, but overall, I hope the team stays stable, which will help us keep
our fast pace.
My other advice would be to try to make it cost-efficient. For example, for smaller tasks like design, we've used a part-time designer instead of a 40-hours-per-week. In other words, all workers but the key ones can work part-time and this won’t result in a poorer quality project.
We keep doing the same
in the smartest way possible
How do you picture The Electric Car Scheme in a year?
We're trying to grow fast. We’re on the verge of becoming a profitable company. We fit the niche quite well so there’s no need to change much, really. More and more companies are to reach employees to help them transition to electric cars. So it's about doing more of the same in the smartest way possible to maintain growth and get to the stage where we can fund ourselves for further growth.
In terms of technology, we're very happy with where we are. We have a small team—in the UK, we have a CTO and one senior developer, several developers from Anadea, and occasionally use design resources, and that's working very well.
Tom, the final one! What are the three words that come to mind when you hear “Anadea”?
The two easy ones are flexible and reliable. Then I would say amazing for managing to work through a war. I have been truly astonished by how Anadea works through that particular situation.
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