CHEAP, FLEXIBLE RAIL-BASED MOBILITY FOR THE COUNTRY-SIDE
M.Sc. City Design (LSE)
M.Sc. Innovation Management (TU Berlin)
We are happy to introduce you to the great team Akkio and to be more specific to Gregor and Yannick.
Both are part of the first batch of the Imagine2030 Mobility Accelerator and are working on autonomous, battery-powered rail-shuttles which offer reliable and flexible mobility options where they are currently missing: the country-side.
Give us your 30 seconds elevator pitch. What is it that you are working on?
44 million people in the German Countryside are more and more dependent on their car, as viable transportation options are cut due to economic cost. With Akkio we want to tackle this problem. Utilising existing railway infrastructure, we are going to provide urban class high frequency transportation for the countryside. We are going to do this through our autonomous battery driven rail shuttles. Through small size and battery technology Akkio shuttles use little energy, and in conjunction with autonomy we are about 10x more economical than any existing alternative, reopening options for a mobile, transit enabled rural future.
How did you and your cofounders find each other and what was the final moment, when you decided you’re going to found a company together?
We know each other since we started our Bachelor’ 7 years ago. Trying something together was always on the page, and ever since we have completed our studies we tried to see if something could work for us.
Why did you decide to start working on a hardware idea?
Doing something real/physical is an absolutely rewarding plan, so we clearly ventured towards that more than say a typical service startup. We weren’t too keen on 100% office work, as we’ve done a fair bit of that during our studies and after. For us, planning and pursuing a hardware startup is definitely a dream.
However, if we would have seen a problem in front of our eyes – like rural mobility – that we could have tackled with a service, we would have done that. It’s just that many areas of service startups are well covered. We see more a time of refining and reinterpretation when it comes to these kinds of startups now, less of complete problem identification and solution. The latter seems more present in hardware areas, with emerging technologies enabling smaller manufacturing and better, more granular problem-solution-fit.
Why did you choose the city of Berlin to found a company? Do you think the city has an impact of how successful your project will be?
It matters less and more than you think. We strongly believe you can found anywhere, Rüsselsheim, Wanne-Eickel, Berlin, it doesn’t really matter all that much, even with Hardware Startups. If you are not in Berlin, you can still come here for a week and enjoy some of the advantages like meeting people and partner companies in person easily. However, the support structure here with Berlin Partner and the Imagine 2030 Accelerator and hubs such as Motionlab is well rounded and definitely helps from the onset.
If you could have one additional skill in your team, who would get it, what would it be and why?
We are both more of the strategy and business development type, in other words: product design. We definitely will expand in a few weeks/months towards technological people, especially prototype engineers, electrical engineers and software engineers.
What do you want to achieve with your startup apart from getting money and fame? 😉
We’re not super interested in money or fame. Honestly, if we bring our Shuttle to life, despite all the regulatory issues and the business as usual of large corporations dominating the space, connecting a few villages for elderly and kids will blow our mind. Everything after will be extra.
What was your biggest fuck up during your startup career?
Getting sick in the first week of the accelerator programme and then not stopping but getting back working too quick is easily the bigget fuck up I can remeber. It cost us months of work, because my health would then gradually worsen over three months. So stop when your body tells you, ignore the startup blabla.
Which is the part of running a startup, that scares you the most and which is most fun?
There are two things scary to us: the startup scene, and the responsibility. The startup scene is just scary to us, because we don’t identify with it all too much. We’re not superbly interested in discussing all the little details about what is the fine detail of business plans, or the latest business books but are more pragmatically wired. Let’s do stuff together and let’s try to make as many different people as possible profit from it. That’s what makes us happy.
Another scary part of hardware startups are the quickly escalating cost calculations from the get go. There is no time to get convenient with budgeting smaller costs, you are immediately in cost dimensions that exceed everything that you and your entire family has ever seen. There is little you can do about that fear but pushing through.
Would you rather have one real get out of jail free card or a key that opens any door?
Key that opens any door, because that clearly includes jail doors.
When was the last time you really celebrated a success and what was it about?
Slowly getting healthy again. Honestly, I will celebrate my first coffee and first beer in months like some celebrate a world championship.
If you could change your life with every person in the world right now - would you do it? And if yes, with whom?
Phew, tough cookie that question. I would swap with someone who is incredible with the piano, Chilly Gonzales maybe, just being able to play away must be an amazingly calming feeling. Other than that, as cliché as that sounds, I’d swap with a eastern german, female or poc friend just to try to understand their current experience better.
Why are you at MotionLab.Berlin?
It’s a good place to work on hardware, as it’s just very motivating to be surrounded by action driven people that want to produce results.
Would you rather have the skills to see 10 minutes into your future or to reset what happened in the last 10 minutes?
Definitely the reset button. Don’t ask.
What is your favorite song, that motivates you and brings you through a tough working day?
I am used to listening to techno sets. Other than that, I’ve been into 80s disco music for motivation lately.
What is the current status quo of your project/company?
In order to drive passengers autonomously in Germany, we will have to work closely with a very strict regulatory framework. But to be allowed to move people autonomously we’re first looking into earning our respects by proving it with freight first. We’re finalising the launch of a pilot project conglomerate for this, together with a german deep sea harbor. We’re actively looking for additional container-freight related partners that need to move single containers from a-b via rail and do not want to use diesel engines for single car movements.
Are you currently looking for something specific? Investors, specific knowledge or positions?
There are three things we are looking for right now:’
- Further partners for further pilot projects.
- Investors for the first pilot project (which will be covered with 70% by the state).
- Technological engineers (prototype/electical/software).
Additionally, if you happen to own a Eisenbahnverkehrsunternehmen, or are in close contact with one, we will be working towards launching a passenger pilot project in 2021-2022, so its good to start talks now
If the 14 year old you would read this interview, what is the one thing you want him/her to know?
All those hours invested in design: worth it!
Also: Look into programming. And definitely ask that girl out for ice-cream.
Who is probably the proudest person in your circle of what you have achieved in the last years?
I think my grandparents. They are the nicest, most humble people I’ve ever met.
When was the last time you got really sick of what you are doing and why?
Haha, I am bad at this. I am getting sick of what I am doing on a weekly basis. For me the trick is to understand that this feeling doesn’t need to be pushed away. It’s part of normal life and there is no toxic pressure to constantly love everything what you are doing. Just seek out the things you like more and more and try to change things that will drastically improve your experience first.
If someone invested 1 million euro in your startup tomorrow, what would you use the money for?
We would finance the first pilot project and immediately launch a passenger project with one of our rail partners in the countryside. With 1 million euros, a few villages in Brandenburg would be reconnected in the next year.
Thanks for reading through all this. I am not a very wise guy, so holding on to my answers is showing quite the stamina! And also thank you Imagine 2030 team for the opportunity to get some exposure.