Entrepreneurs Talk discusses city mobility and the future of green transport

Beryl founder, Emily Brooke, and Index Ventures Partner, Martin Mignot, discuss green transport, city mobility and riding the wave of entrepreneurial investment.

Cass Business School was pleased to welcome Emily Brooke MBE and Martin Mignot to the first Entrepreneurs Talk of 2019, where the pair discussed city mobility, the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and what inspired them to succeed.

Martin Mignot a partner at Index Ventures, a London-based international venture capital firm, has invested in such companies as Bird, BlaBlaCar, Cowboy and Deliveroo.

Emily Brooke, the founder and Chair of Beryl, the company that pioneered the laser bike lights on London's Santander Cycles, received an MBE for services to transport and the economy in 2017.

Index Ventures, and specifically Mr Martin, invested in Ms Brooke's company in its early stages.

Event organiser and Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes at Cass, Aurore Hochard said it was a pleasure to welcome Mr Mignot and Ms Brooke to the evening.

"It was also a delight to give one of our MSc in Entrepreneurship students the opportunity to host the event after our regular host had to pull out at the last minute," she said.

City mobility and green transport

Given the links between the two guests the discussion soon moved towards the prevalence of bike sharing companies, in London, in other parts of the United Kingdom and around the world.

In explaining the meteoric rise of the bike sharing movement Mr Mignot said he believed there was something of a "perfect storm" brewing.

"With the mix of social networks, new sensors, cheap batteries and people having smart phones we're seeing new vehicles being created and those vehicles being used in new ways," he said.

Mr Mignot went on to explain why Index Ventures invested in Beryl, and why it would likely continue to invest in other forms of green transport.

"Today when you want to go from A to B most people use the car and we don't feel that makes sense. Any journey that's less than 15 or 20 kilometres should be made by smaller vehicles, and the shorter the distance the smaller the vehicle."

Ms Brooke explained that bicycles, although their basic design has hardly changed in the last 100 years, remain the cleanest and most efficient means of transport across cities of all sizes.

"I fell in love with cycling and realised that the biggest barrier was cities — I knew I had to just do it and create the company," she said.

Launching in London

Both guests agreed that London, with its vibrant start-up scene and booming finance industry, was one of the best places in the world for entrepreneurs to realise their dreams.

“London still has the advantage of an international and European startup ecosystem," Mr Mignot said.

"In London you get talent from all over the world, including expertise in fintech so there’s no other place like London.”

Ms Brooke said the capital had taught her a lot about business and the importance of persistence, but scaling up had been one of her steepest learning curves as an entrepreneur.

“When you launch a startup, everyone’s a generalist and you all just muck in," she said.

"Then as the company grows, people need to work out which part of the business they specialise in and must upskill — and sometimes with that come difficult times."

Advice for entrepreneurs

Ms Brooke's greatest piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs ultimately consists of just five monosyllabic words — "Just get on with it."

"I faffed about for 12 months before really digging in and probably because I was apprehensive — Id never had a job before, I'd never been in the corporate world," she said.

"There's no guaranteeing success but really, you need to just get on with it to know."

Mr Mignot agreed and said that an entrepreneur who can show their product meets a gap in the market, makes something better, cheaper, cleaner or faster will not have to go searching for investors.

"If you meet the criteria and show that the product is good you will have investors coming to you."

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Reserve your place for the next Entrepreneurs Talk at Cass to be held on Wednesday July the 3rd.

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