Create a vision that might seem impossible or unrealistic at times and work towards that

Autobahn is a real-time vehicle ordering, delivery and service life-cycle platform

Please introduce yourself and your startup Autobahn to our readers!
My name is Ivo Malm and I’m one of the founders and CEO of Autobahn Technologies Ltd. We are building the first end-to-end real-time vehicle management platform (VMP) on the market, which connects automotive companies to vehicle buyers and streamlines the full vehicle lifecycle from sales to after sales and beyond. Autobahn is a real-time vehicle ordering, delivery and service life-cycle platform that helps automotive companies make their digital transformation. We focus on process optimisation and minimizing manual work. This allows companies to modernise and optimise their business operations and communication between OEM’s, importers, dealers and connect digitally to vehicle buyers.

How did you get the idea to Autobahn?
My background is in building collaboration tools and I have worked for Skype years ago. The story of Autobahn started in 2011 when with a group of friends we decided to start building a collaboration tool for small teams, aiming to make communication within those groups as convenient as possible. Collaboration tools and multi-locational virtual teams were deep in the Skype corporate mind set, but the culture started to change after Microsoft bought Skype and employees started to look for new challenges.

So we built the MVP and started to demo our solution to different potential customers. At some point we ended up in a sales meeting with several automotive importers and dealers. We showed our solution, but got a response: ‘You can sell flowerpots with this solution, but automotive business is more complex with it’s own specifics. We cannot use this solution’. After the meeting we started to look more detailed into what solutions are currently being used in the area. We found out that the solutions were in many cases from technological stone age, for example solutions running on MS-DOS in worst case.

There are many legacy solutions in a typical automotive ecosystem, which are hard to integrate, a lot of manual work is done with Excels and phone calls and there is no real-time overview of sales and statistics. Plus the vehicle buyer is left out of the game and all the communication is manual.

At this point we understood that an automotive specific solution has to be built, which could transform and digitize the automotive distribution business. So in 2012 we started from scratch, partnered with automotive experts and in 2013 launched the first MVP together with our first key customer.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
As we are in B2B business and in sector where big changes take time, then being patient and having the right insight to build the next generation platform is important to us. Therefore we are working with several importer and dealer networks, different brands and markets in order to build a solution, which is configurable and scalable based on our client needs.

Since we are replacing the legacy ERP solutions, then the development effort is enormous as well. We worked almost 4 years in stealth mode, until we had enough IP and functionality to start competing with current solution providers in 2016.

As a founder it’s always difficult period to start and build the company when you’re burning a lot more money than earning. But we have gone through several investment rounds and found good strategic partners, who bring additional value to the company in addition to the funding. For example the management consultancy e&Co. AG from Germany, who also operates internationally on complex change situations for their customers, especially in the automotive and mobility industry.

Who is your target audience?
Our main target audiences are the vehicle manufacturers, but we are also working closely with independent vehicle importers and dealers. Therefore we are working closely with automotive customers, like Volkswagen Group – Volkswagen, Audi, Škoda, Seat, Porsche -, Daimler and other OEM’s.

The automotive industry is going through major changes at the moment called the Industry 4.0. Important part of this is digitalization and replacing the solutions in use currently on a daily basis. We want to connect the OEM, importer and dealer digitally with the vehicle buyer, in order to provide interesting new possibilities to all of the stakeholders in the business.

What is the USP of your startup?
Autobahn is the first VMP (Vehicle Management Platform) in the market, which connects OEMs, importers, dealers, vehicle buyers and other 3rd Parties in one SaaS platform throughout the full vehicle lifecycle, including offers, orders, delivery, handover and aftersales.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
It depends heavily if I’m on the road visiting our customers and partners globally or in Tallinn, Estonia working with our development team. Over the last year I have mostly lived in Germany as our business operations and main OEM customers are in Germany. But over the summer more in Tallinn, as we are in rapid growing phase and this means quickly expanding the team.

So at the moment my day starts around 9.00 when I arrive at the office. First thing I do is read e-mails, Slack and Skype to bring me up to date. At 10.00 and 10.15 we have daily stand-ups were I participate, if possible. I find the morning to be the best time to work on creative topics, like development roadmap, company presentations and planning the expansion strategy to new markets. Since hiring is a hot topic for us at the moment, then in the afternoon I might have job interviews and discussions with our CTO on the hiring strategy. We are working also with several outsourcing partners in order to meet the development deadlines. I usually leave the office around 18.30-19.00, but as a founder work also late in the evening at home, if needed.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Autobahn in five years?
Software and online services, along with cloud applications, are starting to play an increasingly important role for automotive companies; helping to increase revenue, improve competitiveness and drive customer loyalty. We want to disrupt the way vehicles are bought and how after sales processes are managed by connecting the vehicle buyer digitally with the OEM-s, importers and dealers.

Our focus is not only to improve the business operations between the main automotive stakeholders (OEMs, importers, dealers), but to engage the vehicle buyers to the whole vehicle lifecycle. We want to give the vehicle buyer a solution to view and manage all aspects of the vehicle in Autobahn.

Our long term vision is to build Autobahn marketplace for new and used vehicle sales and vehicle parts, therefore enabling online direct sales. Automotive companies have to adapt to the changing environment and be open to change, in order to be competitive and win customer loyalty.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Create a vision that might seem impossible or unrealistic at times and work towards that. Things start to happen magically if you think big and believe in yourself!
2. Be patient and don’t give up if things are not going your way. Every unsuccessful moment brings you closer to success, if you learn from mistakes. Always move forward and trust the process!
3. Find the right employees who share your vision and motivate the key people so they give their best. Let go and react fast when you have hired a person who does not fit to the team.

More information you will find here

Thank you Ivo Malm for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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