Thursday, January 21, 2021

Don’t compare yourself to others

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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.

WeMaintain is the tech-enabled lift maintenance company

Please introduce yourself and WeMaintain to our readers!

My name is Benoit Dupont, and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of WeMaintain.

WeMaintain is the tech-enabled lift maintenance company radically, and rapidly, transforming the market. It provides building managers with a lift maintenance service that combines the technical skills of lift engineers with the agility and predictive power of its proprietary technology. What this means is that owners and building managers get a high-quality service and access to a wealth of data about their building. It also means that occupants have a better experience of living or working in the building.

In a nutshell, we take care of the invisible—but essential—operations of a building. Think of all the things you don’t notice but without which a building simply couldn’t function. That’s where we come in. And for building owners, the first lockdown was a really interesting illustration of how important service providers like us are. We keep the whole system working.

Our service is distinct from that offered by the very few major players in our industry. 

How did you get the idea of WeMaintain?

For historic reasons, building owners, managers and occupants have traditionally had low expectations of service. They’re used to it. And while products have benefited from technological innovation, the quality of service hasn’t really changed. 

But their needs have been changing. Thanks to the use of digital technology and data, there has been a rising expectation of greater transparency, communication and reactivity on a daily basis. We see this across countless industries, and ours is no different. With the rise of the “smart” building, managers and owners expect a better knowledge of their assets. They want to know user routes, traffic peaks, energy efficiency and even renovation budget predictions.

We felt that we had the experience and the expertise to accommodate these needs and to transform the industry, using technology that empowers people and an approach to working that is transparent and accountable.

Why did you decide to start WeMaintain?

I spent 10 years at Otis, a major American elevator and escalator manufacturer. It was there that I noticed that there was a lack of competition in the space, a low average standard of service, very little innovation going on and margins larger than luxury brands. I was based in China, where I could see the huge impact that tech, and digital technology in particular, was having, and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to use these new tools to improve the industry in which I worked. Strategy is to be at the right place at the right time, and I think this is the case for Proptech in general and WeMaintain in particular. 

I was fascinated by how tech might impact quality of service, but also how it could make things fairer for lift engineers. Three years on, that hasn’t changed.

What is the vision behind WeMaintain?

Ultimately, we want to deliver the highest-quality service we can, and the best data we can. And we do this by using tech and empowering lift engineers. We do everything with this in mind.

Tech is key. It enables us to scale, and thanks to our in-house operating system, we are asset-light and operate a full service business without any physical branch like incumbents players. We use technology to give lift engineers the power to communicate seamlessly and to anticipate issues on their lifts. Using IoT and tech tools, we also deliver great data to managers. So tech underpins everything we do. We’re bringing together expertise, the right approach and state-of-the-art technology to be the best we can be for our people and our stakeholders.

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

We had a bold ambition for our industry, and that was always going to pose challenges. But at the beginning, funding was an obstacle, not because no one was interested but because our expectations differed. You have to be careful, because you know that investment makes a big impact, but you can end up selling your soul if you don’t think it through.

We had investors dying to give us large amounts of money, but in return for a lot of control and decision-making power. We had to turn them down, and it was only thanks to the financial support of friends and family that we could stand our ground when speaking to other investors and find the right professional investors for the project. It was a very challenging time, considering the amount of money involved. Now, I think it’s the best decision we ever made.

Also being a market maker can sometimes be seen as risky from an investor’s perspective. In our industry, we have the ability to move much faster than existing players, and see this as a clear strength to be first. 

Who is your target audience?

We want to reach building owners and managers. But we also try to do business in the right way, and to show anyone working in a business or looking to start a business that transparency, accountability and diversity—putting people first—is a great thing to do and delivers the most value for everyone, inside and outside.

What is the USP of your startup?

We combine the technical skill of engineers with the agility and predictive power of our own proprietary technology. This brings a high level of transparency and real-time information-sharing to an industry where historically that hasn’t been the case. We really aim to use our technology to empower and bring up the people around us, not to replace them. Our slogan “we rise by lifting others”. 

Can you describe your typical workday?

One thing never changes: it’s always super busy. I wake up at 7.30, go to the office around 8.30, and drink a lot of coffee. In the morning I read the news, read and reply to emails, and have one-to-ones with people in my team.

At midday I take a brief lunch break, and in the afternoon, I have meetings around specific projects and calls with other entrepreneurs. I try to stop working around 9pm.

Where do you see yourself and your startup WeMaintain in five years?

Beyond the elevator maintenance sector, we aim to become the leader in PropTech. That’s an ambitious goal, but we have made rapid progress since we launched in France and we’ve continued to grow throughout the pandemic since we launched in London. There’s a real appetite for a different kind of company in our space, and we think we’re filling that niche.

Thanks to our approach to safety and optimised services, we’re also accelerating the trend towards smart buildings.

What three tips would you give to founders?

Don’t compare yourself to others: compare yourself to yourself. Hire people who are better than you are at what they do. Have big ambitions. And a bonus tip: Be nice to yourself. Everybody else is already judging you.

More information you will find here

Thank you  Benoit Dupont for the Interview

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

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