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Startup Q&A: DUCKT

The World’s First Universal Micromobility Charging Infrastructure

Cagri Selcuklu, CEO of DUCKT, has 15 years of Automotive and Mobility experience, including OEMs such as FIAT and projects such as New York Taxi, after graduating from transportation design in Italy with a scholarship. Selcuklu also has several public transportation solutions mass-produced and used in both EU and US markets. He is a country manager of Interaction Design Foundation, helping people from different industries to better integrate user centered problem solving into their business.

Here’s what Selcucklu had to share about how DUCKT is sweeping the transportation industry with their functional and beautiful micromobility solutions.

In a single sentence, what does DUCKT do?

We develop and operate world’s first universal and dedicated micromobility charging infrastructure.

Describe how DUCKT came to be. In other words, what was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?

We love micromobility. We want to be an integrated solution to the urban life. But we’re also aware of the problems threatening its existence. So we looked into those problems.

There’s disorder in public space, vandalism, and theft towards vehicles. Pedestrian safety is an issue. And — on the other side of the coin — firms are spending 60% of their income on operations and charging with lots of extra carbon emission.

This has led to disorder, no regulation, and inefficiency. This will hurt the industry and our cities, just when we need efficient, affordabl,e and clean personal mobility solutions the most.

So this is the moment we started to develop DUCKT. We didn’t start with the ambition of a charging station. Our ambition was to define infrastructure standards just like EVs or your home. And of course a plug standard.

Who is your market? What are they looking for with DUCKT?

DUCKT has three potential customer segments:

  1. Public Space Owners (Key Stakeholder). There is disorder being created by mobility services in public space. While service operators are visitors of the city, people & the local authority are hosts — and the hosts of the city are the ones who will observe severe changes in their daily life. DUCKT helps create order, gives access to the valuable data stream, and creates new income models for these stakeholders. It also creates a new stream towards public transportation.
  2. Sharing Operators (Primary Stakeholder). Operators and manufacturers do care to make a positive change in people’s lives. But currently, vandalism and theft towards vehicles and pedestrian safety is an issue. Firms are spending nearly 60% of their income for operations and charging. Operational efficiency is the next mountain to climb. Our studies show operators can cut from their extra operation times, especially for charging during the day. DUCKT stations provide safety against vandalism both during the day and night hence longer lifetime for the vehicles.
  3. 3rd Party Businesses (Secondary Stakeholder). Our innovation will also help integrate 3rd party businesses to MaaS, by having DUCKT stations in their facilities or near their businesses. Parking operators, energy suppliers, coffee chains, EV station, shopping centers, holiday resorts, petrol stations, and many other businesses get to become mobility service hotspots with new client streams. And we help our clients achieve this in style, because cities are for everybody and they need both safe, functional, and beautiful furniture in their streets.

What makes your company/product different in this market?

We believe ever-expanding micromobility solutions need a dedicated and universal charging infrastructure. We also believe there are three really important aspects to that:

  1. It needs to be universal. An infrastructure cannot be suitable only for one or two vehicles in the market. Then it will become another clutter in the street. It has to be universal. It has to work with every vehicle in the market right now and the future. Hence we developed and internationally patented our smart adaptors. Just like defining a plug standard for EVs, our ambition is to define a plug standard for micromobility.
  2. It needs to be simple, elegant & technologically integrated. It has to be simpler than it is right now, because people choose to use easier options. With the help of our adaptors, it will be easier to park a vehicle to a DUCKT station rather than to leave it in a designated parking zone.
  3. It needs to have the right business aim. Rather than aiming to have several stations in a city, we aim to define an infrastructure solution for the cities where the city (locals) become a business partner to the solution. They can own their city, while they are also keeping it organized and carbon free.

What milestone are you most proud of so far?

We are the black swan of tech community because we are hardware people. But at the same time, we’re invited or selected to every tech event. Because every app needs to work on a cellphone. And we like to think ourselves as the “cellphone” of micromobility. We’re really proud of our recognitions and market traction so far.

Some examples:

  • After starting our marketing — over a period of 5 months — we had more than 300 clients contacts and from this, 44% of these contacts reached us directly. At the moment, we have more than 40 sales pipeline activities and 4 key PoC activities.
  • We’ve had several recognitions around the globe. DUCKT came first in the Startup Estonia competition in Turkey. We were invited to startup week in Estonia and also won the smart city competition held by Tallinn municipality. DUCKT also got picked as ‘TC Top Pick in mobility 2019’ by TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. We won a pilot in SOL Mobility Lisboa smart city competition with the Lisbon city council support and finally, this year, got elected in one of the 20 ‘Accelerate Startup’ globally as top %1 in Startup GRIND by Google Startups held in Silicon Valley.
  • A Medium article declared DUCKT as one of the top 7 startups to watch in 2020.
  • We were also recently picked as one of the startups of the year by MovinOn Challenge in Canada and MassChallenge in Switzerland.

What are people most excited about when they get to know DUCKT?

We are proud of hearing how logical our product and service is, and also how people like the way it looks. Since it is a “city furniture,” functionality is the most important thing BUT it’s still going to be something you will have in your streets for years to come. It needs to earn that place in your life. And it seems this is a quality we have that excites people.

Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?

We are pre-seed funded via our corporate investor and we are about to close our seed round right now. For our pre-seed, being a corporate spinoff startup, we were lucky to convince our corporate in the idea we had. That brought us all the way to mass production. But from mass production round to scale, we started looking for our seed round.

We have already onboarded a semi-governmental infrastructure and energy fund to invest. To reach the right people has always been more important to us than to reach a lot of people. Because we believe in what we do and we want likeminded people with us. We used our network and the organizations that we joined (more concentrated group of people) to reach our contacts.

How do you build and develop talent?

I care about EQ. Maybe too much. So inside my team, any development has to base upon a person being able to express their approach. That flexibility is hard to handle at the start. BUT given the opportunity, if you followed up a good hiring process, this style of management always ends up with people on your team add value to what you have. And that is why you should have a team in the first place. Not copies of your best performers.

How do you manage growth vs sustainability?

To us, sustainable growth means repeatable, ethical and responsible — to and for current and future communities. That is what we based our product and services around. Hence our company structure. We have now more responsibility post COVID-19 world to make sure we manage this. When you keep sustainability as one of your core values, growth is inevitable.

What are the biggest challenges for the team?

Being an agile startup in growth stage, the biggest challenge is growing and execute at the same time. Onboarding new people is always a hard challenge that you need to keep on doing.

What’s been the biggest success for the team?

Never ending ambition to achieve the next target. This has never changed since Day 1. It’s more important to create an environment that breeds success, than have one big success. Again, sustainability is the core value.

What advice would you give to other founders?

A few very important things:

  • Stay resilient and hard working. Always true and hard to do. M.Ali was counting his push ups AFTER it started hurting.
  • Listen. Listen to your customer, your investor, your team. Really listen. There will always be clues for you to understand if you are on the right path or not. Be open to adjusting and learning from them. At the end take your own decision.
  • And finally, take action. Anything you think can’t be done is being achieved by somebody around the world. Somebody who started to take the steps one by one to that goal. So start with the first step. You’ll love the first taste.

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