Wednesday 16 Oct 2013 @ 13:15
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Sucess Story - Vantage Power catches the bus business
Fresh out of university and full of ideas, Toby Schulz and Alex Schey set out on the road to success in 2009.
‘Every beginning is very, very difficult,' says Toby, CTO of Vantage Power. ‘After starting the company in 2011, we struggled for 12 months. We had a load of wacky ideas and we found it really difficult to settle on something that was equally a good idea and had a potential market.
‘You soon learn that everything doesn't always go smoothly. You get big things thrown at you and the challenges seem impossible to overcome. But you also realise that anything is solvable, somehow.
‘We had so many ups and downs to start with. All we wanted was to create our own, exciting technology and we thought we would automatically be successful. But we didn't have a single clear, specific idea.
‘I nearly went personally bankrupt twice, but I was saved by winning a small contract that tided me over. You take yourself to the brink and you just have to keep believing that you will get somewhere with the right backing - and keep believing in yourself.'
Part-electric, part-diesel system
For Vantage Power, the right backing has so far fallen into place at the right time. As Toby and his co-founder, CEO Alex Schey picked over their ideas, they finally settled on one that seemed to also be a solid commercial proposition: a part-electric, part-diesel system that could be retrofitted to buses already on the road.
Despite the considerable amount of research and development on this front in the industry, most of it has focused on the new bus market rather than the unique challenge of creating a hybrid engine that can be retrofitted to all double-decker bus models currently on the road - Vantage Power's Big Idea.
‘Ensign Bus Company's involvement as a non-cash investor was a crucial affirmation of the business's technology proposition for the industry. It enabled us to raise a fair amount of early cash from business angels.
'And the grant awarded by the Technology Strategy Board at the start of 2012 is what really raised the stakes for the company, by confirming the soundness behind the technology concept to investors,' explained Toby.
‘It made a huge difference to us. It aided our credibility and it's a public statement that our technology works and has a business case.
‘The first big cash raise is always the most difficult, so effectively you're starting with nothing. I think speed is the key for anyone starting a business because it limits the amount of money you need to raise.'It sounds as if Toby is speaking with years of experience behind him. In fact, Vantage Power's evolution has been rapid. And in one way or another, speed has been an important factor since the two men had the pick of the latest technologies to play with as university undergraduates in 2009:
‘Alex and I were building hybrid vehicles and go-karts with very advanced technology - high-powered battery packs and so on.
‘When we finished university, we didn't want to go out and get a job, so we came up with the idea of this great publicity stunt which would prove that electric vehicles can go fast.
Click here for the full success story and further information.