It’s no secret that fuel prices increase at alarming rates. We all rush to the garage before midnight, to avoid paying a few extra cents for that litre of petrol, but what if I told you there is a company that’s making urban transport affordable and safe? Keep reading.
LÜLA, is an app that connects corporate commuters to private shuttles on their way to and from work. This provides a more easier and cheaper way for commuting in cities like Cape Town, whilst saving you money and giving you your precious time back.
I spoke to the Co-Founder and Ceo, Velani Mboweni about LULA’s plans.
Velani, how did you get into the transportation business? - and what makes you so passionate about this sector?
I got into transport by "accident" as I always wanted to be in technology, but transport was one of the most pressing issues for me based on my experiences in SA. I knew that mobile tech, payments and the shared economy combined would make a formidable force to improve society and develop emerging markets. My passion with mobility is simple: without access to transport, you cant access economic opportunities and without this, you can't reduce inequality. Fundamentally, commuting shouldn't be the worst part of our day.
It’s a notoriously difficult sector to get into, with public transport on the one side and the private taxi companies on the other. What is Lula’s golden secret to compete?
I guess LULA's golden tickets are the following: Unit economics, benefits for multiple stakeholders in our model as well as high quality vehicles. Our focus/niche is also one that hasn't really been tackled at scale but is rather a "by the way' thing when conventional offerings present their value proposition. Based on our model, and off course our tech, it is easier to scale into other markets without really changing infrastructure or introducing more infrastructure at higher costs.
What are the biggest challenges that you’re facing on the way to success - and how do you plan to overcome them?
Generally speaking, on boarding different operators to the platform wasn't as easy to do given the reluctance establish players had to disruption. We have however modified our strategy and are ramping up our vehicle acquistion strategy which will have an organic way of convincing others to join the platform. Secondly, a business like ours needs a lot of hands and minds addressing the problem to make it a truly scalable, successful and impactful business - thus access to talent continues to be a challenge. I think once we become very visible and spoken about in most people's day lives, people will want to join LULA as the notion of joining us will move away from what can talent gain from us to being what can talent give of themselves in being part of our journey and story. Lastly, raising capital for the current round is critical as it will help us to execute our plans a lot easier before we reach a point of our revenues covering the operational costs.
What are your top entrepreneurial tips to succeeding?
Firstly, stay knowledgable - reading books never killed anybody. Secondly, Focus, focus, focus - we pivoted to our current business model after having learnt a hard lesson in Joburg by trying to be everything to everyone. Thirdly, take stock of where you've come from and be grateful as that'll help you recharge. Fourthly, get used to saying no - not every single opportunity that comes your way will lead to something beneficial for you. Be resilient. enterpreneurship is very hard. People always have their opinions on you and what you're trying to achieve, if you can be resilient, you will achieve a lot more than anyone who tried to shun you down. Ultimately, acknowledging your weaknesses and seeking partnerships for them will save you the pain of learning hard lessons.
Who are your heroes, and what have you learned from observing them?
Hmm...my heroes. My parents are my heroes - I've learnt a lot of resilience, patience and calm from them. Strive Masiyiwa is one of my favorite entrepreneurs - his Africa centered focus and his walk of faith inspire me, not to mention his view on playing the long term game in a world where people are heavily focused on short term victories. Elon Musk: relentless pursuit of goals and a hard worker committed to social good. Dr Judy Dlamini - lots and lots of humility