SERIES TWO – EDITION TEN
In edition ten of our ‘Faces behind the Business’ series two, we caught up with Richard Corbett, Regional General Manager at Voi Technology; a Swedish micro-mobility company offering electric scooter and bike sharing in partnership with cities and local communities.
When did you first get into this industry?
I have been passionate about disrupting and innovating in the transport industry for over ten years. In 2010, I launched my first tech start-up (Eyetease.com), which I ran for eight years. The company created the world’s first digital ad system for vehicles and the first in-vehicle wifi system back in 2010.
Then in 2017, the e-scooter rental industry started to grow in California. I joined the micro-mobility sector in 2018. Back then, I worked with Bird in the UK, the company who started the e-scooter revolution in California. I began by engaging with central government and local authorities across the UK, proposing e-scooters as a better way to travel around towns and cities to help reduce congestion and improve air quality. In my role as UK General Manager, I launched the first legal e-scooter service on private land in London in 2018 and lobbied for regulatory change until laws changed on July 4th, 2020.
When you’re innovating, you may likely need to influence law change along the way. I have a long history of working with hyper-growth startups in the transport industry, requiring a change in legislation. At Eyetease, this required lobbying for a new policy to legalise digital rooftop advertising – a process which took over four years to achieve. With e-scooters, this required helping to shape national legislation – a process which took around two years.
How long have you worked at Voi and what is your job role?
I joined Voi in May 2020, the week following Grant Shapps’ announcement that e-scooters would be trialled in the UK. As the Regional General Manager for the UK, Ireland and Benelux, I’m responsible for this region, which is largely made up of the last remaining markets to legalise e-scooters. England is currently undergoing trials, Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands are due to commence trials in the near future. Belgium and Luxembourg have legalised e-scooters and are active e-scooter markets.
What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to help build and grow businesses that can positively impact the world. I’m passionate about giving the British public a cleaner and greener way to travel.
According to Public Health England, air pollution is the most significant environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure. And in 2019, transport accounted for around a third (34 per cent) of all carbon dioxide emissions. The large majority of emissions from transport are from road transport. The number of air quality related illnesses and premature deaths will only increase as we see more cars on our roads. With over 50% of car journeys taking less than five miles, including on average one person travelling by themselves, these shorter single occupancy journeys are the types of trips we can help take off our roads. Equally, Voi scooters can help replace short car trips by giving people a first and last mile solution, providing better public transport integration. That’s the dream!
What is Voi’s ethos?
At Voi, we believe in cities free from congestion, noise and pollution. We want to help create cities where citizens can freely move around on their terms. To accomplish this, we have taken the most advanced technology and made it accessible to everyone.
Everything we do, we do it with our users in mind. Going from point A to point B in time, total silence and free from fossil fuels will help to create better cities for living.
What’s the best bit of advice you could give to anyone looking at working in your line of work?
When growing a business, particularly in the early stages, you need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of everything. This will allow you to stay humble and is exciting because it will enable you to understand and respect all aspects of the business. At Voi, I am lucky to have had lots of support from our head office team, but this was not always the case in my previous roles and startups.
You have to take the rough with the smooth, from high profile tasks, such as engaging with politicians, city officials or media, to less glamorous, but still essential tasks, such as standing out in the rain doing product demonstrations.
No matter what you do, transferable skills can be developed in any role, but of course, it’s essential to grasp the basics when going into a general manager role. A few skills I would say are necessary include: leadership (to be able to inspire your team and rally their support); people management (no person is an island, and we need a team to succeed); communication skills (so you feel comfortable speaking to different stakeholders); sales (life is one big sales pitch!); customer management (the customer is always first, and if you look after the customer the business will succeed) and strategy and direction (creating a clear path forwards).
In addition to this, having a passion for what you do is essential. After all, when working in a fast-moving environment, there will be trials and tribulations along the way. It’s fundamental to love what you do and embrace the company’s values and mission – this will help keep you motivated at all times!
From my personal experience, I can say that a leadership role is more about listening and helping others than anything else. I have often found that the best leaders ask others how they can support them rather than asking for support back. One of the best things about working at Voi is the collaboration we see across the business. From the CEO to the intern, everyone is willing to lend a hand. Teamwork is most definitely what makes the dream work here.
To those looking for new job opportunities, I would say that it’s essential to be seen and heard by the right people while keeping the CV and LinkedIn updated. But also, to keep a close eye on job opportunities on your favourite company’s job pages. For instance, at Voi, we continuously post new roles, so it’s worth looking at our job section.
Suppose you have no experience in mobility but want to work at Voi, for example. In that case, show you understand and embody the company’s values (we ride together, we are explorers, we are bold, we take ownership and we exist for our customers). These values can be derived from your previous employment, any charity work you do or even the hobbies and interests you might have.
If you’re passionate about an industry, look at your favourite companies’ key values and mission statements and see how you can gain experience or embody those values in your day-to-day life. This will help you have a great story to tell when interviewing for these roles!
What do you love most about Liverpool?
Liverpool has been one of my favourite global cities for many years. It started back in 2011 when I visited for the first time for The Beatles week. The people, the music, the culture, the food…Liverpool has it all!
The city has an energy that is unlike any other in the UK, and It is a global mecca for music and pop culture – surpassed by no other.
If you could describe your business in 3 words what would they be?
For more information about Voi please visit www.voiscooters.com
Are you a business in the Liverpool City Region and want to feature in our Faces Behind the Business series? Contact us now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or get us on WhatsApp on 07568 532 537.