Forbes Ukraine asked about the life and success of the startup, as well as its forecasts and plans for the future.
The history of GO TO-U began in 2014 when the current founders of the company, Lena Artemenko, Nazar Shymone-Davyda, and Lyubov Artemenko purchased the first official Tesla car in Ukraine. At that time, electric cars were perceived as exotic animals - everyone heard about them, but only a few saw them live. It was apparent that their number will directly depend on the infrastructure: if there are conditions - there are electric cars.
While traveling in Europe, the future founders noticed a crucial point: even with a sufficiently developed infrastructure, the key factor remains convenience, and hence efficiency. Then the idea arose to develop in this direction - to create a software product that can work not only locally but also all over the world, providing comfort for EV drivers and a steady income for charging station owners.
In 2017, the GO TO-U platform released a mobile application that allows drivers to find and book charging stations on the map, navigate to them, leave feedback on charging locations, as well as get bonuses. Today, the app has 12,000 downloads and more than 20,000 charging sessions per month.
Like most businesses, GO TO-U has faced difficulties in further development due to the pandemic, but all in good time.
"Our product is easy to scale to any market," says Nazar Shymone-Davyda. The startup was launched with a global focus - the head office of GO TO-U is located in Los Angeles. But so far it is more of a formality, and 23 of the 26 team members are in Lviv (Ukraine). Most of the clients are also from Ukraine. In second place - Thailand, in third place - Europe.
As of March 2021, GO TO-U has about 60 partners, provides software for 80 stations of 22 kW and five high-speed complexes with a 120 kW capacity. By the end of 2021, the startup plans to increase the number of high-speed chargers four times.
There are plenty of potential customers. The first and most promising category - charging station operators. The customer buys and installs the charger himself, and GO TO-U provides software management for it. “For such a business, it makes sense to consider high-speed charging stations”, says Lena Artemenko. The entry threshold is about €35,000. "It can be one station or hundreds of them", adds Nazar. "We bring customers, the payment goes via us".
Some chargers may be branded with the GO TO-U logo, but they do not belong to the startup. This is the path taken by one of the first partners of the startup Leo Green Investments. "I saw it as a passive income," says company founder Andriy Potynsky. We started with the installation of four high-speed charging complexes near the main shopping malls in our city. Each costs about $70,000."
According to his calculations, within three years the demand for charging will be much higher. Therefore, the company plans to continue building a high-speed network and is also considering AC charging.
For another category of customers, charging is not the main business, but rather an image service. These are the owners of restaurants, hotels, shopping, and business centers. "For us, this is an additional magnet," says the founder of the Lviv Holding of Emotions !FEST Andriy Khudo.
The first charger of the GO TO-U platform appeared in the FESTrepublic space (Lviv, Ukraine). Another one was set up near the !FEST hotel last year, right before the pandemic. "This affects the choice of guests, but not critically," says Andriy Khudo. Of the two identical hotels, The EV owners prefer one where they can charge.
"Present-day offices must have EV chargers," said Mykola Muzala, administrative director of the Intellias IT company. According to his estimates, about 10% of employees drive electric cars. For them, a station for two cars was installed near the company's new office a few months ago. So far, only a few have been able to use it - since the beginning of the quarantine, Intellias has been working remotely. But the company does not rule out that in the future they will install more chargers.
GO TO-U has diverse conditions for separate customers. Hotels or IT companies don’t get income from charging, so they only pay a monthly subscription fee. Operators pay a monthly fee for the software and a turnover percentage. There are no exact tariffs - the conditions are particular for everyone. The average figures are up to €100 subscription fee per month and up to 20% of turnover.
The GO TO-U founders say that their main competitors are abroad. One of the largest is the German company has·to·be with its cloud platform be.ENERGISED for charging stations. In 2020, the startup spread in 35 countries and connected 35,000 charging points to the system. "They are really large and, in fact, three years older than us", Lena Artemenko says.
GO TO-U can grow no less actively, the founders believe. About €700,000 has been invested in the startup since 2017. €270,000 has been received from grant programs and accelerators, including the EBRD and Techstars. Venture capital investment has not been attracted yet, but it will be needed soon, says Nazar Shymone-Davyda. "This market is evolving so fast, and we are in the right place at the right time, which is a logical development," he said.
At the start of the acceleration at Techstars, GO TO-U received a standard estimate of $3 million. Upon the program completion, this amount rose to $10-15, Nazar said, citing estimates from potential investors and partners.