The French startup that wants you to become a superdriver! Interview with the co-founder and CEO of Drust

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I’m sure you will agree that the automotive industry is going to face some drastic changes over the coming years. The future of the car will be electric and driverless. But it will probably take many more years until these new technologies will overtake the mass market.

So let’s look at innovations that happen right now. Innovations which have the potential to help us save gas and become a better driver.

Drust, for example, is a driver-centric platform which connects drivers to the heart of their car. The Paris-based startup provides drivers with added value services via a mobile application to help them become informed and involved in their driving. The first product of the Drust team is called AKOLYT BETA – a device connected to your car and a playful app in its BETA version. It enables you to save up to 30% on your fuel costs with real-time feedback and helps you observe your savings. With AKOLYT BETA you can improve your driving skills to earn points and measure yourself against the community of superdrivers!

In order to learn more about the French IoT startup, we talked to Michaël Fernandez-Ferri, the co-founder and CEO of Drust. Enjoy the interview:

How did you (or your co-founders) come up with the idea for Drust and how did it all start?

The idea came in a discussion with friends and colleagues from my former employer (PSA Peugeot Citroen, 2nd biggest European car maker), as we were amazed by the energy and money that is being invested by car makers to make incremental improvements (1% to 2% from a product generation to the next one) on vehicle efficiency through technology while much bigger improvements can be achieved by the driver her/himself (up to 30% reduction of fuel consumption). Thus, we decided to dedicate our work to the drivers and share our powertrain engineering knowledge via a user-friendly product.

What were the main stumbling blocks within the first year and what would you do differently from today’s perspective?

They are twofold.
Some concern the business and the product: bringing value to the drivers in a competitive time-to-market is our daily business. We can always improve the way we manage the tricky loop of taking feedback from the market while moving forward.
Some others regard the fact that you are, at the same time, also building a company from the ground! You need to face all the admin work, which is actually not much compared to the energy you need to convince everyone around you against the odds (partners, employees, sponsors, mentors, investors, customers, users, suppliers, etc.). One should focus this energy on what actually creates real value for the company.

What is Drust’s unique value proposition that sets it apart from its competitors?

Our obsession with the driver’s experience. Some tend to see us as ‘another telematics company’, whereas we picture ourselves as a pure service provider for drivers to make them superdrivers. We rather value technology as a business enabler than a value in itself. Though, the after-market solution that we offer today can upgrade any car of today to the connected services of tomorrow. I think this will significantly speed up the change to connected cars as we don’t need to wait for car makers to connect new cars and for new cars to replace older cars.

How did you fund the Drust project in the beginning and how will it be funded in the future?

We managed to fund the company mainly from revenues for the first 2 years, before going through a Series-A investment round. We now have a solid partner to build the future with.

What are the next steps and future plans for Drust?

We aim to shape tomorrow’s mobility as one of the solutions to help drivers and businesses to better mobility – greener, safer, cheaper and more enjoyable. Thus, we are developing business in B2C, providing services directly to the drivers, and B2B2C when we work together with partners and customers especially in the field of maintenance and motor insurance.

How is your experience with Paris as a location to start a company?

There is a lot of enthusiasm around the #FrenchTech in Paris, which obviously comes with pros and cons: on the one hand, one can easily meet with potential customers, find mentors to shape the project, speak with organisations to help improve processes, get funding from the government, etc. But on the other hand, the environment is pretty competitive in terms of markets, talents and funding with a high cost of living. All in all, I would say it’s a great place to ‘entreprendre’!

Could you recommend our readers one or two books that helped you during your entrepreneurial endeavours?

I actually read few books. However, I have to admit that Musk’s bio by Ashlee Vance is definitely worth reading!

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