In the Hot Seat – Upsteam
In the Hot Seat – Martin Kristerson, CEO – UpSteam
We asked Martin Kristerson from UpSteam to take the Funderbeam Hot Seat, to answer common questions requested by investors and to find out a bit more about the future of the business.
Tell us in three sentences what is your company and what is the product?
UpSteam is pretty much like Bolt for car care. We’re basically a delivery company that takes care of your car-related responsibilities such as washing, fuelling, and light maintenance without you having to move a muscle. Our goal is to save car owners time and money.
Tell us how 2021 was for UpSteam, what were your key challenges?
We washed +183% more cars than we did in 2020, our sales increased by +170%, we launched a new service type (transfer washing) and a new city in Estonia (Tartu). But most importantly, we learned to meet the users’ expectations and how to retain them.
Key to having returning customers in car washing means never cutting corners in quality and sending them appropriate reminders according to their personal car washing preferences. The quality part is mainly driven by our Washers, which is why we invested a large chunk of our efforts to ensure that our Washers are well-trained, well-paid, and happy with their jobs.
What are your main, key goals for UpSteam in 2022?
Our primary focus will be on making our business model a lot more profitable and scalable than now. This requires us to rethink our business processes and simplify/digitize most back-office operations that today require human work. We are confident that the critical aspect of making any car wash business scalable is to have a well-designed system that automatically handles your everyday processes without decreasing your service quality.
As a result, we can scale our company without growing the more significant part of our operational costs.
What is the outlook for the car washing Sector in the coming year?
COVID-19 took a temporary hit on the car washing sector, although it’s been recovering quite fast. The car washing market has been growing throughout its existence. On a global scale, this €30 billion market is expected to grow to €34B by 2025. Today it’s not clear how significant will be the effect caused by the current political situation. However, I am pretty sure that car washing will always remain an essential part of the economy for as long as we use any cars for transportation. Even autonomous vehicles need cleaning.
Are there any key trends in the car washing sector you think are important to UpSteam?
There is a clear trend that fewer people take their cars to stationary car washes both globally and locally. People are getting more used to all kinds of services being brought to their doorstep, which is good news for UpSteam and self-service and automatic car washes.
One of the most substantial competitive advantages to the before-mentioned alternatives is that we also offer professional interior cleaning. We believe that if we stay true to our USP (get a quality car wash with 0 effort), we will start to see an increasing amount of customers who will switch (and stick) to using our services. We can already see that happening in other countries, where more and more young mobile car washing companies appear on the market.
For UpSteam, this shows a growing demand for what we do. The good news is that our strength in this game will be our platform, which gives us the operational advantage of outgrowing the other players.
Can you profile or paint a picture of a typical customer of UpSteam?
Our two key segments are Fleet and B2C users.
The first, which today is playing the most prominent part in our sales, are businesses that need to manage larger fleets of cars, such as car-sharing companies (e.g. Bolt Drive, Citybee, ELMO, etc.), but also other large corporations where transportation is an essential part of their business (e.g. Estonian Energy, Omniva, etc.).
Our Fleet users enjoy having UpSteam as their partner because they can focus on their core business without investing their time and money in the maintenance of their vehicles. The second key segment (B2C) includes all car owners who respect their time and love driving a car clean.
UpSteam covers a relatively wide range of different user profiles in that segment. Our targeting efforts go for the most “Average car owner” and not so much on the users who prefer self-service car washes for their price or the “top-tier users” who take their cars only to a premium car detailing salon.
What is your key message to customers and how do you get that information to them?
Our simple message is “Get a quality car wash without the hassle”. So far, the #1 channel to build interest within the masses has been social media and Google. Although, it’s clear that the more we focus on our user satisfaction, the more we generate word-of-mouth marketing.
This has played well in our favour when converting new users from the early & late majority section of the “5 types of adopters” curve.
What would you say are the biggest challenges ahead for UpSteam?
Personally, my biggest challenge will be to guard and maintain the focus of our team. As our HQ team is relatively small, I need to ensure that we strictly focus on essential things and not mix them with all the crazy ideas we have for the future.
For UpSteam, the biggest challenge will be cleaning away all the “good-to-have” to make more room for the “must-have” things in our business model. It’s a never-ending challenge, but I believe that the future “Unicorn status”, which we ambitiously thrive for, will require us to focus on the 20% that generates 80% of the results.
And what area/geography/sector presents the biggest opportunity for UpSteam?
Before we haven’t completed our market analysis and made clear decisions on where UpSteam will expand, we don’t believe it’s a good idea to shout out city names. Currently, we focus on proving our business model in the presently active markets. Once we are close to stating with confidence that UpSteam has a market-business-model-fit, then you will hear about our expansion plans.
If you could give Investors just 3 words to describe the future of UpSteam], what would they be?
Effortless, affordable, and scalable.
How Funderbeam investors could help you?
We believe that our investors have already helped enough by placing their trust in the long-term vision we’re building. We would love to encourage our investors to use UpSteam as a customer and share your feedback and ideas on how we could improve.
Upsteam is listed on the Funderbeam Exchange – check out information on this investment opportunity click here
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