Student Profiles

Startup Profile: Electric Vehicle Ecosystem (EVE)

How a Pandemic Pivot Helped EVE Founder Sarah-Marie Rust Unlock a Whole New Market for Her Startup

For Sarah-Marie Rust (Trinity College Dublin ‘20), 2020 was supposed to be the year her app – Electric Vehicle Ecosystem (EVE) – took off with electric vehicle (EV) drivers across Europe. But when COVID-19 hit, and miles driven across the globe dropped 60%, Rust faced a dilemma: would she continue pursuing a consumer app connecting EV drivers with charging stations across Europe while most cars sat idle in garages, or would she pivot to meet the new demands and challenges brought on by the pandemic?

With support of the Trinity Dublin Blackstone LaunchPad, she spent months speaking with stakeholders across all facets of the EV industry. Ultimately, Rust and her co-founder made the difficult choice to pivot EVE and focus on helping fleet managers reduce both costs and stress on local energy grids by optimizing where and when they charge company vehicles.

Now, as part of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the LaunchPad Fellowship, Rust is bolstering her new business model and preparing for a post-pandemic world where her startup EVE can help businesses across Europe maximize the cost-savings of electric vehicles, all while further reducing the impact widespread electric vehicle use has on the environment.

When Good Ideas Meet Bad Timing

The idea for EVE came to life three years ago, when Rust’s father was shopping for a new car and leaning towards purchasing an electric vehicle. One factor prevented him from making the purchase: finding convenient places to charge his car would be too difficult.

How many other people, Rust wondered, declined to purchase an electric vehicle due to poor charging infrastructure? While there are clear long-term societal and environmental impacts for mass adoption of EV, could lack of information regarding where and when to charge these vehicles hold the movement back?

While discussing this problem with fellow Trinity College Dublin student Oana Rosca, Rust realized that they could provide a solution. The original model for EVE was born – an app that would connect electric vehicle owners with available charging stations. Partnering with Rosca, the duo began building and testing their minimum viable product.

That is, until COVID lockdowns across Europe brought personal vehicle use to a crawl and spurred the need to pivot.

Listening to Uncover Problems

With the decision to pivot in the rearview and a desire to move strategically, the pair turned to customer interviews. They spent several months speaking with stakeholders from across the electric vehicle industry, looking to understand their challenges and pain points and how EVE could be of help.

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. [That is] a sentence often used by one of our professors at Trinity,” said Rust.

One topic came up again and again in interviews: EV’s put major stress on the electric grid. Most electric vehicle owners charge their cars in the early evening, causing the power grid to spike and electricity prices to go up. Not only is this environmentally unfriendly (and the antithesis of the EV movement), but it’s also costly.

No one felt this cost quite like businesses managing electric vehicle fleets. If EVE could help fleet managers optimize their charging habits across dozens or even hundreds of cars, there were tremendous savings to be had.

With this new understanding and opportunity in focus, EVE pivoted fully towards a new SAAS solution for businesses with electric fleets, helping them optimize their charging habits, save money, and reduce stress on local electric grids.

The Future of EVE

Even with all the turmoil of the last year, Rust is optimistic about the future of EVE. The company is currently in talks with three different Irish firms about a pilot program. They are also building a Customer Advisor Board to provide ongoing feedback during the app development process.

EVE is on-track to launch a pilot program in September of the year, with a full roll-out to come in early 2022. In addition to the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship, EVE is participating in the Silicon Valley Alchemist Accelerator, which culminates in a Demo Day this May, where Rust hopes to secure a first round of funding to fuel the company’s growth over the next 12-18 months.

Looking towards these next steps, Rust exciting to put into action the skills she worked on over the course of the LaunchPad Fellowship.

“The Pitching and Storytelling workshop was my favorite so far,” said Rust. “Pitching is all about engaging in a conversation and reinforcing the trust that we will help investors make a return on their investment… [From the workshop,] I will definitely include “in just XX days, we achieved” on our traction slide to demonstrate our ability to execute and reduce our risk in the eyes of investors for our Demo Day.”

While pivoting a business is never easy – especially in the midst of a global pandemic – Sarah-Marie Rust is living proof that a strategic pivot can unlock a bright new future for your business.

And in the case of EVE, that future is electric.

To learn more about Sarah-Marie Rust and her startup EVE, follow the company on LinkedIn. And to meet all the incredible student founders participating in the Spring 2021 Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship, check out the full release here.