While Tesla has grabbed the early share of mind when it comes to electric vehicles, automakers are catching up fast with multiple auto manufacturers offering new electric vehicles (EV) in the fall of 2021. But that is not where the biggest opportunity lies for new EV startups. Instead, startups should be aiming at the B2B commercial vehicle industry. When you look at commercial shuttle fleets, delivery vans, taxi’s, buses of all types and even trucking, you can see that this industry is very large and set to explode and it has nowhere to go but up. According to a Prescient & Strategic Intelligence report from December 2018, the global commercial electric vehicle market generated revenue of $144.5 billion in 2017, however it is expected to more than double to $362.7 billion by 2025, exhibiting a CAGR of 13.3% between 2018 and 2025.
Quite a few startups are entering this emerging space as companies, and even cities and airports, are beginning to embrace commercial electric vehicles. Even Amazon has been testing new electric delivery vans on routes in Los Angeles since February, 2021. So, who are the new startup players that are beginning to deliver these commercial electric vehicles? One of the rapidly rising startup companies in this space is Endera, a technology company specializing in all-electric commercial vehicles, charging infrastructure and telematic software solutions. Recently, Endera acquired Metro Titan, a school and shuttle bus manufacturing company in Ohio with 250,000 square feet of dedicated manufacturing space on a 1,000,000 square foot campus.
To better understand this emerging EV industry vertical, we sat down in an interview with John Walsh, the CEO and Founder of Endera, which is headquartered in San Diego, California.
Bernhard Schroeder: Did you always want to be entrepreneur?
John Walsh: Ever since I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My stepfather gave me the book Rich Dad Poor Dad in 5th grade, which completely shaped my perspective and inspired me to want to start a business. Sharpening my entrepreneurial skills at San Diego State University also really helped as well.
Schroeder: Have you started any other companies?
Walsh: I have always had a focus on sustainable and planet friendly products or services. I started an algae biofuel company, Grow Energy, when I was 18. That started my Cleantech career and passion for sustainable entrepreneurship. I then started VENA, a water company that was focused on pulling water from air by using geothermal and solar energy.
Schroeder: What are your startup successes and failures?
Walsh: Both of my previous Cleantech startups failed in principle. It was a success for me personally because I learned how to raise money, commercialize a technology, and bring people together to work towards a common goal. I learned the blueprint of how to start a tech company and the importance of customer development and product market fit with the market-validated problem coming first, then the solution.
Schroeder How was Endera born?
Walsh: I was in a private equity firm and assigned to do due diligence on energy and transportation companies at the LA Cleantech Incubator. I helped syndicate an investment round for an Electric Vehicle (EV) bus company. The management team of the company were so impressed with my industry knowledge and passion for sustainability that they hired me to do business development for them. Unfortunately, it was so chaotic in the firm, that I felt I could build a better company in this space, one with a great culture where people were valued. So, after just three months I quit and started Endera early in 2019.
Schroeder: Why will Endera make it in the sea of competitors that are coming?
Walsh: Endera is a technology innovation company masquerading as a commercial vehicle company. We don’t think like traditional or legacy transportation companies. We are an agile technology company and have a solid first mover advantage, with the largest deployment of electric vehicle shuttles at a major airport in the United States. We’ve done that by creating a culture that attracts superior talent that can pivot and adapt to the competitive market forces in this industry vertical. We are also investing heavily in next generation technology platforms, both in and outside of the vehicles.
Schroeder: How do you see this marketplace evolving?
Walsh: Right now, the B2B EV industry is just in its infancy, with less than 2% of commercial transportation vehicles being electrified to date. I believe we’re going to see companies continue to enter into the marketplace as we head toward the growth phase of the commercial EV sector. However, we have a long way to go in the long-term growth of this industry vertical and I see the next 10 years as being a blue ocean of opportunity for Endera.
Schroeder: What is your advice for startups targeting emerging industries?
Walsh: It’s important to find a large niche in a major industry that is evolving or can be disrupted. Be a big fish in a small pond and try to own the pond. However, it’s all about the timing. Build a company with solid ethics, with long term thinking being core to your beliefs. Design a competitive “moat,” if you can, around your product or intellectual property and focus on the long game. In a emerging or disrupted industry, you have to learn how to crawl quickly, pivot to a fast walk and then run like hell. Right now, it’s crazy for us in terms of how rapidly we are growing. But we love it. We are building and deploying vehicles that are making the planet a better place and that makes my heart pound and puts a smile on my face.