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POW is November's Featured Business of the Month

Tue, 21 November 2017

Mohammed Shah won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in December 2016 for his business POW.
POW is a bicycle electrification service which aims to make owning an electric bike affordable and hassle-free. This is achieved by converting customers’ bikes to electrical ones, and providing regular maintenance, hardware upgrades, and battery replacements for a monthly fee.

What started as a side project for Mohammed became full time after winning a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in December 2016, leading to other funding opportunities and leaps forward for the start-up that’s making electric mobility accessible for all.
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Mohammed Shah to catch up with him and to see what’s next for POW.

What was the inspiration behind POW?
Electric bikes are absolutely the best way to get around town. They’re green, quick and healthier than taking public transport or driving. Unfortunately, owning an electric bike is expensive and hard to maintain.
 
I used to commute to work and really hated the journey. It was a 10-minute walk, 40-minute bus ride and another 10-minute walk. I could never get a seat and would frequently end up getting to work late, so I decided to take my bicycle from university and convert it to electric. It worked great - I was door to door in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, after 5 months the battery stopped charging and I couldn’t justify buying a new one for £500. My initial justification, that it would end up being cheaper than my bus pass, was wrong.
 
I wanted a service that made it affordable and hassle-free to own an electric bike - the best and cleanest mode of transport for the city. Such a service did not exist so I decided to create it myself. That’s why I started POW -  short for Power.
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
I think my earliest experience with entrepreneurship was when I sold skittles out of my bag in year 8. I got back into business when I graduated from University when I worked on various projects ranging from FMCG to FashTech. I’ve always wanted to eventually be my own boss and I value control over my work and time. Deciding to work on this business full time was easy as it’s solving a problem I’m passionate about and which aligns with my own personal moral and ethical positions.
 
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?
The initial challenge was definitely funding. Since this is a service business built based on hardware it was heavily capital intensive.
 
What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement with the business?
Receiving awards, accolades, and commendations for the business is great but delivering a converted bike to a happy customer so early on in the business is definitely my proudest achievement.
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award in 2016, how have things changed for you since then?
Since winning Shell LiveWIRE at the end of 2016 I’ve been able to rent out workshop space, gain revenue, generating traction and expanding capacity to 55 bike conversions in 2017. Shell was the first to believe in my vision and without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today with the business.
 
What’s next for POW?
Next up is scaling our existing customer base with ‘dumb kits’. Dumb kits are kits that consist of off-the-shelf components. Once we’ve got a happy and loyal membership, we will then start working with them to design the next iteration of kits called ‘smart kits’. These smart kits will enable us to provide a better service to our customers.
 
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
I believe there is a difference between being a business owner and an entrepreneur. A business owner takes financial risk for a financial reward. An entrepreneur risks it all to change how the world works, in however significant or insignificant a way. A smarter future is inherently a world better and more innovative than the present and therefore it will be built on the backs of those with an entrepreneurial mindset.
 
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low carbon society?
Businesses are the biggest polluters on the planet either directly or indirectly and for that reason, entrepreneurs will be the catalyst to accelerate us into a low-carbon society. Their creative thinking will identify monetizable solutions to process inefficiencies, human behaviours, and resource wastage.
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
It is healthy to explore each of your different ideas up to technical or market validation, but only pursue a project that you personally care about. Find that project that you truly care about, then commit to it fully and know that failure will only come if you quit. However, if there are external forces that you can absolutely not overcome then it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Learn from it, accept it and move on. Allow the obstacles to guide you and have a stoic response to rejection. Also, have fun.
 
Got a Smart Idea for a Business?
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!

 

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