Easy and accessible mobility that reduces the carbon footprint is something that all cities need and should be looking at, and you’d think was a smart priority, yet it seems with so many roadblocks that it's not as easy as riding a scooter.
Arda is the co-founder & CCO at Roll, the leading e-scooter share company in Canada. He was born and raised in Turkey. He moved to Toronto in 2016 to study at the University of Toronto. During his university years, Arda worked at Scotiabank as a Solutions Architect Intern and served on several boards and committees at the University of Toronto. He co-founded Roll in 2019 during his third year of study. He is responsible for Roll’s communication efforts with cities, strategies, initiatives, operations, and business development. Arda is the leading lobbyist who introduced the shared e-scooter scheme to Canadian cities.
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Olivier: [00:00:00] Easy and accessible mobility that reduces the carbon footprint is something that every city should and needs to be looking at. And you think it's a smart priority yet with so many roadblocks, it just doesn't seem as easy as riding a scooter. Hi, I'm your host Olivier Bousette on today's episode, we talk with Arda. Co-founder at roll. The leading shared e-scooter company in Canada, where we discuss the ups and downs of green mobility business, the aha moments and so much more.
Hi, Arda how are you?
Arda Hi Olivier, good yourself?
Olivier: Very good. Thank you. Okay, let's go. Give us an introduction about yourself.
Arda Yeah, I'm Arda, I'm a recent university of Toronto grad. I graduated last. I studied machine learning and data science. I have a more technical background, but I'm doing more business related stuff these days. And in my third year of study, I co-founded role role as the only Canadian on developed and operated, shared micro mobility company.
We operated our [00:01:00] east scooters in many communities across Canada, Calgary, Ottawa St. Albert red, deer Cochran, Colona, British Columbia, and we're looking forward to launching in more communities.
Olivier: Excellent. Excellent. So what was the aha moment? The sort of spark that made you decide to go that route and start roll scooters.
Arda Yeah. So we started this company in 2019, and at that time there was no other east scooter operator in Canada. And in fact well east scooters shared these scooters and e-bikes were really new to a lot of different countries communities in us. It was popular in Europe. It was really popular too.
And then we didn't have any scooters or e-bikes charity bikes at that time dockless model. And. I met Richard he's our CEO. He's also a UFT graduate and we thought about this and he's his family background is actually manufacturing east scooter manufacturing, e-bike [00:02:00] manufacturing. So we use this background to build a really good product because we knew that it was coming at some point.
And there's a really good opportunity in Canada cities like Toronto, Vancouver, other urban communities. And yeah, we decided to build our own product, our own software. We added new team members along the, along the way. And yeah, we launched our first fleet in 2019 in Colona, British Columbia.
We tested our product. Everything was really good. And then we launched in other cities. So yeah, there, there is no one aha moment, but it was more like seeing the opportunity and seeing the fact that it was popular in other countries. So why not? Having the same structuring.
Olivier: Yeah, that's interesting. And did your your co-founder the CEO because of his background, as a matter of factor, did that influence your decision to go that route? Or was it just haphazard? Well, wow. You, you actually do that.
Arda Absolutely. That was a main factor. And w I think we were really privileged in that sense because other companies were using commercial models in, in the [00:03:00] early days of micro mobility. And we built our own product, which was the best product in the market, still the best product in the market rebuilt it for shared environments specifically, so that it's not going to get broken in just.
And yeah we made it happen. Thanks to our CEO's family background.
Olivier: Yeah, that's great. And so now looking at roadblocks. Did you guys have any in a government roadblocks or issues with the deployment of this? Cause I know in the city of Montreal, there was an attempt and that actually hit many roadblocks, a lot of you know, citizens and like them and other people loved.
Arda Yeah, I'm actually a lot because Canadian governments are really conservative and we're really behind a lot of different technologies even now city of Toronto, just recently banned delivery robots. They also ban east scooters, even personal ones too. So governments are really conservative when it comes to these emerging [00:04:00] technologies, they're taking a conservative approach.
But there's always an opportunity, but when. We were talking to governments. We said, this is our solution to those problems. For improper parking, for example, it's one of the main problems we said after the trip, you have to take a picture and these pictures are analyzed by using machine learning and AI algorithms so that we know whether that's good.
Part properly or not. And if it's not, then we can bend right there. We can find them. And we have been doing this for other problems, like sidewalk riding. We have sensors are using GPS and other exquisite technologies to detect it. So we provided these solutions to them. And then at the end of it, they were convinced and we created a policy framework based on other other countries and other mistakes that are learned.
And. Yeah, we convinced them. We launched several pilots and communities, different communities. And yeah, so for intrepreneur ship, I think there's always going to be roadblocks and barriers, but [00:05:00] it's an important part of my job to find ways to help, to find ways around all those different problems.
And yeah, I think that's a really, really important part of.
Olivier: Yeah, I can imagine. And it sort of leads into our next question. If you can go back and leave yourself a 30 second voicemail to tell you what not to do and what to do, is there anything that. I would say, yeah, watch out for this or.
Arda Yeah. So first of all, this is my first company first startup. So in the beginning we were We believe in our product, we believe in everything, but we were really optimistic personally. I was the most optimistic person. We had a lot of different ideas, a lot of different I think it's passion and ambition too, but along the way, I realized that sometimes you need to be a little bit pessimistic or realistic, not a pessimistic all the time, but yeah, so I would say don't be optimistic all the [00:06:00] time.
Always be cautious try to think out of the box and try to predict the challenges possible challenges. And yeah, so I, I would say this.
Olivier: Yeah, it's so true. I think overoptimism is not the best thing. And certainly in Canada and startups, One of the questions I always ask people certainly for their startup and for their business is what's their Northern star. So what is your ambition? What's your ultimate goal? Is it a world domination of east scooters or is it mobility or are you going to look for different types of mobility on The road?
So what's your Northern star for Roll Scooters
Arda the optimal goal is to reduce the dependency on cars because climate change is attacked and it's, it's growing everyday. There's like last year we have seen a lot of wildfires, floods. Climate is changing and we want to reduce the dependency on cars and providing a sustainable way and cleaner rate of commuting and.
Transport or transportation [00:07:00] and that's our optimal goal. And also along the way, we want to add more motive, more modes, not just east scooters, but e-bikes maybe vehicles, electric vehicles and different mopeds. That's our optimal goal in the long-term.
Olivier: That's really interesting. So what's one strategy that you guys have done to really build your business to get a whole bunch of users and people to adopt and use your services? Certainly out in certain of the cities that you have that have snow and everything. So.
Arda Yeah. Yeah. So the good thing about our business as we don't need a lot of marketing because our product is actually on the street. So people see it, they interact with the product in the re in real time, real world. So we didn't do a lot of marketing and reading focus to spend a lot of resources on.
But of course we did a lot of engagement because we need to tell this. Usually when we launch in a city, it's the first time that people are seeing a dockless scooter. Some people even thought, oh, there's a scooter [00:08:00] linger. And a lot of people try to steal. We have GPS records. Sometimes we had to knock on the doors.
Some people just said, oh, it's a, it says a free online. We have hang tags on scooters. It says free online, which is basically if you entered the code, you will get a free on lock and you can write it for less. And some people thought, oh, it's for free. They just put in the truck. And they went somewhere else and we had to track them down and knock on the door.
So we had a lot of different stories too, but yeah. So one, one thing that I did was. Engaging with the community, that specific community on Reddit, on Facebook groups. There are a lot of community groups on Facebook and we engage with them there. Also using traditional media TV shows and articles, media outlets.
Those were our main strategies when we were trying to engage with the community.
Olivier: That's really interesting. And sort of, I guess you sort of explained to your marketing that you don't need as much because obviously a product is very visible and I am assuming word of mouth is big, but now looking at it from the point of view of expanding [00:09:00] to. Do you guys have a go-to strategy that you're gonna be building?
Let's say you're going to go to Toronto and sort of have to influence not only the people that are going to be consumers, but as well as government and officials to allow your east scooters to be on the streets. So do you guys have a strategy in place or your.
Arda Yeah. That's, that's a really big one, especially for bigger cities like Toronto, Vancouver. We we're actually doing it right now. Last year in 2019, we lobbied the government in a lot of different ways. So basically we talked to them, we talked to counselors, we talked to staff we talked to mayor and we tried to convince them.
We say, these are our solutions to those problems that you're telling us with, you know, insurance, with improper parking sidewalk, rating, everything. We provide solutions to those things. And we work with local board of trades as well because they also have a really good power. They have a really good voice in the council as well.
We talk to different business members, local business improvement. Different communities by communities and different organizations that can help us. And eventually [00:10:00] we also talked to other companies too for Toronto, we had an idea to create a coalition to lobby the government together. But it's sometimes really hard.
It's it's private business and some companies are not willing to put a lot of resources. But, yeah, so that's, that's our main strategy also media as well. There's a lot of media on Toronto star and other Toronto outlets as well. But sometimes it's really hard. It's you know, some people they're really hate scooters, so some, they had some bad experience in some other city or country and they just don't want to have it.
There, this technology, this shared micro mobility is growing really fast. There's new technologies, new solutions pretty much every day. So when they try to compare their experience from maybe two, three years ago, it's not the same anymore. So that's what we're trying to explain. But yeah, so right now, unfortunately, we don't have scooters in Toronto.
We don't have scooters in the Vancouver. It takes time.
Olivier: So it's a, it's [00:11:00] a work in progress. So you really have to sort of get to the heart of the people to, to push, to have your ear scooters. Cause you're sort of a unique situation that you can't just put your product out there. You need government approval. So it's a, it's a bit different.
A little bit of a shift here, but what excites you about your field?
What do you feel very you know, hopeful about your field or what concerns you in general?
Arda Yeah, great question. So we're a startup. When we launch in a city, we actually go there as co-founders and not all of us, but I go to all the launches and we sometimes deploy our scooters ourselves. And I think this is really important. Just an example. I think door dash is creating a program that will allow all the employees.
To do delivery corporate employees as well. I think this is a really, really smart strategy. We also try to do this ourselves and yeah, so we deploy. Sometimes we go around and talk to people ourselves. And when I see those people, you know, riding our scooters with a huge smile on their face, that makes me happy.
And that's really a [00:12:00] worthy thing as an entrepreneur. So that makes me really happy. The best thing we see when we launch. And other than that, we look at. And we see how much carbon we are saving. People are saving, using our scooters compared to using cars and other metrics as well. So those are really, really exciting for us.
We're actually reducing the car dependency on some of the cities and in all in Colona, in other cities, we're reporting that every three scooter trips replaced one car trip. So that's a really interesting. But there are sometimes concerns over, as you mentioned, our business is basically, it means to obtain a permit first to operate.
So it's not like we can just go to a city and deploy our scooters. So that's concerning. And there's a lot of government regulations around this. So one day it government can say. Okay. We're not going to all be scooters anymore because this company, they don't look at companies specifically, but if one company is having some problems with their operations, if they're [00:13:00] not responsible enough, that's going to affect the whole program.
So this is concerning. So the government might say, okay, we're not going out with you, screwed us anymore. And well this, something similar to this happened in Toronto. They just spent all the electric scooters, regardless of whether rental or. Based on the experiences from other cities and staff was also the report that Seth brought was really not balanced and even one counselor pointed this out as well.
So yeah. Regulations are the concerning parts of our business.
Olivier: I can imagine. So on that note, where do you see a role scooter in the next two, three years.
Arda As I mentioned before, we are the only Canadian owned, operated, developed and operated company in this. So this makes us unique in a way that we're the only Canadian company. When we talk to cities, we may mention this and they like it. But we are seeing a lot of consolidation in the space and a lot of mergers acquisitions recently, especially for smaller, smaller startups.
So it might happen. We [00:14:00] might see bless scooter companies and the next five years we might see. New modes of transportation. Maybe we're not going to see scooters anymore, but there's going to be a different mode. You know, if it's like five years ago, if someone told you we're going to see chair these scooters without any docking station, and it's an electric scooter, you can just, you know, use it without propelling yourself.
You know, it would have been really. Futuristic, but we have it now. So maybe in the next five years we might see new modes. Maybe like email pets, there's email petsy bikes still, but maybe different modes that we can share in an environment like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal. So yeah, that's, that's what I think we will see in the next five five years.
Olivier: Well, it sounds very interesting. And I honestly think it's going to go that direction and I, I believe that governments are going to have to yield and, and give us some space, certainly with their ambition goal to reduce carbon. So it's gonna be really interesting to see where it [00:15:00] all goes. So, so we're going to move along to you now instead of just a company and like to ask you some questions about you as an entrepreneur so one of the questions I always ask people is what makes you more productive
Arda this is more like, I wouldn't say this is personal, but having scrum meetings, daily scrum meetings early in the morning is really productive for me. Cause we set the goals. This is what we were trying to achieve and this is what we're going to do. So I become more productive if I actually have specific targets, specific goals within a timeframe.
And then Using some tools like ocean, I use notion a lot. It also keeps me really productive and effective when I keep track of my progress in terms of the tasks. But yeah, that's the main thing. Having daily scrum meetings, it's really productive for me with the other team members.
Olivier: Yeah. So always every day, having a scrum meeting with your team, keeping on track. That's excellent. What makes you unproductive? What's the one thing that you sort of, you know, you [00:16:00] procrastinate a little bad habit that keeps you off from getting anything.
Arda I think it's related to motivation. If you don't have enough motivation to what you're doing, then you're not going to feel. Happy about it, then you're probably going to procrastinate and you're not going to work on it. So having that motivation is really important. And I would say this, to be honest, if you're not feeling motivated enough, then you need to consider whether you're doing the right thing.
Olivier: Yeah, that's a great point. Yeah. I hear that all the time for people. So what is something that you do daily that gives you an edge?
Arda I would say meditation, even though I haven't been doing for awhile. It's like, if you're doing something and if you're doing something. Let's say every day. And then if it's if you don't do it for a few days, it's broken. Like for me, it's really hard to start that pattern again. But I ha I used to do meditation a lot, which helped me a lot in terms of [00:17:00] concentration.
It just made me feel relaxed. I, especially during COVID-19 where, you know, there's nothing outside and you have to work and it's stressful. It helped me a lot to meditation. Reading is also important to broaden the perspective and. Thinking it helps you to understand other perspectives and helps you with the critical thinking as well.
Yeah, I think those would be the things
Olivier: Yeah, that's really interesting. For myself as journaling I do journaling every day but on a weekends only every work day, I start my Workday with a journal and I sort of look back at what I was the day before, what I had said I was gonna do and how I was feeling. And I sort of track my mood and I track my health and I track track different things.
And it helps me sort of focus and clear my mind to start my day and. Do things. And sometimes when I read them in the past, I started realizing like, oh, you know, I was supposed to do this like a month ago and I still haven't done it. I'm just [00:18:00] going to get rid of it.
Arda Yeah, that's great. That's great.
Olivier: So what is one technology that your company uses that you couldn't live without either a software or a piece of hardware was something that you could not as a company live without.
Arda I, there's nothing critical to be honest, there's always alternatives and there's like different tools, but for me, I use notion a lot. It's really productive. You have a lot of different tools on notion and another tool would be. It it's called streak. It shows you whether someone viewed your email when they view your email, we're another sales company, but it still helps Robert doing sales sometimes, you know, when we talk to governments it's also part of sales, but yeah.
So it's also really useful whether that person actually looked at it, looked at your email. Yeah, those are. Yeah, I think those are the tools that are critical.
Olivier: Excellent. Is there anything that you personally couldn't live without, like [00:19:00] your phone or something that, that is your everyday use that you, if you lost it, that said you're, it'd be like,
Arda I mean, phone is, yeah, it's important, but. And replace it. You can get a new phone. But I'm thinking of something that I wouldn't be able to live without that specific thing. Yeah. Phone, if I'm not going to be able to replace it. Yeah. Like I want to see what's going on. And and it's, it's not, I'm not proud of this, to be honest, it's a eviction at some point.
But yeah, nothing, nothing specific.
Olivier: Now phone comes up a lot. When I ever asked this question, I think people, a lot of people say, oh, without my phone. Yes, we could be replaced. But the idea is to be out of it for a couple hours. It's it's weird. I constantly check emails, certainly because I do this podcast and I still have a job and I do other projects that I'm constantly pinged different times. I don't have a steady, like my mornings are this and my students are this. It's constantly just flowing. And if I lose my phone or I don't have access to my phone and for me as well, I work assets.
So for. [00:20:00] And so what happens if I, if my, I forget my glasses, I can't see, my people are saying so it's actually even worse. So it's kind of like my glasses and my phone now it's become the pair.
Arda I see. I can relate. I'm also in glasses. Yeah.
Olivier: All right. One of my, the questions I always ask everybody, cause this is one of the, my fascination is what is one business book that you've read that you would encourage people to read that really sort of shaped your entrepreneur and your business.
Arda There's not one book specifically, but lean startup is a really good one. I learned a lot there's another one from a Techstars person, but let me, I forgot.
Yeah. So it's called venture deals. It gives you, it's not a, it's a book that gives you a lot of information about how to talk to investors. If there's an acquisition deal, how to negotiate a lot of information about investment. So that's kind of a. Really, really important book for entrepreneurs to read [00:21:00] and lean startup.
That's also really, really a good resource, I think. But yeah, there's nothing specific. Like, I wouldn't say just read this one book and pretend to know everything, but yeah. So, and also. I mean, not entrepreneurship related, but learn about some other entrepreneurs is life's like Elon Musk's book other people's books, it will give some different perspective and you will see, you will understand their journey and how they became became a really successful business people.
Olivier: Yeah, I like lean startup I often refer it to S for case points something I found annoying about books and certainly lean startup is one of them. A lot of what they said no longer is relevant. And it's interesting when somebody reads it and they come back and say, oh, we can do this.
It's like, that's actually kind of gone. No one does that anymore. And it's interesting. So, but yeah, that's a, it's a good book. I think every entrepreneur should at least read it once one last question I always like to ask people, is there a business quote, to motivate your team.
Arda Yeah. It's you don't know what you don't know by [00:22:00] Elon Musk. It's really true. And there's a lot of things that we don't know, and we don't know that fact either. So that gives me more, you know, Passion and more ambition to learn more things and improve my skills. So yeah, I think that's really, really important to know.
Olivier: Excellent. . How can people reach out to and connect with.
Arda They can reach out to me on LinkedIn, my email as well. It's also on my LinkedIn too, but yeah, LinkedIn would be the best place.
Olivier: Perfect. Listen, I want to thank you so much for taking the time and having a chat with us and talking about roll roll scooters. And we're we'd love to hear what you guys are doing in a year and circle back and see how things are going.
Arda Thanks Olivier
Olivier: thanks again.
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