AutoTrip is a connected vehicle software innovator aiming to reduce business mileage administration to a matter of minutes. The tracking system and cloud software platform helps minimise errors in claims and improve understanding of travel requirements. The company was founded by Alexander Nicholson, in partnership with a venture capital group, while he was studying on the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship. In a competitive sector, AutoTrip has proved attractive to investors and customers alike achieving a seven-figure valuation in two years.
The founders have progressed rapidly since starting the company. Within five months, AutoTrip had its first paying customers. Two funding rounds and a highly successful Crowdcube campaign later, they have raised close to over £800,000; and attracted two influential members to the Board – the former CFO of car rental giant Avis-Budget and the founder of Adaxia Capital.
The experience of studying at Cambridge Judge Business School had a significant impact on Alexander and the business. He says, “I draw on my learning from the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship (PGDE) every day. That turbo-charged year has helped to provide a competitive advantage, not just for the business, but me personally. I would say it has helped to lay the foundations for a lifetime career in building and accelerating businesses.”
Hard business logic calls for soft skills
The frameworks for constructive reflection and self-awareness which form part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship were revelatory and key to forming the bedrock of Alex’s confidence as a leader. He comments: “To paraphrase the well-known quote, I came to Cambridge thinking I would change the world, but I actually ended up knowing something far more powerful – that I can change myself.” The ability to adapt to evolving circumstances is a considerable advantage in business. In fact, there’s hard business logic to cultivating the so-called soft skills says Alex: “There’s no question that the way you manage yourself and set about motivating other people is a critical component of your company’s competitive edge.”
Focus on data and differentiation
Connected vehicles software is a hotly competitive Internet of Things sector set to generate billions of euros in innovative technology. This means of course that those soft skills are not enough to ensure success. “When it comes to beating the competition and raising investment, entrepreneurs can’t afford to be wishy-washy,” warns Alex. “Every investor will insist that you create a business that’s uniquely and powerfully different from the competition.”
For Alex, that means a systematic focus on the data and what it’s telling you: “The CJBS teaching faculty force you look at the data and use what you discover there to systematically assess your value proposition, the triggers to buy and how you price your product. It’s very structured and clinical, and it has to be. One of the most important lessons I learnt is to start with a small, intense focus. You’ve got to be prepared to set fire to your canvas through a microscope’s lens.”
AutoTrip’s initial product focused on separating personal and business mileage, streamlining expenses and tax claims for businesses large and small. “That established our beach-head,” says Alex, explaining that he and his team realised very quickly that AutoTrip could be more than just an accountancy software add-on. “We’ve just rebuilt a lot of our core architecture, and now we’re pushing the boundaries of what machine learning and artificial intelligence can do.” The focus is on adding value through technological innovation and vehicle performance optimisation.
Alex has mapped out a route for AutoTrip that he intends will catapult the company beyond compliance software right to the heart of Europe’s connected vehicle infrastructure. It’s a journey that began in Cambridge.