Lasse Schmitt is Co-Founder and CMO of driving school company, drivEddy. Launched in 2018, the company aims to provide an innovative booking platform to connect students to driving teachers and schools.
What was the original idea behind DrivEddy and how did you develop the business model?
I've been working closely with Robin Stegemann for around 10 years now, founding and investing in several projects. Since the beginning, we focused on investing in projects with significant problems that required solutions. We had a conversation with a friend of Robin who was wondering why nobody is innovating the driving license market.
After taking a closer look and analysing the market, a few things became obvious. The system is outdated; it has not been digitised yet and is dominated by in transparency and increasing prices due to a massive lack of driving instructors. We compared it to other industries, such as the taxi or bus travel industry. The idea came close to building an UBER or Flixbus for the driving school market in order to solve the existing problem. Our journey started with this idea.
How did you successfully combine an online platform with driving lessons?
When we started, we decided to focus on the customers first and began to collect a lot of feedback. Taking data-driven decisions was probably the most important reason why we managed to successfully combine an online platform with driving lessons. Developing our app for theory lessons enabled us to collect more and more data about what our customers - the new generation of drivers - expect from our app and services.
On the other hand, we also worked closely with driving instructors in order to see what their processes look like, what the pain points were and how we could make the daily life of an instructor better. This resulted in developing a digital co-operation SaaS-platform which automates and optimises digital processes in their daily lives to save time and money. It also encourages education on both sides by connecting students and instructors with an app.
Nowadays, you can’t successfully market a product which is not addressing the customer’s needs or even solving their problems. There are too many services out there as a substitute. The customer should always be at the centre of the product development.
Over the past months, how has the business adapted to the changes brought by COVID-19?
This is probably the most challenging question for all businesses, especially for start-ups nowadays. Since we are a digital start-up and we are digitising the traditional driving school market, we might not have suffered as much as other companies which don’t have a digital business model.
DrivEddy is a software for online theory or e-learning and a digital co-operation system for offline driving schools. Since online theory is not allowed in most German federal states, the pandemic showed that this old-fashioned industry is strongly in need of a digital and online infrastructure. This was the only reason why some federal states in Germany legalised online theory, which is great for us. Also driving schools got to know the advantage of our co-operation system first-hand which has helped us grow, even during this uncertain time.
You are also a successful business consultant. Would you say this experience helped you launch your own business or the other way around?
I was always hungry for knowledge and new experiences. Trial and error were also important in my learning process. Making mistakes helps you do things better the next time. Passing on my hard-earned ‘wisdom’ as a consultant for different companies helped them not to make the same mistakes. Moreover, it helped me to gain even more knowledge and deeper insights into a variety of business areas. My experience of working with various companies helped me streamline our processes for DrivEddy and avoid unnecessary mistakes.
Based on your experience as a business consultant, what skills do you think entrepreneurs should acquire?
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. Uncertainty, competition, risks and the pressure to pivot, adapt and innovate are part of the daily life of an entrepreneur. Therefore, they need to develop a strong mindset by adopting certain principles to face these challenges. Besides this, it definitely helps to develop basic skills like how to evaluate ideas, from the idea to product-market fit, setting up good presentations or pitching an idea.
What should institutions such as BSBI include in its teaching to help fill these gaps?
It’s essential to prepare students for a life as an entrepreneur by giving them tools to face challenges like I mentioned above. On the one hand, it is important to teach people how to learn and approach a topic which they are not familiar with, in the most efficient way. On the other hand, they need to learn how to successfully or even unsuccessfully ‘finish’ a project.
There is a reason why leading entrepreneurs say it was the tenth project that made them successful, not the first one. Therefore, it’s important to integrate plenty of practical projects in co-operation with real companies into their studies. This helps to gain practical insights and real work experience as well as getting to know the mechanisms at work in the business world. Learning from other entrepreneurs who are three or four steps ahead in their journey is very helpful.
How much did innovation play a part in launching and developing DrivEddy?
Whenever people hear the term ‘innovation’, they picture new ideas, such as creating new markets and fundamentally changing the world as we know it. Therefore, I’m really careful about using it. Nevertheless, innovation in a broader context played a very important role in founding DrivEddy. Innovation is about responding to a certain situation in a creative way. After researching and analysing the traditional driving licence market, we came up with the creative solution to connect independent and small driving schools with each other and our learners.
In addition to digitising and transferring this data into a cloud system, we also reinvented the customer journey of the instructors and learners. We also improved processes and revamped products and services which have been on the market.
What consumers’ needs were you looking to satisfy with your business?
We are a consumer-first (B2C) company, meaning that from the very first moment, we started addressing the problems and needs of our consumers. The main problem is the price for a driving license, which is increasing every year due to a shortage of instructors. Another problem is intransparent education and poor digital tools such as the lack of efficient theory learning systems.
Since we started DrivEddy, we have developed an innovative way of collecting feedback from our users by implementing short questionnaires into our app. With more than 1.000.000 collected answers per month, our singular profiling questions in between the theory questions help us discover the problems and needs of the learners. We use these insights to develop even more consumer-centred products and services.
What different things have you learned between running your own business and consulting with others?
The main difference is that the personal and emotional attachment to your own business is much higher, of course, than to other businesses. You try your best in your consulting practice to facilitate the other companies’ success, but in the end, they make their own decisions and priorities.
I learned that sometimes you have to take a step back in your own business in order to see the bigger picture. Due to the emotional attachment, you often stand right in front of a problem like at the foot of a big mountain, too close to see a possible way around it. In this case, you have to change the perspective in order to find the best possible solution. In a consulting position, it is much easier to see the bigger picture.
Do you think your education helped you to shape your career? If so, how?
It definitely did. Even though I never used 90% of the things I learned during my studies, it was more about the process of learning them. As I have mentioned, knowing how to learn and approach new things efficiently is an absolutely essential skill. Furthermore, I developed the ability to finish long and important projects successfully, for example by acquiring my Master of Science degree.
Luckily, I also graduated with a very good grade. Besides, I had the chance to be part of many projects during my studies. That supported my learning process and tested my skills in practical ways within a ‘safe environment’. It helped me gain trust in my abilities and provided me with the confidence to start my own entrepreneurial path during and right after finishing my studies.
Do you think flexible and online accessible services such as DrivEddy will become more prominent in the future?
Yes, they definitely will.
Interviewed by Fabiana Forni for Pioneer magazine.
Pioneer is a biannual magazine, dedicated to and created by BSBI students, providing them with a platform to express themselves through blogs, letters and personal stories. The magazine features interviews with business leaders, information about Germany, professional advice and lifestyle tips