SmallBusiness.co.uk talks to Nicko Williamson, the founder of Climatecars, which bills itself as a “24/7 Eco-friendly car service using hybrid & electric cars, covering London and airports. Alternative to black taxis or minicabs.”
Talk us through the birth of the company.
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I was at university when I had the idea to start a green alternative to a taxi company. So I researched it, went and worked for a company in the sector to understand how the industry works, approached London Business School for some advice, raised finance and launched in 2007.
How did you raise the money?
The first round was £200,000 from 11 members of family and friends, ranging from a contribution of £10,000 to £50,000, for which I gave away 30 per cent of the business. We did another round in 2008 through an angel network and raised £300,000. We also used asset finance to fund the cars.
At the point of getting angel investment, we had been trading for nine months and had a good track record with some big clients under our belt. I knew my numbers inside out and had a good grip of what I needed to do to make the business work so I think I presented a compelling case, although we did get a lot of no’s as you always do in these situations.
How did you get the word out?
At first we did a lot of PR and were lucky enough to be featured in a number of publications. Since we raised our second round of funding we began pitching to big companies to try and win business. Also, our cars are branded so we have some visibility in London. We are also doing a lot of SEO work; we have built a new website, shot a video, and still do a lot of PR today.
What has been a big challenge for you to overcome?
The main issue in this business is a balancing of resources versus bringing on new clients. It’s been a constant battle to convince clients that we’re big enough and can handle their business and also to make sure we have enough drivers and vehicles ready to go for when we need them. Now we’re a lot bigger and we work with a lot of large corporates. Our planning and communication have improved and we have the resources we need to deliver the service.
What’s next for the company?
At the moment we’re focusing on organic growth in London. We’ve invested heavily in tech and we’re scaling up, we’re recruiting a chairman and when we’re confident enough that we’ve made a dent in the UK market we’ll look to expand our service to elsewhere in the country.
Update: The company was acquired by Addison Lee in mid-2015 and the fleet of 115 hybrid cars was added to its ‘Addison Lee Eco’ brand.