#117 - A remarkable story about a car company that hopes never to sell a car

An interview with Hugo Spowers, Chief engineer and founder of Riversimple

Product InnovationThis podcast interview focuses on how to architect a tech-company that delivers sustainable transformative impact to its customers, society and the business at large. My guest is Hugo Spowers, Chief engineer and founder of Riversimple.

Hugo is an Oxford University trained engineer and entrepreneur. His first business was in motorsport, designing and building racing cars and restoring historic racing cars. He left motorsport for environmental reasons and set up OScar Automotive in 2001 (which became Riversimple in 2007) on the basis that a step change in automotive technology is both essential and possible.

Hugo is responsible for all technical aspects of the cars and for the architecture of the business itself.  He is considered a thought leader on the Circular Economy. At the Real Innovation Awards in  October 2019 hosted by the London Business School, Hugo was awarded the George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award  “for someone who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea despite the difficulties encountered along the way”.

This inspired me, and hence I invited Hugo to my podcast. We explore what it takes to drive remarkable transformation in a market through technology and how it is possible to design a business that delivers environmental, social as well as financial returns without it being in conflict.

Here are some of his quotes:

“I’m interested in the big picture because that’s where I think the real breakthroughs lie.

I set the company up to really make a step change in the environmental impact of personal transport. I assumed that the future for environmentally sustainable cars was better batteries, and that requires big budgets, big labs, basic science, not my sort of field at all. And after about six months, I found out about hydrogen fuel cells. And I realized that the breakthrough is hydrogen fuel cells was not through making better fuel cells. The breakthrough is in building a different sort of car.

The car is designed very much for the business model, we will never sell we had probably the only car company in the world that hopes never to sell a car.”

During this interview, you will learn three things:

  1. That the only advantage you have as a startup is that clean sheet of paper. So make the most of that clean sheet of paper.
  2. Why remarkable companies are born by imagining a point far enough in the future, and back-cast their strategy from that point, rather than forecast their strategy from where you are at the moment
  3. That changing one thing at a time is a catastrophic strategy. Changing everything at once reduces the risks and reduces the barriers.


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About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.