When we think about the design of sustainable coastal cities, our imagination is filled with visions of dedicated bike lanes, easily accessible public transportation, solar-powered pathways, and shared electric vehicles. While this might appear to some as a distant utopian future, a pioneering Gold Coast startup called Outbound is turning this vision into reality by revolutionising the way electric vehicles are accessed, used, and shared within cities across Australia.
In recent news, Outbound made a significant stride by providing a fleet of Tesla vehicles to Sydney’s tallest commercial skyscraper which houses one of the prominent players in the startup realm, the American cloud-based software company, Salesforce.
Prior to launching in Sydney, the Outbound team hit a major milestone by installing Tesla vehicles at Mantra Southport Sharks that allowed hotel guests the opportunity to utilise the EV technology whilst on holiday.
As founder Luke Rust looks ahead to the further expansion of Outbound, he took a moment to reflect on his journey and how participating in the Cohort Start Club in 2021 helped him set a pathway to commercial success.
Luke Rust, in conversation with Program Manager Janine McQueen.
J: First off, massive congratulations for your recent Sydney launch! I know it’s one thing to look at beautiful flawless images but I bet there was so much behind the scenes leading up to this moment. Can you take us through the lead up and what was going through your head at the time?
L: Well firstly, the Sydney Council made it a condition for Lendlease to have 3 shared vehicles in Salesforce Tower and they didn’t actually have to go for an electric option, but we showed the team how our product can benefit people, places and the planet and they were very onboard with it – which was great!
The day we picked up the Teslas for the building was pretty amazing. We’d been working with the Lendlease team remotely for 18 months, so when we finally flew down to pick up the new cars, pair them up with the tech, and install new chargers in the building – it was amazing to see it come all together!
But honestly, it’s always nerve wracking when you’re launching a new site with new users – you’re always hoping everything runs smoothly on the big day. That’s why we did a little soft launch prior to the official launch – to ensure everything ran seamlessly for the property and tenants.
J: Wow – that’s so cool to hear that the Sydney council made it a condition to have shared cars in the city centre! It would be amazing to have something like that here on the Gold Coast too.
L: Yeah, we’re starting to see a bit of this in Brisbane and Melbourne too – nothing in the Gold Coast just yet but I’m sure this will change pretty soon, which is important and exciting.
J: At our last Cohort event there was a debate on whether startups should rely on revenue or raising, and it was interesting to hear different views on the topic and their reasons why. Have you raised or are you looking to raise capital?
L: We had a small angel round of investment in 2021 and have been very patient with revenue as it only comes through once the properties go live – but generally my philosophy is always going after revenue first. We operate like a SaaS company, so we know that it will take a bit of time to build up the revenue whilst also building up our team. Our early investors are early believers in the opportunity and team – it’s a real mix of people that can accelerate the concept and want to be part of it.
J: Throwback to 2021, you were part of the Cohort Start Club program for Outbound. Can you tell me where you were prior to Start Club and a bit of that journey afterwards?
L: Pre – Start Club program, I believe I sent you through a mock up of the product on a PowerPoint slide and had designed a very basic version of the app. At that time, it didn’t even have a booking system, which sounds ridiculous looking back now, but it also goes to show how much the technology has evolved since then.
During the program we were able to do a lot of testing and had the capital raising workshop with Jason from Cake, which came at the perfect time because we were doing our first small raise back then.
The customer discovery workshop was also super helpful, as we spent a lot of time listening, getting feedback and understanding the drivers for different businesses and what might work for them.
You know – I actually still text every single driver after their trips and from that we get such informed feedback from all of them. I ask them to tell me what went wrong, what didn’t work and what they didn’t like about the experience. We’re constantly capturing and applying that feedback in order to improve our service.
J: With the Impact Led Founders Initiative on at the moment, 3 successful participants will be joining the 2023 Start Club program to help build their startup. If there was a message you’d like to share to the founders, what would it be?
L: Firstly, I think that every single business today – whether that be a startup or established company – needs to be impact led, right?
We all need to be doing good for the world and I just think everyone needs to share in that mission right now. I think if there was one message I could give out to this year’s cohort it would be: Keep telling the stories of the good that you’re doing. If you don’t tell the stories, you won’t build your community and that is ultimately what will drive your growth.
The Impact Led Founders Initiative will support 3 founders by providing them with access to space, mentors and connections that will help them create impact driven businesses that are commercially successful.
Applications are now open and close 11 September 2023 at 5pm AEST.