In the early evening a Mevo branded electric car swings around the corner into Coutenay place, Wellington. It drives through the city with pretty reflective street lights. Mood music plays.
The opening title says “Dream it. Do it. Own it.”
The narrator says “Cities are our homes, they’re where people make their lives. My name is Erik Zydervelt, I’m the co-founder of Mevo car share.”
Erik is shown seated in a loft office, at a computer, with staff around at computers and on bean-bags.
“Our goal is to have two thousand cars in five cities in the next five years.”
“Our trade mark Mevo is about changing how cities move”
There is a street shot of traffic on Courtenay Place and then you see the Mevo app on a phone in Erik’s hand.
“We nabbed the trade mark before anyone else got it. We applied to register the trade mark Mevo ourselves. We did seek advice from an IP attorney.”
Erik is shown leaving the Mevo loft offices, unlocking a Mevo car on the phone app and climbing into the car. He drives off across Wellington.
“We spent a long time working on getting the brand right to start with. It took us a while to work out which classes to apply for. Now that we’ve got the trade mark locked down, we’re growing fast.
The Mevo car pulls up and parks at Toi Poneke Arts Centre. Erik gets out and goes in to a film recording studio on the fourth floor. He is interviewed on film.
“Our trade mark has become a brand that people recognise. I’m an urbanist by training. Cities are really complex, they are a mix of the soft that is human culture and the hard that is the systems and no two are the same.”
Erik leaves the studio and drives the Mevo car to a restaurant. He parks in front of Midland Park and walks over to meet a friend sitting at an outside table.
“I love it when I’m walking down the street and I see Mevo cars drive past. I think in the very near future, you know, much like CDs and DVDs, owning cars will be the exception, not the rule.
Our trade mark Mevo is about changing how cities move.
Intrigued by the popularity of car-sharing services in places like Europe and North America, keen globetrotters Erik Zydervelt and Finn Lawrence wondered, Why isn’t there anything like that in New Zealand? The two friends hatched a plan at a house party in their hometown of Nelson.
If it was going to happen, Erik and Finn figured Wellington would be an ideal place to kick-off, with its progressive culture and resources for startups. (It was also their city of choice for attending university.) “There’s a great history in Wellington of pretty major companies starting up and creating big change,” Erik says. He points to Trade Me and Xero as two well-known examples.
Cities are our homes, they’re where people make their lives. Mevo care share’s goal is to have 2000 cars in 5 cities in the next 5 years.
They started scheming part-time in 2014 and, two years later, launched Mevo – New Zealand’s first electric car-share service – with the dream of redesigning the way cities move. It’s a vision of the future that’s attracted backing from Wellington City Council, Meridian Energy, and Audi New Zealand, with investment from a number of parties including Z Energy and property developer The Wellington Company.
Mevo’s offices are nestled in a 1920s Chicago-style building along Courtenay Place. It’s a street bustling with buses, taxis, private cars jockeying for parks, people walking and cycling — all daily reminders of the larger system in which their innovative service exists.
Good for convenience and the climate
“There’s a lot of research showing that the farthest away people will go, when choosing between A and B transport options, is a four to five minute walk,” Erik says. “The more options you have and the more that people are familiar with using a suite of options, the better the system tends to work overall.”
The Mevo option is simple. If you’re new, sign up at mevo.co.nz and provide your licence and credit card details. You’ll be authenticated within 24 hours. Then use the Mevo app to locate and reserve a Mevo car near you. Unlock the car with the app, and you’re off.
Your account is charged by the minute, hour, or day – just however long you end up using the car for – and the package includes full insurance cover. When you’re done, drop the car back at almost any parking space in the “Home Zone” (covering Wellington’s CBD and airport), lock it with the app, and walk away.
Erik says the simplicity of the service usually hits people the first time they unlock the car. It’s so easy customers have said it feels like stealing.
Mevo’s service also removes the hassle of car ownership – from getting a warrant of fitness and registration, to refuelling, city parking, maintenance, and regular cleaning. Mevo’s pricing includes everything.
But for Erik and Finn, one of the greatest benefits the brand offers is being climate-positive. International research shows that for every shared car on the road, around ten private vehicles are removed. And not only are their cars electric hybrids, Mevo offset their fleet’s carbon emissions by 120%. “People really enjoy being part of that experience,” Erik says.
Making the magic look easy
Behind the simplicity of Mevo’s service are clever solutions to some complex problems. A recent example is the “free-floating” arrangement that Mevo announced in early 2018.
This arrangement gives customers the freedom to pick up and drop off cars almost anywhere in the Home Zone. Previously, they had to use dedicated Mevo parking spots. Erik and Finn worked closely with Wellington City Council to develop the policy that they say is a first within Australasia.
It’s a vital move if car sharing is to succeed as a genuine transport option, Erik says. “We’re pretty chuffed to know that our hard work has opened up, essentially, a new sector for our country.”
A brand that moves
Given Mevo’s goal to redesign how cities move, using an anagram of the word ‘move’ as their name makes sense. Erik says it was important to capture the core message of the company in one word. They also tested it with customers, to make sure it feels positive and works in social situations. It’s a sure sign of success if people readily say to friends, “Let’s get a Mevo,” or simply, “Let’s Mevo!”
Erik and Finn protected the name by registering it as a trade mark at the start of brand development. They completed the trade mark application themselves, but got advice from an intellectual property (IP) lawyer, other startup founders, and advisors who have helped startups. “If we’re dealing with anything notable, we try and canvass a range of advice,” Erik says.
They chose to register their name with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand as a word mark. This means local competitors can’t use the same word in any way. The flexibility of a word mark also meant Mevo didn’t need to revisit trade mark registration when they refreshed their brand design. The look of their logo changed, but their word mark stayed the same.
With their eyes on the Australian market, Mevo have also applied to register their ‘Mevo’ word mark with IP Australia. A registered word mark would mean the team can enter Australia, when the time is right, safe in the knowledge that their existing brand name, and the valuable reputation they’ve built around it, will be protected.
Back home, they’ve also recently applied to register ‘go with Mevo’ as a combined mark, which would protect the slogan as a whole in its stylised visual form. The slogan provides a simple, memorable way of talking about the service.
Forging powerful partnerships
Mevo don’t operate in isolation. Innovative partnerships with Audi, Trade Me Insurance, Meridian, Z Energy, as well as Wellington City Council, underpin Mevo’s seamless service. Mevo proudly promote their partnerships with these high-value brands.
Each company brings its own interests and IP to the project, and Erik says multi-page contracts are an important reality. But before negotiating the details, Mevo make sure there’s agreement on the basic principles – the rule is that these must fit on a single page. “You need those governing values in any partnership, about what each party’s bringing, what IP is being developed, who’s doing the work on it, and what access to the IP there is.”
To deliver the app at the heart of their service, they licence the same software as similar companies use overseas, and make adjustments to meet local customer needs. Licensing their core technology allowed Mevo to get up and running without sinking too much time and money into a problem that’s already been solved.
“There’s a core product that they develop, and they retain ownership of the intellectual property of that,” Erik says. “But then there are other parts to the service that we decide to build, and we retain ownership of those.”
IP now and in the future
Mevo prioritise work by what will give their customers the best experience as soon as possible. But they keep in mind the commercial value their solutions may have for others, as the car-share sector continues to grow in New Zealand and around the world. As Erik says, “There’s so much we’re doing for the first time that hasn’t been done before.”
It’s no surprise that IP is often on Erik and Finn’s minds. “Going into it looking at value first is really important,” Erik says. “We run monthly Board meetings and it’s always a topic of conversation.”
In a fast-paced environment, Mevo approach most of what they do as trade secret. The whole team understands the importance of IP to the company’s competitive advantage, and everyone has strong confidentiality clauses built into their employment agreement.
Being able to innovate quickly and confidently is important to winning over new customers. “If we want people to change from private ownership to shared ownership or shared access, it has to be better in pretty much every way,” Erik says.
Mevo’s thorough yet pragmatic approach to IP has helped them convince Wellingtonians of a new way of getting around. As one customer has enthused: “It’s given me more freedom… I’ve felt like I don’t need to buy a car!” Now, the team want to do the same in Auckland, with plans to launch the service there soon.. Mevo really are a business that likes to keep moving.