[Startup story] Driver Up | Rubik Garage Accelerator 2022 Batch

[Startup story] Driver Up | Rubik Garage Accelerator 2022 Batch

August 27, 2022

Driver Up is one of the 22 startups selected in the Rubik Garage accelerator 2022 Batch, from over 120 international applicants. Discover its story below. 

First of all, we would like to know who’s behind the keyboard.

Mihai FirtalaFounder – has been a driver for the past 9 years in the UK and started Driver Up a year ago using his knowledge and experience in the field to seize an opportunity opened by the unstable times the country is going through. 

Mihai Firtala

Tell us more about Driver Up. What problem do you solve? Who’s your audience?

Driver Up is an application that offers a Transport Management System – as it’s commonly referred to. Basically, any already established transport company can use the app to streamline and automate all of their day-to-day activities – from managers to drivers, the entirety of their jobs are integrated in Driver Up, which makes the company more efficient (cutting costs and saving time) and raises the quality of life of all employees. 

The problems we solve reside on 2 levels:

  • At the macro level – the UK is going through tough times with Brexit and the Pandemic, there’s a shortage of drivers that can’t be resolved anytime soon, business growth has slowed down, inflation, economic recession around the corner, and in a few years after the first autonomous trucks hit the road the country will see a corporate oligopoly forming up. 
  • At the micro level – we see many SMEs (around 40%) either not even being aware of what a TMS is, or using an outdated one. Many are not knowledgeable about the benefits of such an app, preferring to do business as usual even though the world around them is clearly changing; and sadly, for the worst.

Our audience is UK transport SMEs looking to modernize. Our niches are:

  • Romanian-owned transport companies in UK
  • Family owned micro-enterprises
  • SME transport companies arriving at scale-up stage and looking for a good TMS option to support their growth

What motivated you to create this startup? What’s your „why”?

By working as a driver in the UK for various transport companies, I become frustrated by all the manual work that I had to do every day. Initially, I came up with a mobile app that streamlined the entire process of a day to day activity of a driver. Then I pitched this app to the transport company that I was working at. And just like that, we got a new co-founder (Simon) who owns a transport company and he has 30 years of experience in the transport sector. Together we designed a product that is intuitive and easy to use for the operation and the drivers.

How is your startup different from competitors?

We have the advantage of being new on the market so we have studied the TMS offer of our competitors to build a next-generation app. 

We’re leaner, meaner and way more focused on the product as opposed to the big players which among other things, have also built a TMS. This makes them slow to adapt, with a false sense of market consolidation because they’re targeting the Large transport companies in the market (while we steal the SMEs).

Do you have a team supporting you in your mission?

Our team presents an ideal combination of skills and experience:

  • Bogdan LazarCo-founder – Project Manager with 10 years of experience as a driver in the UK.
  • George PanoschiCo-founder – has a wide range of skills as a T-shaped professional with experience from previous roles like Business Analyst, Growth Marketer, and Game Designer.
  • Simon Guest – Transport & Logistics Specialist, and transport business owner who has been working with Driver Up from day 1 as a consultant.
  • Bastin RobinCTO – with 13 years of Data Science experience and 4 years as a CTO.
  • + 3 very talented developers

What are the biggest rewards of being a startup founder?

A sense of purpose and the freedom to decide my own fate.

+ if all goes well, leaving a legacy behind to my family.

On the contrary, what are the biggest challenges?

Balancing work and life accordingly – so that the business grows in a healthy manner, the family is happy, and I don’t burn out from all the work that needs to be done.

What made you apply to our accelerator Rubik Garage?

This is the first time I started a company and am building a business so we need all the guidance, help, knowledge, networking, etc. we can get. Rubik Garage seemed like a godsend seeing as it’s an accelerator from my hometown with you incredibly nice and talented people willing to help us with anything possible. <3

What are your top 3 learnings of the acceleration program?

  1. Thinking strategically about our business
  2. How to do many things – proper documentation, using the right business tools, proper research and drawing the right insights from it, etc. Many “how-to’s” in general really. 
  3. That it’s not hard to achieve your goals if you have guidance and help from the right people. It’s even enjoyable.

What do you like in the Rubikorns Startup Community?

How open and always willing to help are the organizers.

The sense of community and relationships the participants have built between themselves.

What are your plans for Driver Up for the next 6-12 months?

  1. Achieve a very well-rounded product that performs considerably better than anything else on the market. 
  2. Get to 10-15 clients by the end of 2022.
  3. Create a professional Driver Up brand which gains some notoriety in the market.
  4. Do Marketing like badass professionals. 

What message do you have for other startup founders?

Join the Rubik Garage Accelerator 100%! What are you even doing with your lives otherwise?! Not even kidding.

What is your special power?

I can shoot spider webs from my hands, have a spidey-sense and am very agile. 

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

The world is becoming a weird place. If you have a dream, I urge you to step up and follow it, and try to make it better. #WeAreInThisTogether

We encourage you to support Driver Up and follow their journey on Linkedin and Facebook.

Stay tuned to discover the story behind the other startups from the Rubik Garage accelerator! #WeAreInThisTogether

Rubik Garage is an equity-free acceleration program aiming to support startups from CEE. We are helping early-stage startups get to their first paying customer, raise investment or go international.

The accelerator started with a Founders Bootcamp in Piatra Neamt. Four months of acceleration will culminate with a Demo Day in September, where startups get the chance to pitch their startup in front of investors. For the most motivated teams, the journey will continue in the next 6-12 months – our team will offer their full support to help them raise an investment round.

If you want to pre-apply for the next Rubik Garage edition, complete this form and be the first one to get the chance of starting their acceleration journey!