Interview with Nick Holdcraft, GOVECS
/06.04.2012/ 1. Where are you from, how long have you been here and how did you end up here?
My story is a unique one. Everyone I meet nowadays in Poland asks me where I am from. When I tell them: “Chicago”, it’s always followed with the immediate statement “that’s the second Polish city”. True as it is, during my years studying and then living and working in Chicago, I hardly knew any people who spoke Polish. At the time I could never have foreseen my future of working and living in Poland for more than a few years.
My career path to Wrocław has been anything but a traditional one, and particularly not a standard one for an engineer. After finishing University, I immediately began working as a Product Engineer for a company in Chicago that produced high-end hand tools. After three years of moving and shifting around to different departments, trying to fulfill my restless young mind, I decided that to expand my career I needed to work abroad for a few years in order to gain international experience.
After searching for a few months I found a position working for Electrolux in Columbia, SC in the outdoor products division (now owned and operated by Husqvarna). I accepted the offer, but had my eyes focused on the international opportunity that would lead to a permanent career move abroad in the near future. Within one year and after much persistence from my side, I was transferred to Adelaide, Australia for long-term assignment as an engineering leader. After living down under for a length of time, the opportunity then arose for a transfer to another Electrolux factory in Forli, Italy. This project was shorter, but offered a unique lead-in to a green field factory setup years later in Świdnica, Poland.
I ended up working in Świdnica for just two full years before being offered a transfer to Electrolux’s Montreal Factory. I never finished the two-year contract in Świdnica and subsequently did not move to Montreal, as I chose to leave Electrolux and join an American company, Vectrix, located in Bielany near Wrocław. It was there that I fell in love with electric mobility and spent the following years learning about the intricacies of electric scooters and motorcycles. In late 2008, whilst on a 3-month project in China, I came into contact with my now business partner, Thomas Gruebel. Essentially it was during that time together working in China that we planted the seeds to create our own company GOVECS GmbH (and the daughter company GOVECS Sp.z.o.o). Our mission was, and still is to this day - to manufacture fully electric high-end scooters in Europe for the worldwide market.
It may have been six years, but it feels like yesterday when I stepped off of the airplane in Wrocław for the very first time.
2. Why did you choose Wrocław for the business?
It was very clear from the first draft of our business plan for GOVECS that we wanted to produce our electric scooters in Europe. In our case, I was already living in Wrocław and we were able to organise for a number of people to join GOVECS from my previous company. This made it possible for GOVECS to tap into an instant human capital pool, which enabled the top management of GOVECS to prop up the new organisation in the quickest way possible.
Speed to market in such a capital intense business venture is the key to a start-up’s success, and Wrocław provided us the fastest and most efficient option. We also looked into the travel proximity of the future factory location relative to our headquarters in Munich. Wrocław is located only 7 hrs by car from Munich and with numerous daily flights from Wrocław to all over Europe. Wrocław is clearly a central European location in which we needed to take advantage of.
3. Could you tell us about your business and product?
At our Wrocław location we manufacture 100% fully electric 2-wheel scooters, which range in top speed from 45 kph all the way to 82 kph. Currently we have more than 50 variants of our scooters for sale in European and Australian markets. The scooters vary in performance, color, and homologation categories to widely accepted around the world. In 2011 GOVECS also launched a transport scooter which is targeted for B2B customers including fleet sales and postal services. You can find more information at www.govecs.com.
Our commercial business model is to distribute our electric scooters to importers which are responsible for sales and marketing in each importer’s respective country. The importers then sell our GOVECS product to dealers within their designated regions. This strategy allows for GOVECS to scale our sales network rapidly by adding potentially hundreds of dealers (being the final purchase point to the end-users) with the addition of only one importer. Currently we have importers in all of the major markets in Western Europe and we are expanding into Central Europe as well as Australia and the United States. Considering that electric scooters are naturally a seasonal product with sales peaking in the spring and tapering off in the late fall, we have completed the Australian homologation and are prepared to sell there to offset these seasonal trends.
4. Could you summarize the Wrocław operation (location, number of employees, other info)?
Currently in Wrocław we have approximately 60 people with all of the operational functions of a normal factory, including the departments of Supply Chain, Quality, Engineering, Technical Service, and HR. On average assembling an electric scooter requires approximately 650 components, all which need to be sourced from around the globe. They are then fully assembled at our location in Wrocław. That high number of components across 50 different models generates a depth of complexity which is staggering for most start up organizations. In order to assure that everything flows smoothly we make it a point to have all of the departments located in the same office to assure a smooth transfer of information from one department to the next. In addition to this, we are installing an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system which is essential for our business to function properly. GOVECS is taking advantage of Poland’s exceptional IT expertise and is cooperating with a Polish company for this ERP system implementation.
5. How do you feel about living in Wrocław?
I love working and living in Poland. It is great for me to be a part of a community and country that is growing and moving into the future in a big way. In the short six years that I have been here, I have personally seen the changes in the community and in the people. Everyday change in post-developed countries is less visible, and in my opinion can make life boring. I always summarise my experience of living in Australia as “It’s like watching grass grow; you know that it grows, but when you stare at it, you will never see it change”. In Wrocław, you see the grass growing, I feel alive being a part of this change.
The same can be said from the business side of Wrocław, there are more and more businesses moving to Wrocław which are essentially tapping into the dynamic and evolving talent Wrocław has to offer. Every type of business from Manufacturing to Shared Services, to Consulting Services, is capitalizing on the many pluses that there are to offer here. It is simply an exciting, dynamic period to see unfold in front of your eyes.