Sarah-Marie Rust is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of EVE. Originally from Germany, she got her first introduction to the European startup ecosystem while living in Prague, Czech Republic, and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.
On a mission to facilitate sustainability and a greener future, she has focussed her work on providing organizations with the necessary tools and data to accelerate the transition to low-emission mobility.
Coming from an innovation and business development background, she has worked with large corporate clients to set up innovation projects and adjust their strategies accordingly. Previously, she has worked with two of the largest car manufacturers in Europe on building and rolling out an innovation and investment project in mainland Europe to uncover and engage with new and upcoming markets in the urban mobility sector. Later, she focussed on developing business opportunities for startups with B2B clients and was involved in the growth strategy of an InsureTech startup after it raised a Series B round. Priorly, she also helped create a social startup and a non-profit organization during her undergraduate studies.
Sarah holds a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from Trinity College Dublin. She focussed her university research thesis on exploring and mapping out the charging infrastructure market potential in connection to the rollout of e-mobility efforts and how to capitalize on innovative business models that tap into this market value.
Outside the office, Sarah enjoys reading books from authors such as Murakami and Ishiguro, going to local gigs in Dublin, and long walks with her dog, Fynn.
Where did the idea for EVE come from?
At its core, the idea for EVE stems from my desire to facilitate access to sustainable, green mobility for people and help alleviate the effects of climate change. Initially, I was working to ensure anyone had access to a broad network of charging infrastructure to enable them to make the switch to an EV. Through our pivot, direct feedback from key industry stakeholders and data analysis were central in shaping EVE into the company it is today. Our objective now is to provide companies with the necessary data insights to electrify their fleets and achieve net-carbon zero mobility by improving how they charge. Focussing on B2B customers rather than a B2C market allows us to create a significant impact with our product.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My “typical” work day is usually from 10 am – 10 pm. Personally, I feel more productive after 5 pm than early in the mornings. However, I am aware that not everybody in our team follows the same schedule, and the traditional business hours of our clients are closer to the standard 9 to 5. I try to make sure I divide my day based on my level of productivity. In the morning, I usually work away on administrative or research tasks and ensure my calls are planned for the afternoon. I think it is crucial to set up specific days for calls rather than trying to build a work day around several meetings scattered throughout the week.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I would consider myself a very analytical person that tends to follow data insights to bring ideas to life. While I may look at the bigger picture, I strive to uncover what is missing in order to achieve efficiency. Data validation is crucial in successfully bringing an idea to life and ensuring that you are on the right path.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We are currently seeing a lot of movement in ESG ratings and scoping. Organizations are beginning to realize that being a sustainability leader is crucial to remaining competitive in the market. They are looking to reduce their Scope 3 emissions (arising from their supply chain). We have seen banks publishing statements on how they will start evaluating their B2B clients on an ESG catalog and will no longer do business with them if they perform poorly. That is an impactful step in the right direction in terms of measuring and requiring impact and sustainability in the market, and it will allow us to create a new status quo.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Having gone through a pivot already, I am no longer afraid to make significant changes in how we operate as a business to ensure we continue solving our clients’ most pressing issues. I believe the ability to spot a problem within our product or customer approach, validate it, and then immediately engage on it – not only does it make me more productive as an entrepreneur but – it ensures that our company can have an impact.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it is more than okay to feel like you do not fit in with the crowd and are not fulfilling the status quo. Qualities I thought were weaknesses when I was younger, I recognize now, are drivers of my success as an entrepreneur.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
“Money makes the world go round.” You cannot expect productivity and efficiency from your team if you are underpaying them. Many startups rely on interns, but they either significantly underpay them or do not pay them altogether. While paying competitive salaries as a smaller company may be challenging, it helps ensure that you work with a motivated and focused team that is able to create a long-lasting impact.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As I have mentioned before – and I cannot stress this enough – it is crucial to continuously gather customer feedback data and use these insights to improve the product or service offered. We have always regarded our MVP development as a collaborative approach between ourselves and our CAB (Customer Advisory Board) in order to engage with customers right from the start and build the product from their experiences and with the problem we are trying to solve in mind. While we may have had hunches about how to solve specific issues, the real experts on these matters were our future customers dealing with them daily.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
For us, it was creating a Customer Advisory Board with key market players. Coupled with the live feedback from customers, our CAB was crucial in helping us build the MVP, ensuring that we were solving their most pressing issues. The goal for us was to understand the market dynamics inside and out, utilize the CAB as an early indication of traction and prove that there was interest in what we were doing.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At the end of 2020, after working on our initial business model for almost a year, our team realized we needed to pivot. While I would not consider the pivot a failure, the fact that we ignored some signs that our product would not work because we had grown too attached to the idea (after all, it was our baby) certainly felt like one. What helped us overcome this feeling was the tough decision to scratch everything and start from zero. We interviewed every stakeholder in the e-mobility sector we could reach and followed the data we uncovered throughout our pivot.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It is not a refined business idea, but something I have been thinking about frequently is how to incentivize sustainable behavior (regardless of individual or organization) in a meaningful way to utilize it as an impactful driver for change. That would certainly require a lot of stakeholder engagement but I believe the best way to help achieve an impact is through positive and sustainable behavior changes.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Not long ago, I spent around $100 for a 4-day pass in a co-working space. Throughout the pandemic, I have been working from home, and after two years, I felt like I could barely separate my private life from my work life. Having felt uninspired, unmotivated, and unable to focus at home, I finally took the leap and started going to a co-working space. It has worked wonders in re-establishing motivation and raising my efficiency and productivity levels.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
GMass may be a simple tool, but it has significantly cut down the time we spend creating lead campaigns. It is an extension for your Gmail account that makes sending out lead gen campaigns faster and easier. Rather than sending emails individually, we can now send as many automated emails as we want every day. There is a free version that allows sending out 50 emails every day. Great deal!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Albeit no business-related book, a novel that I read recently: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. After finishing the book, I kept reflecting on it for weeks, thinking about how it fundamentally changed my outlook on life.
What is your favorite quote?
A former professor of mine always used to say: Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. This quote is now ingrained in my brain and has been pivotal in our success with EVE so far.
- Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. If your product is not solving a real and significant customer pain point, your business will not thrive.
- Make your customers your product experts. The best way to learn is from the people dealing with the issue you are trying to solve every day. They should play a significant role in your product development process.
- It is okay to realize that your initial business idea has reached its level of maturity and will not develop any further. Pivoting should be seen as a means to be more innovative – not a failure.
- To ensure your product can evolve and improve, it needs a continuous and data-driven challenging of your status quo.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.