Environmental

GoPlugable: Maebh and Andrine’s Journey to Disrupt the EV Charging Industry

GoPlugable simplifies EV charging, fostering accessibility and sustainability amidst the UK's electric vehicle surge

GoPlugable is on a mission to make electric vehicles easy and fun for everyone, especially those who don’t have their own home chargers.

Electric vehicles are taking over the UK, with more than 400,000 of them zooming around by the end of 2023. But where do you charge them? Charging can often be seen as a bit of a contentious issue, with poor availability cited as one of the downsides of owning an EV.

That’s where GoPlugable comes in.

With their platform, you can find, book, and share EV home charging points near you, saving time and hassle. The service also appeals to those who want to contribute to a more robust and eco-friendly charging infrastructure in the UK.

GoPlugable’s vision is not only to provide a platform, but also to foster a community of electric vehicle enthusiasts who are passionate about making a positive impact.

Maebh's Journey Begins

Maebh's journey into entrepreneurship was as unexpected as it was inspiring.

Reflecting on her beginnings, she shares, "I never thought I would become a founder! I always found the world of entrepreneurship fascinating, but I didn’t come from a business background, so I thought that type of career path was pretty much unattainable for me."

During her final year at Queen’s University Belfast, Maebh stumbled upon the Catalyst Co-founders Programme, a gateway to the world of startups.

Recalling this pivotal moment, she remarks, "It was there in January 2023 I met my cofounder Andrine, who had explained to me his struggle with charging his electric vehicle as his landlord at the time would not let him install a home charger."

She continued, "His solution at the time was charging at a close neighbour’s home and paying them once a week to borrow it."

Andrine's story resonated deeply with Maebh, igniting a shared passion for sustainability. "As a mechanical engineer, the EV industry and wider sustainability were always big interests of mine," she shares.

Realising the common challenge of inaccessible EV charging, they launched a mission to overhaul what EV charging could be.

Bootstrapping, Grants, and Competitions

But the road to success was anything but smooth.

"I was still studying and working part time in the early days whilst building my business, and Andrine had a full time job, 3 young children and was studying as well. Can you imagine?", Maebh said, reflecting on how hectic both their lives were.

Balancing studies, part-time work, and familial responsibilities posed a formidable challenge.

"Managing our time effectively was a real challenge, but when you're dedicating your time to something you truly believe in, it feels less like work and more like a passion project."

As with many startups, Maebh’s concept originated from noticing a personal problem and devising a digital solution for optimal convenience. However, this made it crucial for her to go out and talk to consumers and verify that this was a common problem and not just one that she had presumed that many people encountered.

"It takes a lot of guts to go down this path- so don’t forget that! Always remember to ask for help when you need it." - Maebh Reynolds

Armed with curiosity and conviction, Maebh and Andrine delved deep into understanding their target market. "We engaged with thousands of EV drivers across the UK and Ireland," Maebh explains. "The data confirmed what we suspected: the barriers to EV adoption were cost and accessibility."

"The report findings are available on our website and it is a really interesting read to see the perceptions of what driving an EV is like from those who have a home charger, those who don’t and those who have not made the switch yet to an EV."

Maebh and Andrine’s perseverance paid off, securing £150,000 of equity-free funding and a slew of accolades along the way. Reflecting on their fundraising journey, Maebh shares, "We decided to bootstrap for as long as we could and raise funding through local grants, competitions, and accelerator programmes."

"We raised £150,000 equity free funding from this strategy, we won Catalyst Invent 2023, Techstart proof of concept grants, QUB Dragons’ Den amongst many others."

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Scepticism and Mentorship

Yet, amidst the triumphs and milestones, scepticism loomed large.

Doubts about the feasibility of their venture and the future of EVs tested their resolve.

"We have had many questions from those who doubt whether we will all be really driving electric vehicles in the near future or whether even driving an EV in cold weather can be really viable and easy."

But Maebh and Andrine remained steadfast, drawing inspiration from the success stories of countries like Norway.

"Some times your biggest sceptics can be your greatest teachers so we always try and listen to what ever feedback that comes our way." - Maebh Reynolds

"What the difference is, is that they [Norway] have prioritised on charging infrastructure especially in the work place and in urban housing areas and we think that the same can be replicated here."

For Maebh, entrepreneurship isn't just about building a business; it's about embracing uncertainty and learning from every setback.

"Don’t be afraid of failure," she advises aspiring founders. "The skills, experience, and network you will build throughout this journey are invaluable."

As she reflects on her entrepreneurial journey, Maebh acknowledges the pivotal role of mentorship. "Mentorship has been hugely important for us," she shares.

"Catalyst and their team including Hannah Cummings, Meg Magill and Steve Orr have all been incredible for making connections for us and introducing us to their wide network. Our mentor Meave Kneafsey has done a fabulous job at pushing us to focus on the things that matter and keeping us prepared for the next milestones."

"The local entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Ireland is very close knit with many, many amazing individuals who are willing to give their time to the 'small fish' on their way up so we are extremely grateful for that."

For Maebh, the journey is as important as the destination, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

Visit the GoPlugable website to learn more.

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