Insights from Introducing a New Way of Moving - conversations in cleantech episode five with Georgia Yexley, Head Of Cities UK & Ireland at Tier
Georgia Yexley heads up TIER's UK & Ireland partnership with Cities, a role in which she is responsible for commercial performance, rider experience and community impact. As the world’s fastest-growing micro-mobility company, TIER’S vision is to lead the way towards seamless and sustainable movement. The company works collaboratively with public and private organisations to rethink urban transportation and reshape our cities’ landscapes by offering easy-accessible and affordable mobility services.
Georgia began her career in China, spending over five years working with high growth tech companies, including Mobike. TIER is her second unicorn startup in micro-mobility. Georgia is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and accessibility, contributing to raising the volume of women and underrepresented groups in tech & mobility both in and outside of the workplace.
Read on for Georgia’s key insights and, be sure to listen to the podcast in full here.
Tell us a little bit about your journey into mobility.
I started in micro-mobility, maybe five or six years ago and, the rate of growth is outstanding. It is a really young industry, and I was there for the early days around the time of the free-floating bike-share model. Before starting in that space and moving into consumer-facing tech, I worked within DevOps at high-growth startups. My journey with mobility started in Beijing where, I started seeing the same bike over and over again – a trendy bike model that turned out to be the mobike. A friend of mine sent me a job advert in the marketing and communications space for the upcoming international side of the business. I applied and ended up getting the role!
The existence of TIER's dedicated city partnership role is a testament to the way that micro-mobility has changed over the years. There is something really special about delivering a new way of moving around a city, particularly within your hometown. There's no other project in micro-mobility that I think is as complex as the London integration, and therefore as exciting for me – it’s the highlight of my career.
You’ve described micro-mobility as a fast-growth industry... can you tell us what that entails?
Both of the unicorn startups I’ve worked at have achieved their unicorn status in less than two years – the standard is usually within five years. It is unbelievable that there would be more than one business in this space that would achieve such success in such as short space of time, which demonstrates the demand out there.
However, growth is not exclusively attributed to fundraising and business value; the scale of services is also a remarkable indicator. Even in the early days, kind of bike-sharing models, you could be servicing 250 cities with millions of bikes. The scale is just mind-blowing; at Tier we've just exceeded 50 million rides with five million riders across Europe and it feels like we're launching new cities every week. The impact that you're able to achieve through that is incredible, from reducing carbon emissions to helping people move around in their day-to-day lives.
Rapid scaling is exciting but also challenging. What are the problems you have experienced along the way and, how have you dealt with them?
Speed of growth absolutely had its negative implications. In the beginning, there was a sort of chaos with too many vehicles on the streets as well as a large number becoming damaged or having poor lifespans. Those learnings have been really important for the business; we started focusing on longevity, making sure vehicles were ruggedised and could be on the street for three years to five years without having to be constantly replaced. Thinking about the supply chain the whole way through and the positive impact of the vehicle (using green energy as a power source and being built from sustainable materials) is critical.
How important is collaboration within the industry and having a joined-up vision?
Totally. A good example of that is the London service – we have to work collaboratively. As we're establishing a new market uptake for the competitor companies is important for us as well if we are to introduce these new vehicle types long term.
Public perception is also another key focus in every operation in London, York, and across the UK generally. Addressing public perception means taking on board what people's concerns are and understanding their perspectives; this helps to bring in these vehicle types in a way that's driving benefit, adding value to our cities and not mitigating risk.
A city is an ecosystem - you’re dealing with the whole mobility network of a city as part of the wider transport mix and that includes non-users too. TIER is doing really well connecting with the wider city landscape. We have around 40 integrations with public transport, apps and networks. We think about the space occupied on the street, how people physically interact with our vehicles and consider the messaging we're putting out. A lot of Londoners may have seen the launch of a huge safety campaign through our bus, tube and television ads, or via social media via influencers; it's not just targeted at riders, the audience is everyone.
How does TIER fit into the cleantech space?
We're both influenced by and influencing the wider cleantech ecosystem. Climate Neutral is not a simple game of offsetting your energy usage, it's about ensuring that you're not actively making a negative impact. At TIER we're making sure all of our batteries are charged using green electricity and partnering with businesses to find tech solutions and extend the lifespan of our batteries. We also have our own energy network which is a unique element of the TIER business as it enables users to swap charge at swap spots. As well as being environmentally friendly, it provides foot traffic to the high street and local businesses as these hotspots can be placed strategically in local businesses, or freely in community centres/ libraries for disadvantaged groups.
What’s your inspiration and, how do you live your purpose?
We're providing a service that is 24/7... people need to move at all times. Helping people access work, education, their place of worship, enabling them to meet friends, and connect with their community - that's the inspiration. As mentioned before, community engagement is essential. TIER makes sure that community groups having the ability to drive decision making, and initiatives that are going to benefit them, we've built the team up to be representative of the cities that we're in, there's such a diverse range of identities and people.
We’re working with Jobcentre Plus and organisations that help people out of long-term unemployment by providing access to work. We’re also working with disability groups for example the Kensington and Chelsea Disability Forum to make our service more accessible, to hear people's concerns and be able to answer their questions and support people getting on to the vehicles. TIER has established an independent Safety Board of experts from accessible transport, visual impairment groups, with which we work closely. It holds us to account by providing an industry standard and provides guidance to all micro-mobility operators.
Hosted by Jenny Gladman, Director at Brightsmith, this instalment is an informative listen for anyone seeking insight into the fast-growth pace of the mobility industry or, the cleantech startup space more generally.