Riding the Rollercoaster of EV Start-ups with Amy Dobrikova | Conversations in Cleantech | Season three, Episode three
An entrepreneur at heart, Amy has ridden the rollercoaster of EV start-ups since the very beginning of her career. In her current role as Vice President of Fleet Solutions at Blink Charging, she is hitting the gas on EV fleet charging by creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all fleets.
Throughout her whole career, Amy has been drawn to the good, the bad and the ugly world of cleantech start-ups. By being open to every opportunity that comes her way, Amy has carved out a successful career in which she is able to live her purpose every, single day.
Read on to discover Amy’s advice on how to successfully navigate the often rocky road of cleantech start-ups and be sure to download her full podcast episode here.
Could you start by telling us a little bit about how you got where you are today?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, even back in third grade, I was selling things on the playground. When I went to college, I studied business and I had already been running a business without knowing that was what I was doing. I just love the entrepreneurial life.
I had the opportunity to work for a start-up automotive company straight out of college that was working on producing an electric vehicle for fleets. At the time I didn’t even know what fleets were! That opportunity launched my career by opening up doors to the sustainability sector. The growth that we have seen from 2008 to now is truly amazing.
Could you give us an overview of your day-to-day responsibilities as Vice President of Fleet Solutions at Blink Charging?
This role encompasses everything concerned with providing solutions for EV charging infrastructure for fleets. I look at everything from a global perspective - working with fleets globally, commercial fleets here in the US as well as Government and local municipalities. ‘Fleets’ are very broad - it can be anything from police cars all the way up to class 8 trucks.
My day-to-day tends to involve building a lot of partnerships with a number of OEMs that are producing EVs for fleets, working with commercial fleets or government fleets to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution with Blink.
What are the challenges you are working to overcome to help meet EV charging goals?
There are several challenges across different areas. One particularly challenging area is utilities. A common question we hear is, ‘will there be enough power on the grid?’ I’ve heard similar stories from around the time everyone wanted air conditioners in their home. Utilities adjusted and adapted for the growing demand and now people have multiple air conditioning units in their homes. I think utilities do a fantastic job at this. There are also some incredible advancements with sustainable power, onboarding these will help with the growing demands placed on the grid.
The supply chain has always caused challenges across the EV industry. There are incredibly long lead times for most of the components, especially in DC fast charging. At Blink, we took a strategic approach and ensured that our products are diversified. If we have another shock to the supply chain, we have backup plans and multiple sources. One of the reasons we acquired SemaConnect was due to their American manufacturing and the vital infrastructure funding that is available.
Could you share with us your experiences with the good, the bad and the ugly of start-ups?
My first job out of college was working for a start-up automotive manufacturer. When we first started we had a series of funding and a small team. We created a plan, began executing it and started to raise several hundreds of millions of dollars - things were great until the markets crashed in 2008. We lost most of our funding and it left us at a turning point. Do we shut down or do we keep going?
The senior leadership of the company decided that we were going to keep going. We had the engineering team and the technology so we decided to create an engineering services firm. We started doing consulting and won a number of government contracts for the Department of Defence which enabled us to keep our team employed.
Although our objective was to create a future fleet vehicle, it bought us some time to keep going. When you are on the start-up rollercoaster, just because you are at the bottom of the dip doesn’t mean you have to shut down. We used our innovative resources and created a new solution and path which allowed us to keep our team employed through the difficult years of a recession.
What advice would you give to someone entering the cleantech sector?
I think it is important to understand what your passions are. There are many areas of cleantech which are making a difference to our planet, I suggest learning a little bit about all the different solutions and then deciding what route you would like to go down.
At the start of my career, I dabbled in CNG and propane to tackle emission reductions from that angle and I tested out a lot of different technologies before deciding that electrification was my passion. I think overall your career has to be led by your passions and goals.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received was from Chelsey Sexton from Who Killed the Electric Car. I was lucky enough to meet her with one of the companies I was working for during the early part of my career. I asked whether she had any advice for me. She said, ‘go and hang out with the engineers and learn as much as you can.’ I was young, and ambitious and wanted to soak up advice from people whose careers I admired. After work, I would go down to the lab and learn as much as I could from the engineers. This helped me to cement my knowledge and formulate my belief in what I was selling.
What do you think the next five years hold for the EV charging sector?
Many statistics show that by 2030 50% of vehicles being produced by manufacturers will be electric. We’re already seeing leaders like GM committing to going 100% electric in the future. There are many more electric vehicle models coming to the market and they are all going to need charging.
I think one of the biggest reasons people aren’t going electric is because of the charging infrastructure. At Blink, we are going full throttle trying to get as many chargers as possible into the ground. We are one of the largest owner-operators of our own equipment and we’re vertically integrated. This shows that we believe in our product, we believe in the future and we see residual income for charging as the future fuel.
Enjoyed this article? Listen to the full podcast here, and connect with Amy on LinkedIn for more informative EV content.