Interview: Olly Jones, Co-founder of elmo

By: Simon Richardson
Last update 25. July 2022 Reading time 4:39 min
olly jones from elmo co-founder

Olly Jones, founder of elmo (right) pictured with co-founder, Luke Gavin (left).

Olly, how did you start elmo?

The secret sauce is hard work; a focus on building a service to ‘wow’ customers; and bags of optimism. But you probably mean the founding story? Well, I’ve known my co-founder, Luke Gavin, since we were thirteen. He was an early team member at Octopus Energy (before they became a $2bn company overnight); he then worked as a Senior Consultant at Element Energy – a strategy consultancy focused on cleantech – where his team was dedicated to e-mobility and energy infrastructure. It was through those experiences – looking at emerging mobility models and how, through electric cars, there was more and more overlap with the energy sector – that the idea for elmo started to form.

Luke wanted to make switching to an electric car as easy as possible and using the analogy of a smartphone contract with bundled data and minutes, he pitched to me. His argument was simple. People aren’t switching to EVs because they are expensive and they are unfamiliar. We can lower the barriers to entry by: i) removing upfront costs and giving people peace of mind with a flexible subscription model; and ii) bundling charging, insurance, a home charge point etc into an all-inclusive offering. In other words, be a one-stop shop and simple payment plan for switching to an electric car.

My background is in growing web platforms within the startup financing industry. At that time, I didn’t know too much about energy or electric cars. But from an investor and consumer perspective, I could see how the solution neatly solved a real problem. And the analogy with phone companies bundling data services etc into phone contracts was compelling.

We then started working evenings and weekends to research and develop an initial business plan and speak to potential partners and investors. We were lucky enough to get backing at an early stage from some fantastic investors which allowed us to properly get started in 2019.

We kicked things off with our famous Suitability Tool which helps people understand how different makes/models of electric car could fit their lifestyle (or not) and the growth from there has been extraordinary.

What problem are you solving for customers?

With more and more news pieces about clean air, climate change and increasing government regulation to incentivise switching to an EV, lots of people are now thinking about an electric car. But every customer who comes to this point of consideration has two questions: ‘would an EV fit my lifestyle?’ and ‘what’s the best way to switch?’. The fact that the first question is such a factor has an important bearing on the second question. Here’s why.

With combustion engine (ICE) cars, everyone has a pretty good handle on how far they can get and how easily they can fuel up, so when they look at getting a new ICE car, they’re just worried about the price, value, size etc. With EVs people still care about price, size etc, but have additional concerns over the range, the availability of charge points and even how to charge.

So how can they be sure if an electric car is a good fit for them? It doesn’t make sense to buy one and be stuck with it – especially when they tend to be about £5-10k more expensive than equivalent ICE models. It doesn’t even make sense to commit to a lease and be stuck with it for 24-48 months.

That’s where elmo comes in. Our subscriptions allow customers to sign up for as long as they want (minimum one month) with no deposit required. We also include everything (insurance, maintenance, breakdown cover) in the monthly price to make things as convenient as possible. Customers book online in five minutes and we can usually deliver in 4 working days.

We also allow people to include additional services in their monthly package, according to their needs and preferences. These include a home charge point and installation, discounted renewable home energy packages and public charging access. All aimed at making the customer experience of switching to an electric car as easy as possible.

What are the benefits of subscription over traditional leasing or buying a car?

We believe that subscription is the smarter way to ‘own’ a car. With subscription you get all the benefits of ‘owning’ the car, but without the hassle of actually owning it; like, for example, when things go wrong, when you want to change the car or no longer need to have a car. On elmo our prices are competitive with equivalent lease deals, but without the hefty deposit and without the long-term commitment. Plus, as described above, insurance, maintenance, breakdown, charging etc is included (or can be included according to preference) in the monthly payment. We think we’ve reimagined leasing and made it fit for the modern consumer.

What makes elmo different?

We’re different for many reasons: from an obsession with treating our customers warmly and making their experience as hassle-free as possible to using technology to make everything super efficient. But two key reasons are top of the list:

One: we’re totally redefining the buying and owning experience for car drivers. The problems and inconvenience of buying at dealerships or locking into rigid lease contracts disappear when the experience is tailored to the flexibility and convenience needs of modern customers and made 100% digital. And when you marry that with a genuinely human customer service experience, you give people something really special.

Two: we’re the world’s first Net Zero car subscription platform. We deal exclusively in 100% electric cars which produce zero tailpipe emissions. People now care about the impact of their purchase decisions. While value is still most important for most people (which is why we make sure our prices compete with lease deals despite the lack of deposit and long-term commitment), people also want an easy way to be greener. So we make it easy.

A final word on the sustainability piece: we want to empower our customers and help them understand the impact they’re making by driving with us. So we use the data from our telematics to present each customer with insights about their driving including safety score, carbon savings and fuel savings. And we reward the safest and most sustainable drivers with money off their subscription.

How important is sustainability to your mission at elmo?

The desire to produce positive impact informs every decision we make. That sounds really worthy, but it’s important to have core values like that in place to guide you. Our positive impact has two parts: reducing carbon emissions from transport (26% of all UK emissions come from transport) and enabling people to access the technology which can help them reduce their emissions. Specifically, we want to make electric cars as easy as possible for people to switch to so that we help to accelerate the EV transition from margin to mainstream.

What does the future hold for elmo?

We’re on a mission to help 30,000 people switch to an electric car by 2025 by being the easiest way to switch. We’ll be bringing on new makes and models of EVs, improving our product and service (including a recent integration with a car sharing platform), expanding internationally and making sure that our team and community of customers enjoy the process as we enter this exciting time for mobility!

If anyone is interested in following our journey, feel free to say ‘hi’ on or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.



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