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PlugSurfing’s Adam Woolway Says Barrier-Free Energy Mobility Is on the Way

WHERE ARE THEY NOW, AUGUST 2014: What has PlugSurfing been up to since we first met Cofounder and CEO Adam Woolway in Berlin last year? We asked for a post-Challenge Festival rundown of PlugSurfing’s exciting year.

What a year it has been since our last interview with 1776. Starting in Jauuary we completely revamped everything: our CI, our website, our apps and our positioning. We really took the plunge into becoming a payment provider for EV charging, not just a charging  point locator, and the progress we are making now shows that we made the right choices: We launched our new payment app in Germany in June with some of the country’s largest energy providers as partners, we’ve seen our user numbers double and, with partnerships already in the pipeline, we’re excited about rolling out  this service in the Netherlands and Austria in September. On top of this we have renegotiated our significant deals with car manufacturers and now have more leads than ever before which has led us to making new team hires and welcoming Anja and Andrei to join the fun as Community Manager and Developer respectively.

Not to forget, of course, that we also were one of the winners of the Challenge Cup in May and we’re incredibly excited to see what this collaboration will bring.

– Adam Woolway

Back when we first met PlugSurfing, November 2013:

Berlin-based PlugSurfing is the world’s largest database for charging points of electric cars, e-bikes & electric scooters. The free PlugSurfing app and website locates public and commercial charging points, and also private ones installed in the homes of—and shared by—fellow PlugSurfers.

I sat down with PlugSurfing’s Adam Woolway, a finalist of the Challenge Cup’s energy category in Berlin, to talk about his startup and his Challenge Cup experience.  

How did you get the idea for PlugSurfing?

Woolway: Jacob and I co-founded PlugSurfing after we met in Berlin. We were inspired by the entrepreneurial atmosphere of the city but also interested in how city life could be improved with electric cars. We noticed that there were certain barriers preventing a higher uptake of electric cars and we wanted to be the people to remove these barriers. That is PlugSurfing’s aim: to contribute towards barrier free e-mobility.

What have been the most exciting developments for the company so far?

Woolway: Definitely recruiting Martin Schenck, our CTO, from his Ph.D position at TU Berlin. He has brought a whole new dynamic to the team allowing us to be leaner, quicker and more innovative. It’s also been great to see our user base grow with market, as if the vision is now becoming reality.

Are you funded?

Woolway: Yes, crowdfunding via

Who do you see as competition in this space?

Woolway: This is the exciting thing; no-one is fulfilling the role that PlugSurfing is right now. We will be the first independent payment system for EV charging.

What are the general trends you’re seeing in your industry?

Woolway: We are seeing definite divisions emerge between the companies involved. At first, everybody wanted to do everything by dominating energy production, infrastructure and both B2B/B2C. As the market takes shape, however, we are finding different companies take on specific roles so that energy providers sell energy, and PlugSurfing speaks with the drivers. It sounds obvious, but it takes time for everyone to find their way.

What are the biggest obstacles to innovation in your industry and for Plugsurfing?

Woolway: Up until recently, I would have said the slow pace of the market. There simply were not enough electric cars on the market for the trend to take off. Thankfully, this will now change with the BMW i3 and VW’s full electric in 2014. Our biggest obstacle is now buying enough Club Mate to keep Martin satisfied.

What was your Challenge Cup experience like?

Woolway: Great. It was really good to meet the teams involved. There are so many good startups in Berlin; you can always meet new faces and be inspired. The mentoring was also useful to gain an outsider perspective and the pressure of the pitch is one that I live for!

What did you learn? What were some of your key takeaways?

Woolway:  Keep it simple and get to the point. When you work in an emerging market, the tendency is to place too much importance on what is happening in that market. Investors don’t want to hear this in one minute, they just want to know who’s on the team, where your revenue is coming from, how you are going to kick ass, and what problem are you solving.

As a winner, what were some of the best parts of the ChallengeCup for you?

Woolway: The competition, it’s in my nature to want to win. And the free bar!

This article is part of our Challenge Cup coverage. To view more Challenge Cup content, visit the Challenge Cup news page

Liz Elfman

Liz Elfman is a writer, editor, and content strategist.