The odds are stacked against Ample, a battery-switching firm located in San Francisco. Other businesses have attempted to capitalize on the problem of long EV charging periods by exchanging dead batteries for new ones: Better Place, which collected over a billion dollars to achieve what Ample is doing, declared bankruptcy fourteen years ago. However, that was more than a decade ago, when electric vehicles were not yet advanced enough — or abundant enough — to make the business model viable.
John de Souza, a co-founder of Ample, was unfazed. His family moved to Dubai after the Ethiopian Civil War broke out in the 1970s, and he was born and reared in Ethiopia to a Greek/Ethiopian mother and a Portuguese/Indian father who found methods to send him and his siblings to school despite their poverty. After immigrating, de Souza completed high school before moving to the United States at the age of 16 on a full scholarship to pursue university.
Since then, he’s launched a number of businesses, including the financial firm Smartleaf, the internet venture Flash Communications, and the consumer health platform MedHelp, where his current co-founder, Khaled Hassounah, serves as CTO. Both de Souza and Hassounah hail from immigrant families, according to de Souza, which gives them a creative business mindset.
Neither co-founder had any prior expertise in the energy business, but by 2018, both spotted a potential in the electric vehicle market. The main issue was that it would be difficult to persuade people to switch to electric vehicles when the technology, at least in terms of refueling UX, was significantly poorer than the existing quo. Because they could still see the flaming ashes of Better Place, many investors did not survive five minutes into an ample presentation, but de Souza and Hassounah secured upwards of $275 million to overcome the limits of plug-in charging.
Sally, an EV rental firm that offers ride hailing, taxi, and last-mile delivery, as well as Uber and Eneos, a Japanese petroleum and energy corporation, are among Ample’s current partners. Ample’s road to market based on fleet contracts that allow the company’s battery chemistry-agnostic modular battery packs to switched into and out of any vehicle.
Ample has already set up seven exchanging stations for participating Uber drivers in the Bay Area, and it aims to expand to Europe next year, starting with Madrid. Ample plans to begin installing stations in Japan late next year, depending on COVID-19 border limitations. We met down with de Souza to talk about the benefits of a B2B go-to-market strategy, how to build a fun and productive corporate culture, and what it takes to pursue a concept that most people predict would fail.