Twenty years ago, entrepreneur Simen Schimmel started with greeting cards, flowers and chocolate. Together with partner Johan van Vulpen, he founded Greetz: a huge success within the country. With his brand-new start-up Transferz, he is now stepping outside the borders, with a radically different idea. “Through technology, we make traveling as easy, sustainable and safe as possible. Anywhere in the world.”
After the successful acquisition of Greetz, Schimmel decided it was time for something new. He plunged into the travel business and together with Van Vulpen and Jan van der Veen (former CTO Greetz) founded Transferz, focused on pre-booked ground transportation. Except for the “z” with which the names of the two companies end, at first glance there are few similarities between the branches. Yet the turnaround was worth it, because the opportunities within the new market are “really bizarre,” according to the entrepreneur.
Why the radical turnaround?
“Thanks to Greetz, I now not only know all about flowers, cards and being thoughtful, but also how to use technology to help people. A few years ago I started talking to Johan, who told me about the ground transportation industry. We did exploratory research and found out that this industry is untapped. The market is fragmented; there is no dominant market leader. We saw this as the ultimate opportunity to become a major player and improve the travel experience through technology.”
Tell us, what exactly is Transferz?
“We are basically a ground transportation marketplace, mainly focused on transportation to and from airports around the world. Cabs, business sedans and minivans are among the standard options, but travelers can also book a limousine, a bus, a helicopter or even a tuktuk. A wide range of partners, including airlines, online travel agencies, hotels and tour operators, connect their travelers to our platform. Expedia and Booking.com are among them, for example.”
What problems within the travel market do you solve?
“First of all, we ensure that customers have a more pleasant travel experience. When you travel abroad, you quickly think of cab drivers who want to catch as much money as possible. You may also face issues around currency, payment options, capacity and safety. With our solution, you can arrange your transportation in advance so that, as a traveler, you can enjoy your trip worry-free until the last kilometer.”
“For example, travelers and drivers can contact each other directly through our ‘driver’ and ‘traveler’ app. And in turn, the driver can see what time the plane lands, things like that. The traveler gets regular updates on who is picking them up where and at what time.”
“A lot can go wrong in the logistics business. That’s why we collect a lot of data in all steps of the process so we can improve our processes and services based on this information. Also through our customers – which are the travel agents themselves – we receive important feedback such as reviews and ratings. We aggregate this data together with input from our system and analyze what can be improved. Is the average rating actually higher or lower on weekends? Is it partner specific? Which means of transport score higher than others? For example, a low rating may indicate a problem with the availability of minivans on weekends in a particular destination. Our supply team can then address this.”
“In addition, we contribute to transportation sustainability. Every year there are tens of millions of travelers who want to see the world. So it is necessary to become more sustainable. We have a so-called ‘sustainable fleet.’ You have to imagine: you fly to Vienna, and once you arrive you can choose from several cabs that will take you to the hotel. A ‘regular’ Sedan, a business variant, a hybrid or a fully electric one. We have a team dedicated to finding sustainable alternatives available per hub. Our app also shows the carbon footprint of each vehicle you choose.”
What are you most proud of so far?
“Two years ago we started our adventure. In the meantime, we have been embraced internationally by the entire ecosystem. Even by the biggest parties. We do daily rides in more than 150 countries. We also noticed this enthusiasm recently at the ITB in Berlin, the largest travel trade fair in the world. During the fair, we talked to potential customers, some of whom have even already signed. Surely that means we are doing well.”
What challenges are you running into?
“We are growing exponentially, and at the same time we have to make sure that the quality we provide remains good. During the peak season we can grow exponentially in some destinations, as demand is high and the system is hugely scalable. However, our challenge during the upcoming high season is to also prove scalability in terms of capacity and quality of our supply network. Being able to grow successfully depends on delivering quality, so this is where we are currently spending a lot of time.”
Are there any plans to add new features to the app?
“Soon we will go live with our shared shuttle service. Travelers will then be able to buy a seat on a bus that takes people to their destination via several stops. You pay less for that compared to private transportation. Adding such functionality is challenging. After all, you’re dealing with different types of vehicles and distribution channels. But I think it’s a nice addition, especially for what we call ‘sun and beach’ destinations.”
That’s the best thing about entrepreneurship: the combination between fun and ambitionSimen Schimmel
And do you have other future dreams?
“I prefer not to look too far ahead. But in – let’s say – three years, I want to offer our services to huge companies all around the world. That’s ambitious. Yet I expect it to be achievable when I look at how things are going now. We are currently busy setting up offices in Thailand and Argentina. Expanding to other countries puts a huge smile on my face. With Greetz, we had an international ambition but were ‘world famous’ in the Netherlands and Belgium. With Transferz we are now building a truly international company. And that’s the best thing about entrepreneurship: the combination between fun and ambition.”