Rene has a background in sustainable transport solutions for smart cities, so starting CityMaaS was a next step in her vision of inclusive cities. They’ve been taking part in our AI for Good accelerator programme, designed to help advance their AI solutions. Run by Microsoft for Startups UK team and Social Tech Trust the programme provides access to the resources, knowledge, and people they need to help. The unique curriculum will also provide them with business development, marketing, and technical support alongside talks, seminars, and workshops.
I chatted to Rene about her passions, and experiences starting a company.
Please tell us about yourself and why you started your company.
I am passionate about solving problems that matter. Disability issues touched me deeply after a complicated pregnancy lead to losing my second child in the same year my beloved grandma passed away. I have also witnessed the struggles of my family-in-law’s disabled foster children.
I truly appreciate the meaning of ‘life is short’ and my ambition of doing something that creates a positive impact grows ever stronger.
For the past six years, I have been immersed in sustainable transport solutions for smart cities. CityMaaS is my vision for a user-centric mobility solution. It was born in the summer of 2018 with a mission to enable efficient travel for all, especially for people with limited mobility. Travel should never be an obstacle to live an independent life.
Did you think your future would involve running and managing your own business?
I come from an entrepreneurial family so running a business has always been in my bones. I spent over 12 years of my working career in the financial services industry at large corporates, a heavily male dominated industry, where I qualified as an chartered accountant and learnt and built invaluable skills and networks but my passion has always been in creating and making positive changes in whatever I do.
Who is your role model and why?
My role model is my Dad, whom I didn’t see very often while growing up. My grandma used to inspire me by telling me all the impressive stories of Dad not being afraid to take on huge challenges and through hard work, dedication and innovation he was always able to achieve whatever he set himself to do.
These characteristics that I inherited make me the way I am today.
If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you and your company, what would you have achieved?
Fast forward one year on, CityMaas will have made a positive impact on over three million journeys for 200,000 people with limited mobility.
Currently CityMaaS is going through a procurement process of providing an end-to-end service platform for the London Dial a Ride service provided by TFL for over 1 million door-to-door journeys for disabled and elderly people. I am sure I would have made and learned from many mistakes and equally would have grown tremendously from forging partnerships to lead a highly effective and dedicated team.
What have you gained from being involved in our AI for Good Cohort? What lessons or insights are going to stay with you?
AI for Good Cohort is an invaluable, jam-packed programme that is full of gems and has tonnes of learning opportunities from technical development to social impact theories. Some sessions are inspiring while some develop essential skills to run a successful start-up.
There are many takeaways from each session and one of the most important insights that would stay with me for life is that navigating successfully through the start-up scene is tough, but social impact should be at the core of every decision you make.
Surround yourself with like-minded and inspiring people and organisations and you will grow faster and stronger.