Robert Falk used To work in a Russian trucking factory by day, and by night, he built a nightclub guest list startup. He also collects old books, and once speculated that Chinese author Gao Jingjian would win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He grew up on a farm, but has degrees in finance, economics and mechanical engineering.
No, it’s not a game of two truths and lies – in fact, these are excerpts from the life of a serial entrepreneur who holds a vendetta against the carbon emissions produced by the world’s trucking industry.
Falck, now CEO and founder of Swedish autonomous freight company Einride, also served as director of manufacturing engineering assembly at Volvo GTO Powertrain. He learned how to produce heavy-duty vehicles during his three-and-a-half years, and also helped start and invest in other companies. InRide, which he founded in 2016, is his seventh company.
Inride’s business has tripled. It currently operates one of Europe’s largest fleets of electric trucks, but its main offerings are its electric autonomous pods, self-driving freight trucks built without a front cab and no room for a human operator. . The startup also offers an IoT system called Saga that runs through its fleet and helps the company and its shipping partners optimize routes and manage and electrify the fleet.
EinRide began its US operations this month and plans to operate its pods, trucks and OSes with partners such as GE Appliances, Bridgestone and Oatly. In May, the company raised $110 million to help with its US expansion, bringing its total funding to $150 million.
We sat down with Falk to talk about InRide’s strategy to drive revenue, the need to build autonomous vehicles on electric platforms, and why the future is in the hands of startups.
“The average OEM will have to write off profits of six to seven years to get rid of old investments in the diesel platform.”
The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who build transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
Nerdshala: In addition to your work at Volvo, you’ve started two nightclub-related platforms and a hunting app. Why Start an Autonomous Trucking Company?
Robert Falk: Working at Volvo, producing diesel engines, gearboxes and trucks, made it clear to me the challenges the industry was facing and that I had a moral obligation. I mean, the heavy goods transport industry accounts for between 7% and 8% of global CO2 emissions, and the engines I helped produce contribute about 1% of global CO2 emissions. It was really affecting how much my previous situation was, and I realized I was part of the problem.
There is no point in starting a company. You’re either crazy, or if you’re in it for the money, you just won’t get there, because there are so many easy ways to make money. But for me, I consider CO2 emissions to be the biggest challenge of our generation. And it’s fascinating how secondary failure becomes when you know you do it for the right reasons.
You have been described as a serial entrepreneur. Have you been with Enride for a long time, or are you already thinking about your next startup?
I think all entrepreneurs get a thrill out of entrepreneurship. And I am certainly more of an entrepreneur and company builder than an administrator and manager. I am not the kind of person who would sit there and maintain the status quo. It’s not my thing.
So will your next startup tackle CO2 emissions, but just in a different industry?
A lot of traditional industries are poised for disruption, and this is going to challenge and change society at its core. The main reason behind this is that if you look at the global level, there is a huge demand for sustainability.
I think most companies that are going to change or save the planet will be built in the next five to 10 years, and some of the more traditional parts of the economy have great potential. From the trucking and automotive spaces to real estate, a lot of those big dramas are still on hold. I think energy — the smart grid and how we structure energy production — is going to be another one of them.
So you think most climate techs that will solve the biggest issues will come from startups rather than legacy companies?