Sebastian Karges (28) from Trier, Germany, is an alumnus of the Master’s degree programme in Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Campus Fryslân. Together with fellow alumnus Germán Ramos (from Spain), he created the carpooling startup Hopon. Gerard de Jong talked to Sebastian Karges about the pair’s sustainable entrepreneurship.
‘I was a bit sceptical about coming to Leeuwarden. I’d studied in Amsterdam before and lived in Shanghai, so Leeuwarden seemed rather small. But the University’s Open Day convinced me. The course units were very well thought-out. It was an intense one year Master’s programme, but it was very much worth it. And I got to experience the upside of Leeuwarden: a smaller city means easier networking!
The thing about Sustainable Entrepreneurship is that you want to put into practice what you’ve learned. So Gérman and I came up with Hopon. CO2 emission is a big problem for the environment. Research shows that CO2 emissions often derive from the daily commute. Carpooling has been around probably since cars have existed, but it never really took off. We want to change that.
We believe you need three key factors for this to work. Firstly, you need to have enough cars. And there are enough in Friesland. Without a car, a lot of people here are restricted in their mobility. Secondly, you need the technology. Unlike five years ago, everyone now uses smartphone apps daily. Thirdly, you need awareness. People need to be aware of the CO2 problem and be willing to do something about it. We found that awareness in abundance here.
Within a week of having conceived the idea, we pitched our idea at Enterprijs, a student startup competition. We had to learn that one week of prep is not enough, so we got kicked out in the first round, but we were even more motivated after that! The University gave us a lot of leeway. We were allowed to combine assignments with our work on Hopon. The lecturersprofessors could not have been more supportive. When research showed that our business model was feasible, it was clear: let’s go all in. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
Hopon is aimed at large companies and organizations. We’ve created an app for colleagues to easily arrange carpooling appointments. It takes away the hassle of messaging back and forth to make a date. We’re now looking for organizations to test-drive the app. If it works for one, it will work for others.
What makes us unique is that we’re not about occasionally sharing a ride with someone, but about implementing a carpooling structure in an organization. Our whole business model is based on reduction: reduction of congestion, CO2 and costs. Sharing a ride saves money for everyone involved.
Right now, Germán and I both have side-gigs to pay the rent, but every available hour is spent on Hopon. We’re lucky to have found a nice office space at the Kanselarij in Leeuwarden. I hope that in a year from now, several companies will be using Hopon. And we’re optimistic about it! People want to do good, even if they are dependent on a car. With our startup, we’re giving them the chance to do that.’
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