Learning to drive can be one of the most mentally and financially stressful processes for young Brits today. The average learner spends £1000 just on lessons alone, so it is no surprise that Asher Ismail, CEO of miDrive, is looking to support millennials by connecting them with the best instructors in the country, cutting costs and the hassle out of passing the test.
What is miDrive?
With miDrive, we realised there was this major problem for millennials and young people where the system is so out-dated and broken. It is really common for people to struggle and this problem was something that we felt we could find the solution to.
Failing costs learners their freedom, the economy and it really is a social problem. Learning to drive is about getting your independence; you can find a new opportunity, you can get to a new place, you can make a new friend or even find love, and that whole experience is tough.
It is also hard to find a good instructor, how do you review them, there is no standardisation which is also a problem. One in five newly qualified drivers will have some form of accident in their first 6 months. If we can solve that, it is a huge opportunity to make a big difference.
The millennial generation is a heavy influence on your career, when did you realise that the younger generation was an opportunity for business?
Often you don’t think of yourself as the customer when you start a business, thats the danger for many entrepreneurs where they make it about themselves, but with a lot of these problems its actually the reverse as well. Finding the best solution is when you actually go through that experience yourself.
Each of the problems I try to solve has been something I have struggled with at some point. I am still a millennial – probably on the older edge – but I am still in there and I can relate to it.
What is your business model?
MiDrive uses tech and data with a fresh attitude to teach people to drive and not just pass their test. For learners, we match learners to the highest rated instructors in their area and enable them to take control of their learning through apps.
How did you get funding?
We have had £5 million of funding to-date. Our biggest backers are HolidayExtras and Initial Capital. We are really happy with the investment we have got and the partnerships that have formed from the funding. I think Initial Capital were really interested in us because we have really tried to gamify the experience. We have made learning to drive fun and engaging.
How have you found the funding process?
Series A is one of the hardest rounds to get through, I think a lot of companies find that part of funding the toughest bit. I don’t think our experience was too dissimilar. We also had Brexit make things a little bit more tricky, we slowed down a little for that but it was a really good experience for us.
How did you know there was a market for this?
The traditional players are the AA, the British School of Motoring, Red, but they haven’t really changed how the approach this for many years which is where we felt that we could offer something different.
The rest of the market is all independent and they won’t invest to make a modern tech experience. There is nothing else in the market like us and it became really clear to us that there was an opportunity.
What have been the major milestones?
The first tier I think is about building a product; we have a theory test app which was on the list of Apples favourite apps and has got a lot of credit. That was good to build a brand and get users onto it. The first shift was when we first got people paying for something because that just means the stakes are way higher.
Your expectations are much higher when you pay for something and people want an amazing service – If you are a millennial, arguably that expectation is much higher – so the pressure is on us to deliver a quality product.
Another milestone was when we crossed £1 million in revenue, that was a big moment. We all celebrated because it says that a lot of people want this product which was really exciting.
Where do you see yourself and miDrive in the next 5 years?
We are in over 100 cities and towns across the UK and we are trying to expand to one new place every week. By the end of the year we want full coverage across the country. Thats a major goal for us. We have 300,000 users gaining their independence through us but we really want to be the number one player.
If you were not an entrepreneur you would be…
I have had other roles in businesses and I have been involved in all sizes of businesses. I always tried to get close to the leader of that business, so I imagine that I would try and keep doing that. If I can’t be the entrepreneur myself, I would want to be supporting someone else’s dream in another way.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
The first thing is to surround yourself with people who will push and encourage you. Your surroundings and the people in it have a huge influence on your values and how you think and behave. My advice is to be careful who you hire and who you work for. Don’t settle for anyone but the best.