Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Volta

At the turn of the 20th century (around the time when Mike was born), all cars used electricity as means of propulsion.  Their short batteries were charged with hand cranks by gentlemen dressed in duster jackets and driving goggles.  However, they were quickly replaced when technology allowed for gasoline engines.

Electric cars are rising in popularity again, due to environmental concerns. Since they aren’t necessarily universal, there’s a lot of questions concerning practicality.  Like: how the heck do you charge your car if you aren’t at home?

Volta Industries, LLC has an answer.  They are working to design charging stations across the country so those driving electric cars have access to electricity on the road.  The best part?  It would be free for consumers.  Volta wants to use advertisers to pay for the stations and the electricity.  It’s like network TV, but for your car.

Scott at Volta kindly answered some questions I had:


How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?

We’re developing a network of free to use public electric vehicle charging stations.  We install our stations in public places where they’re most likely to get used and seen throughout a city, like shopping malls, public transit, and parking garages.  We then partner with advertisers that sponsor free charging at the stations.  That way, advertisers can use their campaigns to provide a free, local, high tech service to the community.


What are some industry specific challenges you faced?

Our industry is hugely challenging.  We’re building an infrastructure network no one has any experience with, for a new mode of transportation that isn’t yet widespread.  The idea that no one know yet how things will play out makes things tough at times, but very exciting.


What made you use crowdSPRING?

We’ve used crowdSPRING twice before to design logos, with great success.  As a startup, just seeing different interpretations of your idea from different designers can help you brainstorm about your products and your business.  Getting suggestions and new directions from many different designers helps us make sure we don’t miss a great idea.


What was your biggest learning curve/experience?

Our biggest learning curve has been figuring out what good opportunities to leave on the table to keep moving forward quickly.  We’ve gotten sidetracked by other appealing prospects in the electric car industry that seem like something we could do also, like applying for government infrastructure grants, or selling residential charging stations.  It might sound like a good idea to branch out early, but you have to focus on your niche if you want to be competitive.


If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?

Next time, I’d spend less time strategizing and planning, and more time talking to people, getting advice, and selling.  Usually, the more time I spend talking to different people about the business, the quicker things move.


How do you see your company growing in the future?

Hopefully, the electric car industry grows quickly enough that we’re busy with the original idea for a long while.  But I like the concept of using advertising campaigns to actually do some good in a community.  If we can capitalize on that idea, we’d love to expand into providing other free services locally.


Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.

Keep focused and don’t get impatient.


Volta asked the crowdSPRING community to design their new charging stations.  They received 130 entries and it was awarded to rgpindustrial.  Check out other industrial design contests here.