Smartphones are the key with which we access and interact with the modern world, so what do we do when they run out of battery? Shrinking battery life is an ongoing problem in the world of mobile phones, especially on-the-go.
However, one brand aims to make this a problem of the past with its app and shared power bank concept. Brick, a Stockholm-based Swedish franchise has created a system in which users can sign up, and pay €1 an hour, or €5 a day to use the power bank user has charged their phone, and they can deposit their Brick power bank in one of many charging stations dotted around the train network.
Despite the Swedish brand’s relatively young age, it has managed to adopt a franchise model and grow into Australia, Caucasus, Canada, Nigeria, Panama, Peru and Turkey. With more products on the way in 2022 and an ambition to establish itself in the U.S., we may be hearing more about this Swedish tech brand and founder and CEO, Emil Esselin in the future.
RP: How did you identify this problem?
EE:It all started when I was working in China for a few years. I came across this phenomenon, which is power bank sharing. At home, I’m quite tech-savvy. I have Alexa home, and I have Philips Hue with blinking lights. And then I got a digital home lock, which opened with your phone. I came up to my room with my girlfriend one evening and my phone was dead, so I couldn’t open the door. That’s when I realized that the technology that was supposed to enable me just completely disabled me. That’s where I felt the problem.
“As a company, we’ve always believed in and had a mantra, ‘access beats ownership’.”
RP: Has Brick been hampered by COVID’s impact on in-person retail businesses, or is your model diverse enough that it has thrived regardless?
EE: We launched three months before COVID-19 hit, and the pandemic definitely affected us. Sweden’s restrictions are low, and were very few. Our business was down nearly 70 per cent, approximately. But if you’re looking now, we’re back. October being our best month ever confirmed it; it outperformed July, which is usually unexpected since seasonality dictates that July is our peak month. So, when the restrictions were over in Sweden in October, it just went through the roof. We were definitely affected, but now we’re through it.
RP: How have you managed to successfully roll out in so many disparate countries?
EE: I would say that within our sector, business is extremely local. We know how to develop the software and produce hardware; the franchisors have all the local knowledge and how to handle all the sales. I think that’s where we have found success with this model, because we centralize what can be centralized and we localize what can be localized.
Since day one, we always thought about how we build this as scalable and flexible as possible, because we don’t know where it will head in the future. Except for a few things like compatibility with different phone models and local payment methods or login options, the world has shown to be so much smaller than expected. It’s a global platform and we have taken into account how to operate in Nigeria, Australia and Canada, but also in Peru.
RP: Did you have any trouble convincing people in the viability of your concept
EE: People are requesting this service from us. And from the franchising, I think what we’re doing is filling a gap in the market, which is in between doing everything yourself, and buying a white label solution for a big sum, and then you still have to do all the brand building and development yourself. So, we provide everything, you only have to do sales in your market, because that’s what you know. We focus on our part, and they focus on their part.
RP: Are Brick looking at expanding into any new regions?
EE: On average we sign with one new market every month or launch one new market every month. We are currently in negotiations with more or less all developed countries. We are definitely looking for somebody to do this in the U.S. market because I think there’s a lot of potential there for our offering.
RP: Do Brick plan to bring out any other products to complement the power bank?
EE: Yes, we are currently planning to launch one or two highly requested products in 2022, it’s not just been requests to buy a franchise, but also to release other types of products. For now, it’s secret, but we are planning to launch one or two in 2022.
RP: What caused you to change your business model to a franchise model?
EE: As a company, we’ve always believed in and had a mantra, ‘access beats ownership’. Availability is much more efficient than buying and building yourself, for everything. With the pandemic, it forced us to rethink our expansion model. We couldn’t foresee when the markets would open again, especially for new companies entering the market.
So, then we asked ourselves, what if people can get access to what we have, and what we have built over the years? Then they could actually just run the expansion themselves because that’s what people are doing. And I mean, they can today, it’s better to license our platform and we get a small share of their success. We don’t succeed if they don’t succeed, and that’s the equation.
That helps you to scale up significantly quicker than if you’re doing everything on your own. It’s also much more profitable for everybody and builds a much better product than everyone trying to. We solely focus on what we are good at and entrepreneurs can focus on what they’re good at, and why they got into the business from the beginning.