Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business

Reimagining Global Car Ownership by Relocating to Wales

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When the Wagonex business was created five years ago to solve the costly conundrum of either buying a car or being stuck in a long-term vehicle lease, this visionary start-up set-up home in one of the most sought-after digital destinations in Europe. 

Settled amongst the world-class digital community of Shoreditch – an entrepreneurial tech ecosystem that’s launched many a unicorn and sparked more than a few digital revolutions – Wagonex got to work in the rarefied atmosphere of London E1, exploring the best way to provide customers with an easy, ingenious alternative to borrowing huge sums of money simply to buy a car that loses value the second it’s driven away.

The team discovered that a range of flexible, all-inclusive subscriptions from established providers was the ignition key to a new world for drivers of all vehicles – and the pioneering Wagonex platform came into being. Job done? Not quite. Ever grounded in the realities of building a truly world-leading fintech company, the Wagonex team realised they needed to secure fresh thinking, potential access to further funding – and the warm feeling of ‘friendly human support’ that still plays a valuable role in nurturing any global vision into sustainable success.

Attracting amorous advances from many digital centres up and down the UK, Wagonex chose Tramshed Tech in Cardiff as the base for future growth, and recently expanded to the Tec Marina in Penarth, while becoming part of the first cohort at the FinTech Wales Foundry Accelerator Programme.

We caught up with the Wagonex team to extend our congratulations on making such an astute choice – and find out why the Welsh capital was the favoured launchpad for the next stage of their astonishing journey ….

South Wales is a place where outstanding people launch amazing products

“Our research told us that South Wales is a place where outstanding people launch amazing products”, explained Ella Hastings, Chief Marketing Officer of Wagonex. “The calibre of the people and the pedigree of the companies here are every bit as impressive as those in London. There are 16,000 professionals working in Welsh-based fintechs, with over 20,000 more coming through the pipeline – and that critical mass of talent is exciting in itself, given our ambitions to grow a company that’s a global player in what will become a phenomenally valuable market. Volvo’s own research tells them that 20% of their audience could be driving a car through subscription in the next few years and the same will hold true for all car manufacturers and dealerships, as subscription becomes an established pillar alongside purchase and lease. That shift in consumer behaviour will only grow exponentially as people become aware of the benefits of our approach to both their finances and the planet.”

“The support we have had from Development Bank Wales and the FinTech Wales Foundry has been incredible” enthused Toby Kernon, Founder and CEO at Wagonex. “Development Bank Wales has invested in us and in the first few months of joining the Foundry cohort we have already been introduced to senior contacts in IBM and Microsoft, which is quite incredible – and invaluable for a technology platform such as ours. I’ve also enjoyed an inspirational fireside chat with Henry Engelhardt, the founder and former CEO of Admiral Group – and when I needed to bounce a few thoughts off someone who had ‘been there and done it’, Nigel Griffiths, Chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Business Council, had no hesitation in taking a call from me one evening, proving to be a brilliant sounding-board. We’ve even enjoyed practical help in engaging our first colleague from the Kickstart scheme. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where we would have been made so welcome and received such fantastic support from people who really understand what we’re trying to achieve.

“Becoming part of the first FinTech Wales Accelerator cohort – and being able to ‘plug-in’ to this unique ecosystem, to share knowledge and collaborate on a daily basis – has made such a difference.”

I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where we would have enjoyed such a welcome and support

The Wagonex team has grown from a small handful of people to a 12-strong collective in the past year or so – with the pandemic proving a positive time for both talent acquisition and a heightened customer awareness that a car sat in the garage represents a costly investment that’s not being used efficiently.

“In many ways the market conditions and customer circumstances of the past 12 months have been the perfect backdrop for our next stage of growth” says Toby. “When I had the original idea for Wagonex nearly six years ago, I knew that space was emerging for the easy-to-use and totally transparent ‘all-in-subscription model’, with massive potential to become a really important and valuable service. Why shouldn’t someone be able to enjoy driving a convertible sports car in the summer, then switch to the comfort of an SUV in the winter, without needless hassle? I didn’t quite envisage the speed of change that the world would experience over the past couple of years – nor the sheer pace of social and economic transformation that ultimately makes the Wagonex offer so compelling, right now and forever more.”

Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales, confirmed the tremendous progress being made by both Wagonex and the wider FinTech Wales community:

“We’re delighted to have Wagonex selected for this first accelerator cohort – and draw great encouragement from their early feedback on the support they have received. FinTech Wales is determined to provide the very best programme through this inaugural Fintech Accelerator and it's great to know that we’re delivering on our promises to the companies joining our thriving Welsh Fintech community – and we’ll keep doing just that, to make sure Wagonex and everyone else in our Foundry achieves the success they so richly deserve.”