“Entrepreneurship is a state of mind,” says Niina Suuriniemi Hopper, founder and CEO of EVA Global. “You need to have passion, drive and grit. Even if your career hasn’t followed a traditional path leading up to your next chapter, you can always apply your skills to new things and make it happen. In fact, I believe there is great strength in this for bringing new energy and perspective.”
Niina’s own career path has been a fascinating one. Following her PhD in surgery from the University of Cambridge, she worked for a decade in medical research. “I was looking at microscopically small ways to improve health, and now, having redirected my career into emobility, improving lives continues to be my inspiration,” says Niina who is based in Tampere, Finland. While on maternity leave, she started wondering how the individual choices we all make on a daily basis could improve our health. “I became more aware of the climate crisis and what air pollution does to us, particularly to children. Looking at our carbon footprints, the way we move is the biggest factor and now there are so many choices available, from car sharing to cycling, and of course EVs.” After reducing her own family’s carbon footprint by looking into more sustainable travel options, she searched for ways to support this transition on a much larger scale.
Fundamentally, she understood that mainstreaming of EVs would require building more public trust, so in 2017, she founded EVA Global, which focuses on improving the user experience: “E-mobility has grown out of technological advancements, so it often focuses on how batteries and cars are improving and that’s all super exciting. But as an EV owner, navigating payment systems and signing up to charging networks wasn’t that great to start with and continues to be an obstacle today.”
In big cities, EV drivers might have the option of a hundred different apps to register with so the system can be incredibly fragmented. Niina’s mission is to ensure EV drivers have access to specialist support in charging their EV at all times. As EVs become more popular, drivers are getting more anxious about whether there will be enough charging points, or they might worry about how to plan a journey in accordance with their car’s range. “An EV as we see on the market today is a totally new concept; it’s more like an iPad on wheels. Learning about your EV, its updates and other external factors can be overwhelming. Through EVA’s services we are building trust in emobility and are guided by our Never Stranded philosophy.” Niina and her team are helping to solve that piece of the puzzle by actively monitoring charging infrastructures, making sure that those chargers are available and reliable as well as assisting any drivers who need expert advice on the phone. “Our job is to be the voice of the consumer, putting forward ideas and suggesting feedback within the industry, while also managing our partnerships with manufacturers of chargers and cars.”
Today, her team of 60 are operating in more than 30 countries from offices in Finland, Spain and the Netherlands: “As an organisation we are assisting the transition to electrification of our transport systems. Currently helping more than 200,000 drivers across Europe and the UK on a yearly basis. It’s a great feeling to have this scale and impact– it’s a team effort, absolutely,” says Niina who is excited to be expanding into Asia and the US.
Because e-mobility is a young sector, there’s enormous scope to make it more inclusive from the start and according to Niina, women are definitely bringing something fresh to the boardroom. While securing initial funding can be more of a challenge for female founders, research shows that female-led companies (see here) tend to produce higher profits and be a safer investment. Niina says it’s important to be aware of these biases, offer mentorship programmes and encourage more women into the automotive industry: “As a relatively new industry, emobility is being built up in strong diversity. There should be no limits, but when there are, we need to be brave in breaking them down” advises Niina.
“The transportation sector has been traditionally male dominated in the past and I think women are under-represented as leaders in all industries. But as we move away from this, we see that women bring different knowledge and ideas and through that diversity, we can find better solutions,” says Niina, whose management team is 78 per cent female. That’s key to her company’s success, she says, and adds another dimension to the business because women think of what’s best for their community: “It’s really important in decision-making to think of the benefits to society beyond just ourselves.” And this mindset reflects the culture of her Finnish upbringing, as Niina explains: “We’re a very techy nation; we’re also very small with just 5.5million people so Finland has a very community-driven atmosphere. From that, I learnt that together we can achieve more than we can individually.”