Now that the elections are over, let’s build a sustainable future

Now that the elections are over, let’s build a sustainable future

Hi there,

I would like to tell you a bit about my journey with Autonomy and what I believe Macron’s victory could mean for sustainable mobility.

I am a South African entrepreneur who moved to France in late 2014 with the intention of building a powerful independent platform to help speed up the transition to sustainable urban mobility. It all began when my business trips to Lagos, Delhi, Copenhagen, Berlin and other cities, kindled a fascination with urban mobility. As a keen cyclist I appreciate efficient mobility, and as someone concerned with global warming and pollution I appreciate clean mobility.

I decided to base my business – Autonomy – in Paris for three reasons:

  1. Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s strong political will to transform mobility
  2. Paris is the world’s transport capital, with more transport-related companies than any other city
  3. With a child on the way, my wife and I wanted to live in a country which matched our values

In late 2015 we were scheduled to start selling the first edition. Then, in November, the terror attacks happened. Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge were a few hundred meters from our office, and regular hangouts for staff lunches and drinks. One of the victims, a young architect, had been in our offices two weeks before the attacks to pitch design ideas.

It was a difficult time for us. I feared that I had chosen the wrong city. But fortunately things changed. I was moved by the resilience of Paris and inspired to keep going. Brexit and Trump, while concerning for the Anglo-American world, provided much-needed perspective on what is right with Europe. As if to underline this point, the French overwhelmingly backed Macron, a staunch European.

I know Macron is not everyone’s favourite, and I’ve been sensitive to the fears of my younger, more left-leaning, friends. But, I can offer some first-hand experiences that leave me heartened. Before the election, I met and collaborated with En Marche’s green innovation and jobs team. My impression is that they are not cynical politicians in league with monopoly capital. Their aim is to position France as a world leader in green tech and to welcome scientists and entrepreneurs from all over the world, as we saw with Macron’s pre-election Facebook video. Meeting COP21 targets is going to require the best innovators and massive investment in new sustainable infrastructure. The fact that Macron is aware of this and has decided to move forward with it gives me hope that the terms of the Paris Agreement can be met.

This is also good news for Autonomy – we now have a long-term vision of building a major international mobility event in Paris. For the second edition, we are focused on connecting big business, innovators and policymakers on our platform. Mobility relies on public roads, which are regulated by politicians, and therefore innovators need to collaborate with policymakers on independent platforms.

If global warming continues unchecked, immigration pressure from a hot and drying Africa or a flooding Bangladesh will be severe. Our common enemy is the release of carbon from the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels. At Autonomy, we welcome all companies, innovators, politicians and press wanting to collaborate to build a sustainable urban mobility future. 

The Autonomy team consists of 15 Parisians in their 20s and 30s from diverse backgrounds. Our office on 28 rue des Petits Hotels, in the 10th arrondissement, is close to Gare de l’Est, where we have a project with SNCF, and other partners, to convert the station into a ‘new mobility hub’. We speak to 2,500 companies, (many of them startups), cities and city networks interested in new mobility solutions, and to major OEMs who have launched new mobility divisions. We have a good overview of a rapidly changing industry and would be more than happy to share trends and insights with you.

Keep in touch with me by connecting on LinkedIn, or respond to this mail in English, French, Italian, German or Spanish and we will get back to you.

I sincerely hope that you can become part of our urban mobility community and I look forward to meeting you at Autonomy 2017.

Ross Douglas 

CEO of Autonomy

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