ChargeBox charging stations power millions of mobile devices in countries including New Zealand –where ChargedAs is the only authorised distributor. We caught up with ChargeBox CEO Ian Hobson to find out how ChargeBox became a global market leader.

ChargeBox CEO Ian Hobson at his London HQ

ChargeBox CEO Ian Hobson at the London HQ. ChargedAs owner Bevan Haswell worked at the nearby ChargeBox factory before returning home to NZ to set up ChargedAs in 2017.

1. What are the brand opportunities for ChargeBox clients?

Our clients gain great value by offering this service to their customers. We know some of our shopping centres were adamant that their brand needed to be on the stations to demonstrate to their visitors that they were providing the service for their customers directly – don’t let someone else take the credit.

We have incredible return-on-investment studies from a number of sectors demonstrating the value for footfall, dwell time, loyalty, spend, satisfaction and other metrics.

We think lots of companies who pay a lot to put up simple posters or videos have a lot more to gain by advertising on ChargeBox while delivering a great experience to their customers or customer targets.

2. How does ChargeBox enhance customer experience?

I think this depends on the setting. But we are there to delight our clients’ customers and reduce their anxiety.

If we help our clients do that for their customers, then we know there is value. There are many details, though, in achieving this.

We must focus on making our services as simple as possible – something we’re passionate about. At the same time, we must provide complete safety – for devices and for charging.

We have to earn the trust of the end users, and we do that by focusing on the quality of the delivery. Only ChargeBox’s approach to charging and to security can deliver those two pillars. But perhaps more important than all these aspects is ensuring the service is delivered not just on day one, but on day 100.

❛We have focused from day one on making the user experience the very best it can be.❜

If we install ChargeBox stations anywhere, we need to know they’re working, that each locker is working and each cable is working.

Our telemetry has evolved considerably to inform our business and clients and to maximise this. If you depend on ChargeBox, you want to know it’s working when you show up – every time. So behind the scenes, we’re doing everything we can to maximise availability and ensure the customer experience is maintained. For a stand-alone kiosk that takes an enormous amount of use and abuse, this is a considerable task.

3. You’ve won awards and expanded to many countries. What’s the secret to your success?

We have been a pioneer in public device charging, and we will always stay that way. When people use ChargeBox, they see just how simple, safe and superb it is.

We have focused from day one on making the user experience the very best it can be. That is a lot harder than you might imagine.

Much of our international success comes from people seeing ChargeBox in a different country and realising it’s exactly what they should have in their own environment. So we’ve been delighted to work with entrepreneurs and businesses in over 40 countries worldwide, on every continent, to bring ChargeBox there.

I think that focus on user experience is key for us to provide the very best usage levels for our clients and make our users as satisfied as they can be.

4. What is your proudest achievement?

I love the fact that we’ve charged almost 30 million devices over the years, and are now running at over 7 million devices a year.

We know there are some “life-saving” moments in there, and we get that feedback all the time. I also love getting great testimonials from our clients.

But if you want to know what makes me most proud – it’s having a great team of people – now around 25 in the UK alone and a greater “family” overseas with our partner network – and that we’ve paid our team a good salary every single month, always on time, for more than 13 years. Many of those have grown-up, had families, travelled the world and had a great experience. As a humanist and a globalist, this is what makes me most proud.

5. Where do you see the future of mobile phone charging?

We are particularly excited by people carrying even more devices – headphones, watches, other wearables. Even if devices can last two or three days, we know people will still need us when out and about – especially when they start to forget the routine of charging every night.

But we’re also excited about new charging technologies. Wireless charging is great, but right now it’s unreliable and slow. Maybe fine next to your bed, but not what you need in a public space. However, we know it’s going to get better.

From our first day, we’ve been told this “problem” will go away. But every day we do even more charges – and we know that as long as people have devices with batteries, they’ll need a ChargeBox-like service.

❛What excites us right now is Fast Charge … We are first in the world to support this for public charging solutions❜

What excites us right now is Fast Charge – the latest USB charging specification that can even charge laptops at high rates. We are first in the world to support this for public charging solutions, with three times faster charging than original chargers and today’s wireless chargers.

Longer term, we’d love to see true wireless charging – charging your phone or device at a distance and without conscious effort. There are some exciting developments here that we follow. We’ll be bringing out infrastructure management to such solutions to ensure safety and availability to our end customers.

6. What is the future of ChargeBox?As long as small devices need power, there’s a need for ChargeBox – public-charging managed infrastructure. With cables or without cables, visible or invisible.

Our core competency is making sure it works – not just on day one, but forever so you can trust it being there. Commercial-grade charging infrastructure is a lot harder to deliver than you can imagine, and we will be there with the best solutions to deliver a great customer service.

7. How have the objectives for ChargeBox evolved?

In some ways, it’s the same – keeping people connected. But the urgency for that is far more than we ever imagined. It’s not just calls and texts, it’s everything – knowing where you are or are going, having your e-ticket/boarding pass, paying for things, ordering things, taking photos/videos of key moments – anything you use your smartphone for.

Our raison d’être has grown a thousand fold. So our goal is to be where people need our service – while out and about shopping, being entertained, travelling, working, visiting or even being treated in hospital. Ideally we’ll provide charging for free at any or all of those places. Every day, I look at how many charges we did yesterday and we look to keep increasing that (we’re now over 7 million per year and over 27 million in total).

❛We developed rudimentary telemetry to keep us knowledgeable about how each unit was performing. Our first clients loved it❜

8. How did ChargeBox come about?

In the early 2000s, phones were just phones. The batteries lasted a few days, but when you did need to charge, you needed a proprietary charger as all phones had different endings. Many people did not carry these chargers with them, or they had no place to use them or leave their phones. So we created lockers with multiple endings in each locker to provide safe and secure charging.

We prototyped a few solutions, including PIN code and key. We developed rudimentary telemetry to keep us knowledgeable about how each unit was performing. Our first clients loved it; but it had to pay for itself, so all public units required a small payment by coin or text message.

9. What were your goals when starting ChargeBox?

We saw our goal as helping to keep people connected. We knew if your phone was dead, you felt vulnerable. Also, people forgot other phone numbers – they were all stored on their phone. So if the phone was dead you couldn’t even use a public phone box (remember them?). We knew if we did this well, the company would grow. Remember at this time, phones just made calls or sent or received texts – not much else.

10 . How did you get into the mobile phone charging business?

In the early 1990s, within a few days I saw our office cleaner and a bus conductor using their mobile phones and realised this was a device for everyone. And so it has become that 90% of the world now has a mobile phone and two thirds have a smartphone. How incredible is that? The whole world not the developed world!

I am a geek at heart. I remember with excitement getting our first Mac when they were released in 1984, and I’ve been an early adopter ever since. I enjoyed seven fantastic years in Silicon Valley and still have many friends there. I loved the energy and excitement of that environment.

❛Free mobile phone charging has become an important part of customer experience❜

I spent a few years with Accenture before moving to a Silicon Valley investment bank (Hambrecht & Quist), which brought a lot of high tech companies to market including Apple and Adobe. I was head of IT (not an investment banker myself), and I got great exposure to the technology business. We also invested a lot in cutting edge technology for the financial markets. This led to me joining a key technology provider based in Silicon Valley. I later headed back to the UK where I became European employee number one.

In the early 2000s, I was approached by a smart entrepreneur who shared my vision for the ubiquity of technology and had spotted an opportunity that power was a fundamental requirement wherever people were. Each device often had a different connector/power supply and his vision was to be able to charge as many devices as possible in public spaces so that people could rely on their devices all of the time. Our first ChargeBox stations solved that problem.

As the years passed, demand for phone charging as a means to engage audiences increased. Instead of people paying to charge their phone to make calls and send texts, businesses valued their customers feeling relaxed and happy in their environments. Therefore, they would make more of their experience in that environment, so they wished to deliver a quality experience to those people. Free mobile phone charging has become an important part of customer experience in the UK, and it’s our goal to bring this to the world.

ChargedAs is the only authorised distributor of ChargeBox in Australasia. We have access to the entire secure, fast-charging range and can also facilitate custom-made bespoke charging solutions.