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Founder Hour: An Interview with Marty Leuenberger

Meet Martin ('Marty') Leuenberger, Outbound's Co-Founder and Partnerships Director! With an impressive 18 years in property development, Marty's portfolio boasts iconic projects like Quay Quarter Lanes, Quay Apartments  and Green Square in NSW. His expertise is clear, but what truly sets him apart is his unwavering commitment to community engagement and his talent for uncovering hidden value within developments.

Beyond his role at Outbound, Marty wears another hat as an emerging high-performance coach for senior leaders in the Australian Real Estate market. With such a diverse skill set, Martin is undeniably a formidable force behind Outbound's mission to transform urban mobility.

In our exclusive interview, we sat down with Marty to delve into his journey with Outbound and uncover his insights and vision for the company's future. ⭐

1. Welcome, Marty! Could you share with us how your journey led you to join Outbound and get involved with the venture of creating an electric car club for residential and commercial properties?

Absolutely. Before I got involved with Outbound, Luke and I would catch up once a week, almost as accountability/brainstorming  partners for our individual businesses. 

 In having a number of different conversations with Luke about Outbound, I began to understand the business model, the direction and the problem that Luke was trying to solve. l could immediately see that this was a great solution to solve mobility issues, not only for cities, but also for developers. As a former developer, I understood there were council DA conditions and parking issues that needed to be resolved, so I could see the clear role that Outbound was going to play in the future of the built environment. I had some insights from my own network in the development world, so I'd throw in a few pointers and connect him with the right people who were making decisions.

When Luke offered me the chance to join Outbound, it was his passion and vision that really sold me. I wanted to be a part of what he was building – a business that could make a real difference in a fun and emerging space. 

2. Outbound’s approach to electric car sharing is quite unique. What motivates you to provide an electric car-sharing service that’s exclusive, tailored to residents and tenants within specific properties?

My development experience led me to realise the pitfalls of existing car share models, particularly for high-end residential developments. As an example, in my most recent project in Sydney, we were mandated to have car share vehicles and ended up going with a provider that required public access to the building. That caused a whole lot of issues including increased insurance costs and added expenses for strata to allow public access into the basement.

It also meant that the public, who weren’t vetted in any other way to the operator themselves, had access to a premium, secure basement, meant for high-end residential users. As a result, the residents and the building were subject to unnecessary security risks and an amenity which wasn’t exclusive to the residents, because the car was always booked out by the public. This proved to be very frustrating for the residents, especially those with no parking spaces. 

3. How do you see Outbound contributing to the broader landscape of sustainable transportation and urban mobility?

I think Outbound offers a genuine solution for reducing the need for people to own so many vehicles - essentially becoming everyone’s second car.  While it does require a shift in behaviour, the last 10 years have shown a huge shift towards the sharing economy, which people are very comfortable with. As Outbound, our responsibility is to maintain a high-quality and reliable service, so people can depend on us for their transportation needs.

For me, it’s about reducing car ownership - which means we solve a broader problem around affordability. Instead of having a liability sitting in the garage wasting 10 to 15 thousand dollars a year in costs, people can redirect those funds and use them in more meaningful ways - whether it’s for travel, saving for a home deposit, or pursuing other financial goals. It’s about empowering people to make smarter choices with their money. 

Co-Founders Marty and Luke at the launch of the 180 George Street Electric Car Club
4. Can you walk us through the process of how properties become part of the Outbound network?

Absolutely, our priority is always to ensure that we select properties where Outbound can genuinely add value. Once we've secured an Outbound vehicle for a development, it's important that we deploy the right number and types of vehicles, tailored to that specific community. For instance, we're mindful not to place luxury vehicles like the Porsche Taycan in an affordable housing development, or a car in a small development where each resident has sufficient parking. Our aim is to ensure that the vehicles we choose act as a true amenity for the residents who will be using them.

As an example, one idea I've been considering is the introduction of electric vans into our fleet for new developments. These vans could be available for residents to use during the initial 6-12 months, making it easier for them to shop at IKEA or move from one apartment to the next. Different people within a community are in different seasons of life, too, so where one person might want to use a small city car to go to the beach, another will require an SUV because they have a young family.

The future is focused on public hubs and we will be looking at areas and locations that are multi-modal, strategically connected to a bus or train link, or a hub where people are gathering or going to do their shopping, for example. We don’t want Outbound to be everywhere, we want to be strategic, to ensure it helps people connect with other means of transport, as well as convenience. 

5. What do you think are the main benefits for members of Outbound Electric Car Clubs?

Well, the big one is having access to a reliable vehicle that is clean, charged and ready to go whenever they need it. Plus, there’s our on-demand customer service, which eliminates any anxiety about how the vehicle works or how to make a booking. We take a hands-on approach to onboarding, which ensures that our users feel extremely comfortable with the process and any type of vehicle in their deployment. Our members become acquainted with the service very quickly, which for us, helps drive usage, but also helps us build a service that becomes a part of people’s everyday life.

Looking ahead, we want to be able to offer a network where you can fly into Melbourne for the weekend, book a vehicle through the app - whether it’s at a public hub or the airport - and have a full circle experience end-to-end. And, because we’re all about community, we’re brainstorming what an Outbound club could offer in the future, whether that’s discounts or perks like exclusive access to events, too.

6. What challenges have you faced while launching and growing Outbound, and how have you overcome them?

Honestly, there haven’t been that many! I think the main challenge is with the traditional car share scheme, which is often considered free to a developer. It’s important for us to educate developers and communicate the story, or the point of difference of our offering - explaining that other services may actually not be in line with their vision and customer expectations.

Another challenge is that councils are still trying to understand how to best deliver carsharing services. Sometimes, they’ll include carshare spaces as a DA condition, but the developments will be delivered without a clear plan for implementation and leave it up to strata, which is rarely implemented correctly. It’s about finding ways to make sure developers and carshare operators are on the same page and ensure that the council mobility strategy is implemented.

On the business side, getting developers to commit early has been tricky where there is a long construction time before the service is actually implemented. Sometimes we’re brought in 3 years before a project is finished to support sales and leasing strategies, while other times it’s just a month before settlement. Each situation comes with its own challenges, but we’ve learnt to adapt and roll with the punches. 

7. Can you share any success stories or memorable experiences from your journey with Outbound so far?

I know it’s our flagship, but 180 George Street stands out for me. It’s such a significant project with a significant developer and it really put us on the map. I’m especially grateful to one of our early investors, who believed in both our business model and our team early on. Their introductions opened doors for us that we couldn’t have opened ourselves and led us to have the right conversation with the right person, who was willing to bet on us delivering for them.

The fact that a global company like Lendlease, known for their high level of due diligence, decided to support us when we didn’t have a long track record, was a huge feat for Outbound, Luke and myself. And the best part is that we delivered on that trust.

Today, that same Project Director who chose to implement Outbound is one of the biggest users of our 180 George Street vehicles. And he’s said in his own words since - it was up to us in the end whether we could deliver on our promise. And we did. 

8. Looking ahead, what are your plans for the future of Outbound and the expansion of its services?

We’ve made a huge dent in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland, in regards to who Outbound is and our capabilities and we’ve had conversations with the majority of public and private developers. So now, the short-term focus is to build awareness of Outbound and our services to architects, town planners, councils, and traffic engineers - the reason being that that’s the next layer that developers rely on for advice and innovation.

The long-term focus is to deliver on our current pipeline and to continue adding to it. The future will then depend on having repeat customers - making sure that our partners sign up for another property after the original project is delivered. That is how we are going to define success - if someone stays with us as a long-term partner. 

9. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start their own ventures?

I would advise always creating space in your week to reflect and explore new opportunities. When I worked as a development manager, I had blinders on. I was so focused on my day-to-day tasks that I feel like I missed out on opportunities to pivot or adapt. I didn’t have the space to say yes to or explore new possibilities.

When you take a step back to reflect on your week - what went well, what didn’t go well, and what is important for the week ahead - you know where you stand at all times, and you can make progress. You might not feel like you are doing amazing things right now, but at least you are taking small steps in the right direction. It’s about being deeply involved in the process rather than arriving somewhere thinking, “How did I get here?".

10. How do you envision the future of electric car sharing evolving, and what role do you see Outbound playing in that future?

I see a future with a network of EV sharing hubs, where people no longer need to own their own EVs. You simply book a ride, an EV arrives to pick you up and drops you off at your next destination while charging itself as it waits for the next user. When your meeting or errand is done, another EV is ready to take you wherever you need to go. I really envision this system of autonomous scheduling, where one vehicle communicates with another to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs.

That vision might exist 20 years in the future, but I do feel that we are seeing signs of this shift already happening. With the rising cost of living and discussions of new taxes coming into play, people are looking into the possibility of owning just one vehicle and relying on car sharing as their second vehicle for incidental trips.