The recent adoption of a joint leadership model at FAIRTIQ is proof that two heads are better than one. Gian-Mattia Schucan, the company's founder, will split the CEO role with Anne Mellano, who was previously CBO (Chief Business Officer) at FAIRTIQ. We spoke to Anne and Gian-Mattia about FAIRTIQ's rapid growth, Anne's background as the founder of the mobility start-up Bestmile, and their future plans.
FAIRTIQ workforce doubled since 2021
The Swiss start-up has experienced massive growth since it was founded in 2016. The first version of the FAIRTIQ app was developed by a six-member team. Seven years later, the company has over 140 employees in nine countries, and the FAIRTIQ system now processes over one million public transport journeys every week.
FAIRTIQ has emerged as the most successful smartphone-based check-in/check-out solution. But the start-up is not ready to rest on its laurels just yet. It has big plans in the pipeline. As a tech start-up in the fast-moving mobility sector, the shift to a joint leadership model can be an effective way for it to foster diversity and creativity.
"Adopting the joint leadership model and having two CEOs mean that we are much better equipped to hit every milestone that FAIRTIQ wants to reach in the coming years." Gian-Mattia Schucan
As the name suggests, 'joint leadership' refers to a strategy where two or more individuals manage a company together and share responsibilities for it. Having leaders with different backgrounds and viewpoints can create a dynamic and inclusive work culture.
A period of accelerated change for the mobility and tech sectors
A joint leadership model can help make firms more agile and flexible. The mobility sector in particular has to contend with the challenge of bringing together the many different stakeholders involved within each transport association. Another benefit of this management model is better decision-making and greater integration of transport providers in this process.
"I'm really looking forward to splitting the CEO role with Anne and working together to support FAIRTIQ's continued growth. Anne brings not only her extensive business and operational experience in the mobility sector but also fresh perspectives to the new role." Gian-Mattia Schucan.
Anne Mellano - no stranger to the mobility world
FAIRTIQ's new co-CEO made a name for herself with the Swiss mobility start-up Bestmile, which she also co-founded. She has forged a reputation as an expert in mobility services and is a staunch advocate for safe, efficient and inclusive mobility. Bestmile was a fleet orchestration platform that made it easier for mobility providers to manage and optimise their autonomous and human-driven mobility services. After eight years of steady growth, Bestmile was forced to wind up its business at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The technology is now owned and further developed by the German company ZF. Although this was an unexpected change in fortunes, it taught Anne a great deal about managing crises, which included finding a new home for the software and the team, and accompanying them during the changeover.
We spoke to Anne and Gian-Mattia about the motivations behind the adoption of the joint leadership models and what the future holds for their partnership and for FAIRTIQ
FAIRTIQ: FAIRTIQ has decided to adopt a new joint leadership model, with Anne Mellano as Co-CEO. How come?
Gian-Mattia Schucan: FAIRTIQ has had a tremendous growth path since its beginnings in 2016, from just six employees when we launched the first version of our app to currently over 140 people in nine countries. Our product is now available in six countries, simplifies more than one trip per second and has become a massive platform. The corresponding opportunities and challenges, in terms of product and business development, operational excellence and leadership, are constantly growing and will continue to do so. We are convinced that this is only the beginning of a much bigger adventure, so we felt that this is the moment to increase our leadership bandwidth.
Anne Mellano: We were in close collaboration mode for some time already and the idea of a 'CEO-as-a-team' model came from Gian-Mattia (GM) and was endorsed by the Board. The goal is to focus on our respective strengths as we believe that the complementary nature of our skills and knowledge enable us to tackle the challenges we face head on. GM brings his longstanding expertise in public transport and leadership, while I bring my entrepreneurial and operational experience and mindset to the job, as well as a fresh perspective on the business.
FAIRTIQ: Gian-Mattia Schucan, is this a sign that you are planning to bow out of FAIRTIQ?
Gian-Mattia Schucan: There is far too much FAIRTIQ energy in me to let go of it at this point. So, the short answer is no. This is much more about my strong belief that we will be able to lead FAIRTIQ better as a team.
FAIRTIQ: Anne, could you share a bit about your past in the tech and mobility world?
Anne Mellano: I have always worked in roles that had some connection to public transport. First in a town planning office and then as an entrepreneur in the autonomous mobility industry for 10 years. I had the chance to participate in the first deployments of driverless mini-buses in Europe, which led to the realisation that the developments were all focused on the vehicles, yet the true added value of the technology will come from the quality of the shared services it supports. I joined FAIRTIQ in 2021, and my focus was on the company's effectiveness and helping it to cope with the effects that its growth was having on its business operations and processes.
FAIRTIQ: As such an experienced expert you can basically choose to work anywhere. What made you join FAIRTIQ?
Anne Mellano: The similarities with the company I had founded: a software-as-a-service scale-up, in Switzerland, in the mobility sector, with a united and healthy team and a mission that matters. The growth-related challenges are also very interesting. I did not see myself joining a more established company with a high level of inertia and more limited scope for innovation.
FAIRTIQ: Anne and Gian-Mattia, from your point of view: what are the benefits of the joint leadership model and how do you put that into practice?
Gian-Mattia Schucan: For me having more capacity for leading the team and fostering our ever-growing partner network is one factor. Another one which I have been craving for is to always have a sparring partner who has a comprehensive and holistic view of the company and its strategy.
Anne Mellano: It was important for us to have a clear division of responsibilities so as not to generate overheads for the team. While key decisions are taken jointly, we each focus on different aspects of the business. This is the theory; now we need to put it into practice and learn how to best apply the model on a daily basis.
FAIRTIQ: Do you both think it is time for a leadership re-think more generally?
Gian-Mattia Schucan: I don’t believe in 'revolutions' when it comes to leadership. This is much more about finding the right balance between learning lessons from the past and openness to new ideas to fit the needs of a company.
Anne Mellano: There have been many developments in this area. Although there is more emphasis put on soft skills today, competence remains the essential ingredient. I think there is no miracle leadership pattern or style. We have to adapt to the situation the company is in, which can evolve, and mirror the culture we foster.
FAIRTIQ: Gian-Mattia, did you specifically want to appoint a woman for the co-CEO role in the interests of gender equality?
Gian-Mattia Schucan: We’ve found the perfect person in terms of skills, entrepreneurial experience and personal fit. But I’m sure that the fact that Anne is not an 'old white male' like myself makes us a more complimentary team.
FAIRTIQ: Anne, what is your vision for your work with FAIRTIQ and in the mobility sector at large?
Anne Mellano: I’m very much aligned with FAIRTIQ’s mission of making sustainable mobility simple for people to use. It is the best way to attract more people to public transport, which is an imperative in today's world. I also like the idea of applying this simplicity to day-to-day leadership. No big theories, but pragmatic solutions and coaching for our teams.
The joint leadership model will support the further development and expansion of FAIRTIQ as an app and a solution partner for transport operators, simplifying access to sustainable mobility for people around the world.