Ep. 121 The MongoDB World Series - Oli Proulx From ChargeHub

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This is a podcast episode titled, Ep. 121 The MongoDB World Series - Oli Proulx From ChargeHub. The summary for this episode is: <p>Our sixth conversation from the MongoDB World Series features Olivier Proulx from ChargeHub. Oli's goal as a Co-founder of ChargeHub is to create a roadmap of charging stations for electric vehicle drivers, and in doing so make it easier for people to adopt the technology. In today's conversation, MongoDB Principal Developer Advocate and host, Mike Lynn talks with Oli about the ins and outs of electric vehicles, ChargeHub's business model, how it leverages MongoDB, and more.</p><p><br></p><p>Conversation highlights: </p><ul><li>[02:38] Meet Ollie, co-founder of ChargeHub</li><li>[03:26] Electric vehicle range and using ChargeHub to navigate between power</li><li>[05:57] The origin of ChargeHub</li><li>[06:34] Getting data for charging stations as a third party</li><li>[07:19] ChargeHub's business model and revenue streams</li><li>[09:21] How ChargeHub leverages MongoDB in their stack</li><li>[10:57] Taking advantage of queryable encryption </li><li>[13:42] Aiding the climate crisis by using electric vehicles</li><li>[16:37] The MongoDB Startup Program</li></ul>
Meet Ollie, co-founder of ChargeHub
00:46 MIN
Electric vehicle range and using ChargeHub to navigate between power
02:31 MIN
The origin of ChargeHub
00:35 MIN
Getting data for charging stations as a third party
00:42 MIN
ChargeHub's business model and revenue streams
02:01 MIN
How ChargeHub leverages MongoDB in their stack
01:17 MIN
Taking advantage of queryable encryption
01:53 MIN
ChargeHub availability
00:46 MIN
Aiding the climate crisis by using electric vehicles, and resources for those interested in the technology
02:00 MIN
Last thoughts on ChargeHub
00:46 MIN
The MongoDB Startup Program
01:09 MIN

Shane McAllister: Welcome to the MongoDB Podcast. I'm Shane McAllister, developer advocate here at MongoDB and we are glad to have you join us. This is another in our World Podcast Series, where we play back recordings that were taken at the show floor at MongoDB World and once again, I'm also joined by Cedric our intern here at MongoDB. Not our only intern, one of 120. So Cedric, how are things this week?

Cedric: They're going fantastic. It's another week, of course, in the New York City office and speaking of the other 120 plus interns that we have around the world, I'm actually going around this weekend, interviewing some of these other summer interns about their projects. So learning how they've gotten into software development, product management, legal marketing, and a bunch of other fields, so it's going to be fascinating to do these interviews. I've never really conducted anything like this, but you know, all these interns are super excited. They're super passionate about these projects, about making impact. So yeah, that's going to be my project for the week.

Shane McAllister: Excellent. I that going to end up on a podcast in the future perhaps as well too, all those interviews?

Cedric: It will. It will. I'm very, very excited for that. It'll come out somewhere near the end of the internship in August, but yeah, it'll be a intern highlight special.

Shane McAllister: Excellent. Very much look forward to that. That should be good and it'll be very interesting because I think that as you say, the fresh perspective our interns have, I know I work closely with two here in our Dublin office, and it's amazing to see their perspective on things and how they go about things. So yeah, that sounds really good. We have another interview here, Cedric. This is I think interesting because all of these have been different. So this time we've got Ollie, the co- founder and CTO at a company called ChargeHub. Now ChargeHub are setting about trying to simplify electric vehicle driving by making charging your electric vehicle easier by getting rid of the range anxiety associated with electric vehicles. So, they've got an app and a website for finding charging stations initially, regardless of who operates, who owns them, who runs those. And indeed they are now working on something that's making life a little bit easier for most by paying for charging, not having to set up different accounts with lots of different providers. So once again, Ollie was at MongoDB World in June this year, and Mike Lynn got to interview Ollie on the show floor, so let's have a listen.

Mike Lynn: Let's kick off and let folks know who you are and what you do.

Ollie: So hi, I'm Ollie. I'm co- founder is CTO of ChargeHub, so my daily job at ChargeHub as a CTO is to lead the technical team, make sure they're happy working on amazing stuff, and making sure our tech stack is scalable for millions of users.

Mike Lynn: Fantastic. And ChargeHub. Tell folks about the business. What is ChargeHub?

Ollie: Yeah, so ChargeHub's mission is to grow electric vehicle adoption and the way we're doing that is by simplifying the electric vehicle charging experience. So that's kind of our our big mission. We have an app and a website to find all the charging stations in North America and just recently we also launched a product called ChargeHub Passport, that enables users to pay for charging, as well using a single app.

Mike Lynn: Okay. So I don't own an electric vehicle, but one of the things that I think about when I think about purchasing an electric vehicle is ensuring that I'm able to get charges on a longer trip. I guess the first thing, is what's the average like maximum distance across all the car makers, the car manufacturers, that you can travel?

Ollie: That's a great question. The older models have something like a hundred miles that you could do on a charge. Some of the newer models now are coming out with 300 or 400 miles, so you can go a lot further on a single charge. Keeping in mind, even at a hundred miles, a lot of times for a daily commute, that's completely fine. One thing that you have to remember is you usually come home and plug in, just like your phone, so you're always leaving your house with a full tank, which is really different from kind of the traditional experience of going once a week or once every two weeks to the gas station.

Mike Lynn: Okay. All right. So, it's not so much of a problem for the daily commuter. But when I'm going to take a trip somewhere and maybe travel a longer distance that I'm used to on a daily basis, I've got to think about this and that's where ChargeHub comes in. So, tell me how I interact with ChargeHub.

Ollie: Absolutely. Yeah. So, that's exactly where we fit in. We're really like a travel app actually. So when you go outside your range, you'll use ChargeHub to plan your trip. You'll make sure that if it's a really long trip, you can charge on the go. If it's a shorter trip, you'll find a destination charging station, so you use our platform because we have all the data. We include any station out there that's free or paid from any station operator, so that's really kind of the discovery aspect, to find charging stations. Another thing to keep in mind in the electric vehicle space is that charging stations aren't like gas stations, so they're not announced with a big sign outside, from the highway. They'll be quite smaller, so they could be like a size of a kind of an adult, a human. So, they're harder to find. You really need an app like ours to find where they are before you get there.

Mike Lynn: Interesting. So, are a majority of the charging stations that have been deployed, are they free?

Ollie: There's a number of them that are free. We actually have a filter. If you really don't want to pay for charging, you could filter out and only look at the free ones, but there's a lot of paid ones as well. I mean you are purchasing the electricity, purchasing the parking spot, so there's a lot of paid ones as well.

Mike Lynn: How did ChargeHub come about?

Ollie: That's a great question and a great story. We actually started the company more on the consulting side. We were doing some electric vehicle consulting. We're actually building electric vehicles for off- road and one of our clients kind of asked us to find all the charging stations in Canada and we decided the best way to do that was with an app. We put the app on the app store cause it was free and all of a sudden people were downloading it and using it and giving us some feedback and that's when we really realized that we're solving a problem. People actually needed to find these things. So yeah, that's how it came about.

Mike Lynn: So, there's the consumer side and if I've got an electric vehicle and I want to find these, what about the other side? How do you get the data about the available charging stations?

Ollie: We really connect the charge station operators, so the people that are operating the charging stations, to the EV drivers. We're a neutral third party. We don't operate charging stations. We don't own any charging stations. That's really where we draw a really good line between what we do and our mission is to work with the charge operators, or charge station operators, to help them have more visibility on their network, bring them more users, so we partner with them and we include them like that in our platform.

Mike Lynn: Are you comfortable talking about your business model? How do you make money?

Ollie: Yeah, so we have different revenue streams. We actually license out some of the geographic information data that we have to partners like TomTom, Sirius XM, who are embedded in other systems like auto manufacturer systems, so we have the most complete and accurate database in North America for where these charging stations are located, so we have that revenue stream. Recently we launched ChargeHub Passport, which is a way to pay for charging as well through our system. Earlier on, I talked about how we solve the problem of finding these things, but there's another problem with paying for them. In the past you had to sign up for multiple accounts, so if a station was operated by Operator A, you had to sign up for the account, put some money on that account and then pay for it and then do all that over again for Operator B. As an example here in New York, we're in New York right now, there's around 13 different operators around New York, so quite a pain. So, we're solving that problem by partnering with the operators and offering an option to only have one account, put money on that one account, and then pay for multiple providers through our platform.

Mike Lynn: Well, that's great. I mean, that's convenience right there. If I don't have to worry about where I'm going to get power, whether it's going to be free, whether it's going to be multiple operators, I can use ChargeHub to plot my route and to, and to ultimately pay for juice on the way.

Ollie: Exactly. Yeah. Right now there's a convenience fee added to the transactions, so that's the business model, but the magic there is that fee is redistributed back to the operators as well, so there's an incentive for them to be part of our platform.

Mike Lynn: Sounds like a win- win.

Ollie: Yep, absolutely and that's our goal, is to make it easier for the EV driver and then we win. The operators win. So, that's really kind of our goal.

Mike Lynn: And you're using MongoDB. Can you talk a little bit about the stack and how you're using MongoDB?

Ollie: Absolutely. So our stack is mainly on no- js. Our backend stack, our native or apps are all native, but our backend is on no- js, so writing JavaScript, it's so natural to go to Mongo with the document model, MongoDB with a document model. We have a few different databases actually in Mongo, so we have what we call kind of our user database is in Mongo. We're using the open source parse server to manage all that with authentication and all that and that's been working amazing. We also have kind of our interoperability layer that manages all the interoperability systems between all our charge station operator systems and our systems, to translate the data into different formats, to synchronize it in real time, to manage all the transactions, so all that is actually going through MongoDB, which is a really cool in my opinion. Just an example, if a user gets to a charging station, they have to know if it's available or not and so we have to synchronize that data with all our partners in near real time for the user experience and so all that's being synchronized through MongoDB.

Mike Lynn: Oh, fantastic. That's great. It sounds like a great use of MongoDB. So, you're obviously in Atlas, you're using MongoDB Atlas.

Ollie: Yes.

Mike Lynn: Okay.

Ollie: Yes.

Mike Lynn: Are there other parts of the platform that you're you're leveraging?

Ollie: We are currently not leveraging as much as I think we should. Being at MongoDB World here, we've seen a lot of new features coming and a lot of other features that we're potentially not aware of. A little bit of background. We've been really razor- focused on launching this interoperability system and payment system, making sure it's stable, secure, working really well for our partners and our users. So, we've been very, very focused for the last year and a half. But the products now launched, it's working amazingly in the wild, as we say, so at this point, we're taking a step back and looking at a lot more things that we could do. Some of the things that I'm really interested into looking at is charts, using charts a lot more to do reporting and even internal and external presentations. We've seen client side encryption here or field encryption, so that we're going to be looking into to make sure.

Mike Lynn: Queryable encryption.

Ollie: Yes, thank you. The queryable encryption. We are working with session and financial data in a way, so security is really one of our top requirements, so we're definitely going to be looking at that. I think maybe just that in itself, the built- in security features on Atlas by default, really made or helped us out. Just having those enabled by default and there, it makes it really nice when you're working with partners and working with, you know we work with some of the bigger utilities in Canada that have pretty strict security requirements. And even for us to scale our platforms in a secure way, having that by default is just such a time- saver and it checks the boxes on all the audits and it's makes us feel a lot more comfortable and helps us focus on building the stuff.

Mike Lynn: Peace of mind. You mentioned Canada a number of times. ChargeHub is based in Canada. Are you available in other parts of the world?

Ollie: We are based in Montreal, in Canada. We cover Canada, US and Mexico right now. We've been really focused on that EVs, electric vehicles and charging is everywhere worldwide now. Europe is growing a lot, Australia, even Asia. But we've been really focused on solving the problem here. We have a really unique market here, that's very different from the rest of the world and we've been really focused on solving the problem here and making it a nice business for us, for our drivers, our users and our partners. So, that's really what we've been focused on.

Mike Lynn: I'm sitting here thinking, I'm trying to solve the problem in my mind. How many vehicle charging locations can there be across Canada, US and Mexico?

Ollie: Right now, there's over 120,000 charging ports, so there's kind of two different layers. There's a charging location and a charging port or outlet. So really when I say 120, 000 is the number of cars that can charge at one time in North America.

Mike Lynn: It doesn't seem like a lot. I mean three? How many million people?

Ollie: Yeah, we are at the beginning of the industry. Right now, I don't know the latest number. I should, but the number of EV percentage on the road, is still quite small compared to gas cars but I think everyone's now seeing that the wave is coming. If we want to solve the climate crisis, yes, we will need clean electricity. That's for sure. Not all electricity is clean in North America, but there's going to have to be electric cars to solve that problem and so it's going to be growing like crazy, I think.

Mike Lynn: Especially now, I think I paid$ 5. 90 To fill my tank. I think it was over$ 120 to fill my tank last time, so I would imagine this is a bit of a long tail, so I would imagine you're going to start to see some uptake in the coming months and quarters.

Ollie: Yeah. We've seen just last month, our analytics skyrocketed because we call it kind of the trifecta or something, but there is, COVID is hopefully ending. We'll see but definitely all the restrictions are being removed, so people are going out more. The travel season is starting in North America, at least like in the North where the summer is when people travel. And then at the same time, the gas prices just started in skyrocketing and so the traffic on our site just increased so much. We do have a lot of resources for people who are looking into EVs as well, so that might have been it.

Mike Lynn: Is there anything else you'd like the listeners to know about ChargeHub?

Ollie: I would say if you are in the market for an EV, I would highly suggest you go to chargehub.com and check out our map. The first thing you'll realize is," Whoa, I can go anywhere." Even with 120, 000 ports in North America, guaranteed, you'll be floored with the amount of charging stations you that you don't know about. So, that's the first thing I would say. The second is, if you already drive an electric car, make sure you download our app and send us any feedback you have on the experience. We love to hear from our users. We really take what they say to heart and we have a whole process to get their feedback in as fast as possible in our pipeline, so I'd invite anyone to go try out the app and give us their feedback.

Mike Lynn: Great. We'll include links in the show notes, so check those out. The last question I had for you was about MongoDB startup program. I'm wondering how you found that, number one, and what are the benefits you're enjoying?

Ollie: Yeah. So, as a startup that's a building a new product, in a new industry, we're always trying to extend every dollar that we spend to do the most we can with that dollar, so we got some free credits to run our MongoDB databases and those were extremely useful because we get to build cloud first. So again, we have that scalability, that security from day one. And we can get the product out, get the users using it really prove that concept, without having to dish out all these funds. So, really extending the value we get for every dollar is critical for a startup, so that's been an really helpful. There's also an advisor possibility to make sure that if you have any technical questions, or any architectural decisions to make, that could help as well. We didn't use that as much as we should and we are looking into it now for our next kind of architectural decisions.

Mike Lynn: That's great. Well, Ollie, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing details about ChargeHub. Make sure if you're listening to this, make sure you check out the show notes for links and all the resources we talked about today.

Ollie: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Shane McAllister: So there, we had Ollie, who is the co- founder and CTO at ChargeHub. As a car enthusiast myself, I was particularly interested in what ChargeHub are doing. Though I have a hybrid car, haven't really gone the fully electric just yet, so I plug it in at home at night and it gets me that little bit of electric driving around the town, a city in the morning and then it reverts back to its engine. But I think as Ollie said, the wave is coming and for me, ChargeHub and other companies like that, seem ideally placed to ride that new wave of electric charging, electric cars, going forward. So, do be sure to go check them out at chargehub. com, particularly if you've got an electric car, but obviously if you just want to see a little bit more about what they're building. So, that wraps another one. I think this is number six in our World Series episode, Cedric. So, what amazes me actually so far is, the variety of industries and interviewees that we've had from optimizing health, managing OT data, low code, no code app deployments, managing addiction recovery, and immersive education. I know we've a few more to come, so please keep an eye out for those in future podcast episodes. Myself and Cedric will very much enjoy bringing them to you. So, anything else to throw in there, Cedric?

Cedric: I think you covered it pretty well. But remember, as always, links are in the show notes, and also please remember to review and subscribe and stay tuned for our next episode from MongoDB World. So, from me, Cedric Clyburn.

Shane McAllister: And me Shane McAllister, it's been a pleasure as always. We hope to talk to you again very soon.

DESCRIPTION

Our sixth conversation from the MongoDB World Series features Olivier Proulx from ChargeHub. Oli's goal as a Co-founder of ChargeHub is to create a roadmap of charging stations for electric vehicle drivers, and in doing so make it easier for people to adopt the technology. In today's conversation, MongoDB Principal Developer Advocate and host, Mike Lynn talks with Oli about the ins and outs of electric vehicles, ChargeHub's business model, how it leverages MongoDB, and more.


Conversation highlights:

  • [02:38] Meet Ollie, co-founder of ChargeHub
  • [03:26] Electric vehicle range and using ChargeHub to navigate between power
  • [05:57] The origin of ChargeHub
  • [06:34] Getting data for charging stations as a third party
  • [07:19] ChargeHub's business model and revenue streams
  • [09:21] How ChargeHub leverages MongoDB in their stack
  • [10:57] Taking advantage of queryable encryption
  • [13:42] Aiding the climate crisis by using electric vehicles
  • [16:37] The MongoDB Startup Program

Today's Host

Guest Thumbnail

Michael Lynn

|Principal Developer Advocate

Today's Guests

Guest Thumbnail

Oli Proulx

|Co-founder, ChargeHub