Luke Upton (LU): Many thanks for the time today, so what was the path that led you to founding Railnova in 2010?
Christian Sprauer (CS): No problem Luke. It’s been a great journey so far! After gaining my Mechanical Engineering Degree (Msc) from Ecole Centrale de Lyon, I joined Alstom in 1999 where I spent four years working in various roles in positions in Project Management, Bid Management and Commercial management across a number of European countries. I learnt a lot about both rail and business in this time, with one of the highlights being part of the acquisition of a small German locomotive workshop and its integration into Alstom.
Then in 2003, with the rail industry in Europe undergoing a lot of liberalisation, I left Alstom to join Angel Trains, one of the UKs leading train leasing specialists, as an engineer — I left my suit in the office and got out on tracks! I spent seven years with Angel trains, International (now called Alpha Trains), and again learnt a lot, perhaps most importantly about strategies, contracts and finance. And the key challenge of what happens when a train comes back from leasing. How has it been maintained? When is the next maintenance due? I worked on learning and sharing this information and it fostered a belief that there were much better ways of doing this. Alongside working at Angel Trains I also received an MBA from the London Business School. In 2008 I returned to the Antwerp Alpha Trains office, as Operations and Engineering Director, where managing a team of 15, I was in charge of the entire contract administration & technical fleet management activities for a fleet of ca. 400 locomotives in 12 countries.
And then in September 2010, after 2 failed telematics PoCs (Proof of Concepts) with OEMs and the fact that telematics wasn’t prioritised at strategic level at that time, I saw an opportunity to build something entirely new. I resigned from my job and hired Charles-Henri Mousset, my ex-trainee who had built a working telematics prototype in 6 weeks, and off we went to build a universal connectivity solution for assets and components from different manufacturers.