Spring Free EV co-founder and Chief Product Officer Tenni Theurer didn’t expect to land in a career in auto finance, but her curiosity and willingness to embrace new experiences has led her to promoting EV adoption through more affordable finance channels.
Theurer co-founded Spring Free EV in 2021 after she and company co-founder and Chief Executive Sunil Paul met through a mutual friend in 2020, she told Auto Finance News.
Theurer said she had a desire to be part of a “meaningful” startup, and Spring Free EV fit what she was looking for as the company aims to help fight climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions through EV adoption. Spring Free EV provides fleet owners with a pay-per-mile subscription model to electrify their fleets.
“The startup environment I’m immersed in keeps me enthusiastic about my job every day where no two days or even two hours are alike,” Theurer said. “The fast-paced evolution of EV technology and its potential to revolutionize transportation is genuinely captivating.”
Before Spring Free EV, Theurer was vice president of consumer product at Verizon Media. She also served as senior director of product at Yahoo! and senior business leader at Visa.
AFN spoke with Theurer about her career, her approach to leadership and her thoughts on trends in the auto finance industry. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
Auto Finance News: What are your company goals, in about 10 words or less?
Tenni Theurer: Make EVs affordable and simple to acquire through fintech.
AFN: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
TT: The need for more affordable and accessible lending models, especially for electric vehicles. EVs are pivotal in reducing CO2 emissions, but their high costs limit accessibility and hinder widespread adoption. Traditional financing — tailored mainly for gas-powered vehicles — overlooks EVs’ unique attributes, like lower operational costs, reduced maintenance, longer lifespans and their potential role as grid assets. This sometimes results in potential buyers facing unfavorable terms or not grasping the overall financial advantages of EVs. There’s a clear demand for lending models that recognize EVs’ distinct benefits, making them more affordable for a broader audience.
AFN: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
TT: A valuable piece of advice I’ve received is the power of storytelling. By sharing stories, not only do we capture attention, but we also create more memorable lessons that linger longer in the minds of our audience. Authenticity in these stories and interactions further builds trust. The blend of genuine storytelling and authenticity has the potential to transform one’s leadership style to create a deeper connection with those we guide.
AFN: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
TT: Throughout my professional journey, I’ve had several mentors and supervisors who have shaped my path, but the most influential among them was a sponsor. She was a dynamic force — audacious and always active, both at the forefront and behind the scenes, especially in advocating for the advancement of women into leadership roles.
Upon discovering her efforts in helping me secure my promotion to vice president at Verizon Media, I approached her to express my gratitude. Her response was simple yet powerful: “You can thank me by paying it forward for other women.” That sentiment has left a mark and continues to guide my actions. Her influence went beyond achieving personal success to ensure that every success becomes a steppingstone for someone else.
AFN: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
TT: The nonlinear path I took getting to where I am today. My journey began when my family moved to Silicon Valley when I was just 1 year old. Growing up here, I witnessed the dynamic cycle of technology, its disruptive power and the emergence of new innovations. My father, who worked in the semiconductor industry, faced the volatile nature of the tech world when he was laid off. He pivoted and became a small-business owner, opening a computer shop in the ’80s. The small store next door was Fry’s Electronics, which eventually grew and overshadowed many smaller shops, including my father’s.
I spent numerous school holidays and summers in that shop. I experimented with building computers, learned how to use programs like Photoshop and Corel Draw and, perhaps most importantly, recognized the need to adapt and evolve. Despite being deeply rooted in a tech environment, I was initially resistant to the idea of a career in technology. I didn’t have a well-defined career path nor did I ever plan too far ahead. My attitude and approach to getting to where I am today were driven by curiosity and a desire to explore new things and embrace different experiences. I have a constant need to adapt and evolve.
Auto Finance Summit, the premier industry event for auto lending and leasing, returns Oct. 29-31 at the Bellagio Las Vegas and features fireside chats with Vroom and Ford Credit. To learn more about the 2023 event and register, visit here.
https://www.autofinancenews.net/allposts/auto-finance-excellence/operations-afe/5-questions-with-spring-free-ev-co-founder-and-chief-product-officer-tenni-theurer/ 5 questions with … Spring Free EV co-founder and Chief Product Officer Tenni Theurer