What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Netherlands? That’s right,
weed bikes. But, despite being the country with the most bikes per capita, bikes are not manufactured in the Netherlands. In fact, even the country’s most famous bicycle company VanMoof makes their ebikes in Taiwan.
But as consumers are looking to buy locally, and manufacturers are feeling the pain of supply chain woes, one ebike startup is reaping the rewards of their mission to bring bicycle manufacturing back to the Netherlands.
They’re called Mokumono, and twin brothers Bob and Tom Schiller make up half of the tiny team at bike company. How does a company of four compete with the big players in the market? I sat down with Tom at our recent TNW conference to find out.
It’s all in the frame
The company’s secret sauce is its locally made frame. It’s a great example of materials innovation. Tom explains: “it’s constructed from two mirrored sheets of aluminum that are pressed into shape and welded together by a laser-wielding robot. This creates a strong and lightweight frame that is different from the typical tubular offerings.”
The tech is traditionally used to create car doors and was developed with tech production partner Witte van Moort in Vriezenveen.
Creating a product locally is highly efficient for ease of prototyping and overseeing assembly. Mokumono also gets green points for sourcing their other parts from throughout Europe, reducing their transport-related carbon footprint.
A solution to supply chain woes
Our production methods show that you can think about bike frame design in other ways than just welding round tubes together. That’s already opened up quite a lot of conversations, especially last year when everyone was struggling to get their bike parts to Europe. We got a lot of emails, ‘Are you guys willing to talk?’ The shipping crisis has made companies realize the importance of the origin of their goods and the need for local production.
Mokumono has facilitated frames for three bike companies which helps fund their own efforts, although Tom admits “we keep the specifics of the aluminum close to our chest.”
Crowdfunding that’s actually not a scam
I’ve written in the IoT space for over a decade. B2C is a tough space for young companies to raise money to create hardware products. Crowdfunding doesn’t guarantee success.
Heck, I even worked for a company that desperately tried to make stuff happen — and failed. Then there’s the scams. I’m looking at you, iFind and Skully. And that’s before I even get to the shit show that is Elio Motors – hope you didn’t lose your money there. (If you’re cynical like me, I recommend you take a look at r/shittykickstarters for some schadenfreude.)
Tom told me there are even stories of companies buying bikes on Alibaba and slapping a label on them to crowdfund as their own creation. Dodgy fuckers.
But Mokumono stands out from the crowd by selling some seriously nice bikes. I’m too short to ride one (FML), but they come in three sizes. The Delta S is a single gear bike with a Gates Carbon Belt Drive System, which removes the need for maintenance or grease and is impossible to derail. It offers a battery range of 60 kilometers. A full charge takes two hours. The Delta C is a couple of kilos lighter and enables riders to sit semi-upright.
Supply chain reckonings are facilitating a green economy for ebike manufacturers
For Tom, one of the biggest problems facing the ebike industry is how quickly they become obsolete.“The ebike lifespan is actually going backward compared to traditional bikes. You can still ride a normal bike from 60 years ago with some repairs,”
“With ebikes, battery degradation is a given. So you need to design a bike to live on as batteries get better or change in shape.”Tom believes therefore it’s necessary for bike manufacturers to approach the design of ebikes differently. That’s why Mokumono focuses on making their designs more modular. So in the end, bike owners can extend the overall lifetime of their rides, just by replacing a few key parts.Tom admits it’s maybe not the best idea for a business, “but there’s more than just profits at stake.”
Funding is booming and there’s space for all
We spoke at length about the ebike funding landscape (I’ve two interviews with investors coming), and Tom had a lot of thoughts:
It’s not just a winner takes all market. Someone’s success is not someone else’s loss. That’s a big thing to focus on, especially with investors that are used to internet stories. That’s not how consumer products work. You’re not always fighting for the exact same customers. And they can live next to each other or in one household.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to start their own ebike company?
As the industry’s underdogs, I wanted to hear what tips Tom would have for others wishing to enter the industry. He explained:
There’s an old saying if you want to be a millionaire in the bicycle industry, you have to start as a billionaire. It’s a super interesting market right now. I would tell you to focus on finding your own niche, and then create your own story.
Mokumono’s currently developing a new bike from the ground up launched in April 2022 with a removable battery and a lot more European-made parts. Watch this space for more news.
Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up?
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