I’m always curious about what people do after founding a successful startup. Many of us would live on an island or install a gin fountain in our kitchen.
But three founders are turning their passion for sustainability into disrupting an old form of transport — bicycles. They’ve created a new company called Dance.
The company has created Dance ebikes, which they offer as a subscription service. Their users pay a monthly fee of 79 EUR covering their bikes and an all-inclusive support package.
Dance was founded by SoundCloud founders Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung, together with the co-founder of Jimdo, Christian Springub. I spoke with Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss to find out more.
Quidenus-Wahlforss’ interest in climate change peaked with the 2015 Paris agreement:
I realized we were not only not making any progress but rather, going in completely the wrong direction. And after 12 years in SoundCloud, it was just time for me to do something new. So I took a sabbatical and explored what I could do that aligned with my passion, interests, and expertise. I thought a lot about making a small dent in the climate change problem and being part of the solution.
He looked into the idea of owning versus renting and found few options for bike users beyond micromobility:
There was leasing, but not a comprehensive end-to-end solution where you look at the hardware and software, the operations, and how it all fits together. Then you package it a way that there’s a new level of accessibility, user experience, and customer service.
How does it all work?
Users (referred to as members) download the Dance app and register. The company delivers a fully assembled e-bike within 24 hours at the cost of 79 euros per month. Not too shabby considering an ebike can cost over 2k to buy.
Members can also arrange repairs, and maintenance within the S-Bahn Ring within 24 hours (except Sunday), via the Dance app where a service person comes to you. This is a big plus, as the typical Berlin bike repair experience is you go to a bike shop usually staffed by unfriendly people. They take your bike and put your phone number on a piece of paper, and they may they call you back in a few weeks.
Even better, Dance builds all the software in-house for the service folks. These are 40 plus people — they’re hiring more! — with specialty training and in-depth knowledge of the bikes they repair.
The specifics of the Dance ebike
The Dance One ebike is a custom aluminum diamond frame ebike with a maximum 25 km/hr speed. A removable battery integrates with the frame and can last up to 55 km on a full charge.
Hydraulic disc brakes, carbon belts, and puncture-resistant tires help members ride through all conditions. Front and rear light and reflective sidewall stripes on the tires provide visibility. The package includes a bike lock, and there’s a basket available.
Additionally, the ebike comes with an integrated Bluetooth lock that opens via the app.
Why do we need a Dance ebike subscription service?
According to Quidenus-Wahlforss, most people using bikes own their own bikes for two main reasons:
First, micromobility bikes are too expensive for regular use. That’s connected to the type of hardware they need to make a durable bike, the wear and tear on the hardware, and the operational costs of charging bikes. Second, you have the convenience factor. If you have your bike outside your house, you end up using it.
While subscription models are replacing ownership in many verticals, few people focus on bikes beyond short-term rentals. Most riders have to go to the bike shop to purchase their bike or if mail ordered, assemble it themselves.
Besides the obvious fact of their residential location, Quidenus-Wahlforss believes that Berlin is very much on the leading edge in mobility experiments:
You have a critical mass of innovators and early adopters. How many people are using bikes versus other modes of transportation in Berlin has been on a steady rise over the last 20 years, But now, it has reached an inflection point of bike riders over the last year and a half.
The company has their assembly warehouse, workshop, and head office in Berlin.
How Dance tackle the problem of ebike theft in Berlin
Like many cities, Berlin has a big bike theft problem. Even using the best lock is not always a deterrent, — nighttime thieves just angle grind through the lock fence post.
In the case of bike theft, Dance charges 100 Euro for the bike, and 300 Euro if thieves steal both the bike and battery. Getting your bike stolen while it is unlocked results in a 1,200 Euro deductible. However, when ebikes are locked in a public place for repair, the member is not responsible for the fee in the case of theft.
Further, Dance approaches the challenge from a theft prevention perspective. Quidenus-Wahlforss explained:
We have a company full of engineers to assess how can we minimize theft by creating a bike with low-theft incentive. I’ve learned there are all these secret Telegram groups set up by bike thieves. We want to be known in those groups as the bike you don’t want to steal.
Bike thieves traditionally butcher bikes into sellable parts. To prevent this, Dance ebikes are made from custom parts such as customized screws that require special tools to unscrew. The bike also has an alarm system and a tracking device.
The company have around 200 bikes in their fleet with plans for rapid expansion. This is definitely a trend to watch.