Mokumono brought the manufacture of electric bicycles back to the Netherlands.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Netherlands? That’s right,
cannabis bikes. But, despite being the country with the most bicycles per capita, bicycles are not made in the Netherlands. In fact, even the most famous bicycle company in the country VanMoof manufactures its electric bikes in Taiwan.
But as consumers look to buy locally and manufacturers feel the pain of supply chain issues, an e-bike startup is reaping the rewards of its mission to bring bicycle manufacturing back to the Netherlands.
Their name is Mokumono, and twin brothers Bob and Tom Schiller make up half of the small Bike Company team. How does a four-person company compete with the big players in the market? I sat down with Tom at our recent TNW conference to find out.
Everything is in the frame
The company’s secret sauce is its locally made frame. It is a great example of innovation in materials. Tom explains, “It’s constructed from two reflective aluminum sheets that are pressed into shape and welded together by a robot using a laser. This creates a strong, lightweight frame that is different from typical tubular offerings.
The technology is traditionally used to create car doors and was developed with technology production partner Witte van Moort in Vriezenveen.
Creating a product locally is very effective in facilitating prototyping and assembly supervision. Momoko also gets green points for sourcing other parts across Europe, reducing their transport carbon footprint.
A solution to supply chain problems
Our production methods show that you can think of the bicycle frame design in a way other than just welding round tubes together. It’s already opened up quite a bit of conversation, especially last year when everyone was struggling to get their motorcycle parts to Europe. We have received a lot of emails: “Are you ready to talk? The maritime transport crisis has made companies aware of the importance of the origin of their goods and the need for cheaper transport.
Mokumono has facilitated the frames for three bike makers, which helps them fund their own efforts, although Tom admits “we keep the specifics of aluminum close to our chest.”
Crowdfunding is actually not a scam
I’ve been writing in the IoT space for over a decade. B2C is a difficult space for young companies who want to raise funds to create material products. Crowdfunding does not guarantee success.
Heck, I even worked for a company that desperately tried to make a difference – and failed. Then there are the scams. I’m looking at you, iFind and Skully. And that’s before I even got to the shit show that is Elio Motors – I hope you didn’t waste your money on it. (If you’re cynical like me, I recommend taking a look at r / shittykickstarters for some schadenfreude.)
Tom told me there were even stories of companies buying bikes from Alibaba and labeling them to fund crowdfunding as their own creation. Shady assholes.
But Mokumono stands out by selling very nice bikes. I’m too small to fit one (FML), but they come in three sizes. The Delta S is a single speed bike with a Gates Carbon belt drive system, which eliminates the need for maintenance or grease and is impossible to derail. It offers a range of 60 kilometers. A full charge takes two hours. The Delta C is a few pounds lighter and allows cyclists to sit semi-upright.
Supply chain calculations facilitate green economy for e-bike manufacturers
For Tom, one of the biggest problems with the e-bike industry is how quickly they become obsolete.“The lifespan of electric bicycles is actually decreasing compared to traditional bicycles. You can still ride a normal bike from 60 years ago with some repairs ”,
“With electric bikes, the degradation of the battery is obvious. So you need to design a bike to live on as the batteries improve or change shape. “Tom therefore thinks that there is a need for bicycle manufacturers to approach the design of e-bikes in a different way. This is why Mokumono strives to make its designs more modular. So, at the end of the day, bike owners can extend the overall life of their rides, just by replacing a few key parts.Tom admits it might not be the better business idea, “but there is more than profit at stake”.
Funding is exploding and there is room for everyone
We’ve talked at length about the e-bike financing landscape (I have two talks with upcoming investors), and Tom had a lot of thoughts:
It’s not just a winner who takes the whole market. Someone’s success is not someone else’s loss. This is an important thing to focus on, especially with investors accustomed to internet stories. This is not the way consumer products work. You don’t always fight for the exact same customers. And they can live next to each other or in the same household.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own e-bike business?
As an industry outsider, I wanted to know what advice Tom would have for others looking to enter the industry. He explained:
There is an old adage 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 crafting your own story.
Mokumono is currently developing a new bike from scratch launched in April 2022 with a removable battery and many more European-made parts. Watch this space for more news.
Do electric vehicles excite your electrons? Do e-bikes spin your wheels? Do self-driving cars fully charge you?
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