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Jun 7, 2019

We create smart and electric bikes that we can sell to city dwellers around the globe, and our bikes recognize their riders. They have alarms, they have automatic lights, they have anti-theft tracking and a team of bike hunters that hunt them down and retrieve them when stolen. 

Today we're super excited to be talking with Daan Rekkers of VanMoof USA, and that might not be a name that you're familiar with yet, but you're going to be at some point because VanMoof is rethinking the way the world is biking. So when you sit on one of their newly crafted smart bikes, you're kind of taken into the future where no one else has gone before, so let's jump in and Daan what do you do at VanMoof, did I say that right, VanMoof?

[00:02:14] Yes, VanMoof that's exactly how you say it. 

[00:02:17] You say it better, you say VanMoof okay I have to work on that. 

[00:02:21] VanMoof, the way you say it is perfectly fine because of course consumer, but I basically run the US operation. 

[00:02:33] It's a big job.

[00:02:35] I know, yes.

[00:02:37] Well let's start from the very beginning, what is Van Moof?

[00:02:40] Very good question yes, we are a bike company, but we're also a tech company. So a bike meets Tech Company from Amsterdam with the aim of getting the next billion people on bikes in cities worldwide. We create smart and electric bikes that we can sell to city dwellers around the globe, and our bikes recognize their riders they have alarms, they have automatic lights, they have anti-theft tracking and a team of bike hunters that hunt them down and retrieve them when stolen.

[00:03:15] What? That's crazy. So when we talk about what's smart about them as a rider, what am I experiencing that's different than other bikes?

[00:03:24] After the basic like such automatic integrated lighting, an app that tracks and writes and reminds you where you parked, we're using tech to put bike thieves out of business. So our bikes are virtually theft proof, they have responsive alarms that kick in when a stranger touches it. The bike also sends messages when something fishy and something is going on basically in the area, and it also has anti-theft tracking in case it really happens that they get stolen.

[00:04:02] Wow, this is a big deal, I mean and I imagine these bikes they cost a lot, you know they're smart so you want to know that they're secure and that you're safe to invest in them.

[00:04:14] That's exactly right and that's why we trying to do, we try to tackle all those inconveniences that hold people from investing something in an actual good quality bike.

[00:04:24] What is the philosophy behind the bikes, how did this get started, what's the thinking behind it?

[00:04:30] We've really made it our mission to get the next billion people on bikes, so we're from Amsterdam and cycling capital of the world and we believe that cycling can really improve the ways we live. We breathe and move around cities in the world because we believe that the best and fastest most fun also way to get yourself from your A to B to get yourself around in the city is by a bike. That means we're constantly reimagining how the bike should work in cities of tomorrow, and we're taking down barriers to choose a quality bike.

[00:05:07] The other thing that's nice about bikes is not having horns, like taxicab horns.

[00:05:12] I also have to say that our newest model does have an actual horn, but it is actually a very like friendly sounding horn of which you can design any sound in a way you want. We basically chose for this option because like a classic bell, an addition is always like a sensitive and fragile part on the bike. Basically a part of can break and that's also how our company started, as we kind of redesigned the bike from scratch, like we saw a lot of additions to a bicycle like you don't really need or even stuff that you miss, and that's why we started from scratch again and we just wanted to design a very functional products, only the things you need basically.

Now, of course, our bike also has like most other bikes like wheels, the pedals, and the handlebar and that's actually to just like, of course, to make yourself move that's all you need. Now, what's the main difference actually, mainly resale is electric bikes, so the bike will assist you and it will assist you even up to 80 percent of what you can do, so it feels like you have a really strong wind in your back all the time.

[00:06:24] So not like a motor because that's kind of intimidating, but just a battery, just to help, just a wind.

[00:06:29] That's right exactly, just to help. We don't want to create a motorbike, we don't want to create anything really powerful that blows your mind, and we really want to still give people the feeling of cycling. Well cities are obviously so big and we want to basically offer a replacement for your train or for the car, and that's why you need to cross a bigger distance than on a regular bicycle.

[00:06:51] Daan I'm really interested in the security factor with your bikes, you spoke before about three stages, what are your three security stages?

[00:07:03] Yes, very good question about the three stages. The three stages of an alarm and it works a little different than a classic car alarm, so basically once you park your bike on the street and you walk away from it, the alarm will automotive call armed because the bike will recognize your phone will move away from your bike. And now once for example potential thief will approach the bike and touches the bike, the bike will give a soft warning and the soft warning is the first stage. It's a first like a kind of sonar, kind of beep; it's a very soft and polite warning that this bike is not a regular bike.

[00:07:46] So if somebody is walking by and they hear this which they do, is that a first indication, is that an alarm that you would know to call the police for?

[00:07:56] Maybe, but not immediately because the first date is very friendly. But if you actually still keep touching the bike and you even write it away the bike will automatically go in the second stage, and the second stage is actually a very loud crazy alarm, the bike will go completely crazy. The lights will start flashing repeatedly and you hear a very loud noise coming out of the bike.

[00:08:23] That's intimidating.

[00:08:25] That is indeed very intimidating, yes.

[00:08:27] And let's talk about the third and you're in trouble stage.

[00:08:31] Exactly, that's right. The third stage of the alarm we call lockdown mode and the bike will go crazy for a few minutes in the second stage, but once you actually take it and you take it around the block the bike will go in full lockdown, so all the smart futures are basically shut down, the light will turn off and the sound will stop.

It will basically use its remaining battery power to send tracking signal, and from that point, bike hunters and we have our own bike hunting team, they will engage, they will see the message and they will immediately search for the bike. 

[00:09:08] You've got a bike search team, they're like the ghost hunters for bikes.

[00:09:15] Exactly you can see it like that, globally we have 17 bike hunters working full-time for us and they spend all their time in retrieving our bicycles for customers.

[00:09:29] Wow, can we get into what the average cost is per bike?

[00:09:32] Yes, definitely. Our bike cost average, an average it's hard to tell because we sell both smart and electric bikes, all of our bikes are smart but with the electric bikes are also is an additional battery and motor, so electric pedal assist bicycle. And the smart bike currently cost 798, but you could also get it for $25 per month, it's a subscription model, then we have our e-bike that currently cost in pre-order 25.98.

[00:10:10] Okay, and I mean honestly that's a lot less than a vehicle, so it's a good investment, makes a lot of sense.

[00:10:19] Exactly, it's a very good investment and in fact, this bicycle is a true competitor with a car, so that makes it actually very interesting.

[00:11:15] I'm just kind of curious you've been talking about the different countries that you're in, what are the different ways that people in the different countries and different cultures use your product like as far as leisure and work transportation and such?

[00:11:28] Yes, we try to accommodate and make our bike as universal as possible, but obviously all countries are different, cultures are different and people use their bike in different ways. What we see in Europe a lot is commuting, but way more to the extent as in the U.S. In the U.S. you want to go from A to B as an individual, for example, you go from home to work or back, sometimes you go to the grocery store, but you prefer to go separately with a bag and you want to go nearby even with your car you want to carry something, which in Europe actually people do in some countries everything on your bike.

So that means bringing their kids to school on a bicycle with child seats on the bike, that means food grocery so you go actually and grab your weekly groceries at the grocery store with your bicycle, it means you fully pack it with stuff and that's the main difference we actually see in culture. 

[00:12:28] Interesting. As an American housewife, I can't imagine doing the full weekly shopping with a bicycle, how does that happen?

[00:12:36] Yes, well you obviously buy the same amount of stuff, but people in Europe try to accommodate, to try to figure out how to carry as much as possible stuff on their bicycles so that it means to add paneer bags on both sides of the bike, using an additional backpack so basically use every single space you have a bicycle to pack more stuff.

[00:13:02] Wow, that's very interesting knowing the cultural differences. And you know you've taken such a huge step with the smart bike, what do you see when you dream with your team, ten years what does the new model of the smart bike look like, possible wings?

[00:13:19] Possible wings, we obviously dreamed of a flying bike, but I have to say and I also have to disappoint you this is not our main goal, we probably don't come with a flying bike. Our main goal is to get as much as people on bicycles, so we really see the real changing and we would like to get the next billion people on bicycles, so our product will be more convenient mainly, we try to tackle things.

Think about for example even in the future we might have a weather tracker in your bike, you take for example every day you take the same commute, sometimes it's raining sometimes it's snowing, in the future bike is going to tell you which route is better to take or which moment is better to bike to avoid rain and snow for example, so that's stuff we can really do over the upcoming year.

[00:14:15] Let's talk about the founders, what was their inspiration?

[00:14:19] Yes, founders are two Dutch brothers, they're named This and Taco Collier which is a French name. They founded the move together in 2009, and they'd still run together ever since. This is based in Taipei office in Taiwan, so very close to our production and Taco is in our headquarters in Amsterdam. Now they started to move together with like industrial design in their blog, and they started with the philosophy to really improve the world, to really improve the way we commute in cities.

[00:14:53] It's genius, it's amazing what two minds sitting down to conquer something can do, to come up with smart bikes.

[00:15:00] Exactly.

[00:15:01] So what is VanMoof plus, I've heard about that I don't know what it is?

[00:15:07] VanMoof plus is our subscription service, so other than most bike companies who just like sell bicycles as they are, we basically also offer subscriptions. So, for example, our smart model right now and maybe even our e-Bike in the near future, you can ride for only $25 a month.

[00:15:30] Oh.

[00:15:31] Exactly, and that's why we try to make it accessible for like, of course, the society, where we want it to be more sustainable, but we don't want to own our own stuff anymore, this is the perfect solution. We offer also I have to say theft insurance, and maintenance are all included, all within this price of $25 so we make it accessible for everyone to ride it.

[00:15:54] Wow, I mean honestly you compare that to a car, just financially let alone the environment and health-wise and everything, why would you do anything else?

[00:16:06] Exactly, that's why we try to do also to get people out of those cars, even out of the subway and to write those bikes instead.

[00:16:17] So what cities are you in and where are you hoping to go?

[00:16:21] Yes, now we currently are selling our bikes in Europe, in the US, and in Taiwan. In the U.S. we have brand stores now in Brooklyn and in San Francisco, we want to expand this very rapidly, we wanted to be of course in this Marcius city as possible. Cities keep always are like our main focus, so we hope to expend much more in the U.S. in their future.

[00:16:50] That makes a lot of sense. What would you suggest for small, some mid companies that want to open stores for their businesses in New York or specifically Brooklyn, what advice do you have, what have you learned along the way?

[00:17:04] Yes, that's a very good question because like Brooklyn, of course, is a wild City, especially if you come from Europe, Brooklyn is actually a very communal city and your network around you is very important. So I would say build a network around you by becoming I say like a local hero, make yourself well known as the local heroes, so start local partnerships, share products and services and make sure you make a name for yourself.

[00:17:34] It's about relationships, isn't it?

[00:17:36] Exactly, that's right it's very much about relationships.

[00:17:40] So if you could go back, very beginning with your Brooklyn expansion, because we all have regrets, I would have done this differently, what are the one or two things be that you do differently?

[00:17:51] My biggest mistake here and I have to admit that was actually not using my network ultimately, like of course, you come here with an arrogant mindset from Europe, and you think that you know to get something in the market and to get something done and you really think you can do that alone. Well, I would say you always need others around you to help to spread the word, and to help you to become big, because everything, of course, is based on us as well other people have to buy a product part eventually and tomato queue.

[00:18:22] I appreciate your humbleness, I think that's pretty neat. And to be honest I think it's not just from country to country that we get kind of cocky and think that we can do it, but just going from city to city we think you know I've already done this, look at me, just follow me, I got this under control so I appreciate your humility, I think that's going to help you go a long way, very impressive.

[00:18:42] Thank you, thank you very much.

[00:18:44] So if someone wanted to contact you about more information, seeing your showroom, just trying out some bikes how would they get ahold of you?

[00:18:53] Very good question yes, people always want to combine I definitely recommend to check our showroom and check out our bikes, test riding can always be done it's for free. You can check out our showroom which is actually in Brooklyn and Williamsburg to be exact, and it's 326 by that in Brooklyn. And if they want more information first they're always welcome to call the number 347-227-7477.

[00:19:23] Well good luck, I mean it's going to be amazing, it's going to be so much fun watching you grow throughout the nation because you were onto something so special and unique, and it's good for people, it's good for the environment so way to go.

[00:19:35] Thank you very much, yes that's so cool, that's what we're trying to do here.

[00:19:39] I love it, thank you.

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