We talked to Eric Wang, co-founder, and CEO at Wind Mobility, about efficient transport systems, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eric Wang: Thank you! We are all healthy and well and are making the best of the current situation. I have two kids under two years old. Of course, we are working from home and are facing the same challenges that many other families are facing with trying to combine a daily avalanche of Zoom calls with day-to-day family life. However, it’s a blessing as well. Normally I travel extensively for work. During COVID-19, I have been able to spend more time with family and kids.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Wind Mobility.
Eric Wang: I started my career in finance, working for an investment bank. One day in 2010, I saw a news report of enormous motorway traffic jams. They would involve countless cars and often stretch more than 60 miles, causing untold damage to the environment and public health, and frustrating commuters.
That was a turning point for me. At that time, I was in a fellowship program in Europe. I decided to shift my focus and wrote the fellowship thesis on the potential of vehicle sharing in shaping sustainable local mobility. I founded my first mobility company, with the goal of changing how we move around in cities. Creating a start-up wasn’t easy – even my family was skeptical. Today, I am proud that Wind Mobility – which is the third mobility start-up that I have found – is one of the world’s leading and most innovative e-scooter operators. From the beginning, Wind has been a pioneer and has placed a huge emphasis on innovation, setting industry standards since its foundation.
How does Wind Mobility innovate?
Eric Wang: Wind was officially founded in 2017 as the very first operator of a bicycle-sharing scheme in Germany. Two years later, we switched from bicycles to e-scooters and set industry standards by putting a custom-built e-scooter on the market that was designed, developed, and produced by our own engineering and production team. We were and still are the only operator that does not rely on off-the-shelf products for its operations. The Wind e-scooter is specifically made for the sharing environment and owning the entire supply and production chain has helped us to create the most robust and most reliable e-scooter in the industry with a lifetime of more than 5 years and a battery cycle double the industry standard.
When we put our custom-built e-scooter on the market in 2019, we were the very first operator to introduce a battery that can be swapped on the spot, without the need to return the scooter to the warehouse for charging. Wind Mobility has been on an incredible adventure so far, and having grown to more than 20 markets across the globe we continue to innovate and lead the industry in terms of safety and sustainability. Our newest feature is a fully integrated helmet that can be unlocked via the Wind app – making us the only operator in the market to offer a fully integrated solution.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Eric Wang: With lockdowns in place in all markets and fewer people moving around, the last year has been challenging – no doubt. Nevertheless, Wind has grown significantly since April. The pandemic has triggered an increase in demand for micro-mobility solutions and modes of transport that complement public transportation and allow for social distancing. Cities across Europe have pushed to allocate more public space to bicycles and e-scooters in order to avoid a renaissance of the car. We have seen that more people rely on our e-scooters during the morning and early evening hours indicating that a larger number of people are using e-scooters for their daily commute. While it has been challenging, the pandemic has also accelerated the integration of e-scooters into cities’ transport systems.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Eric Wang: When the first wave of the pandemic hit Europe in spring 2020, it was uncertain how long it would last and what the economic impact and the impact on the e-scooter industry would be. Within this uncertainty, we looked into alternative ideas that could serve as an addition to our e-scooter business. We tested a delivery service in Israel. In the meantime, we offered our e-scooters for free to hospital workers and volunteer organizations within our Helping Hands initiative to ensure that our e-scooters are used where they are needed the most.
In the end, the pandemic increased the demand for e-scooters and more and more cities were keen to introduce e-scooter sharing schemes. This indicated to us that we should stay on course, to keep doing what we do best: to innovate our product, increase safety and ensure a sustainable and carbon-neutral operation to support cities across the world to cope with the pandemic. So one of the lessons I learned is that the pandemic can temporarily derail our plan, but we should be patient and focus on the long term.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eric Wang: Our main competitors are cars. Cars as a mode of transportation in the urban environment is very inefficient. Yet, more than 90% of our public space is dedicated to roads for cars that are being used less than 2% of the time and then only with one passenger. We are at the forefront of pioneering this shift from private car usage to micro-mobility in cities across the globe.
In addition, our advantage as a micro-mobility company is a fully-owned vertical supply chain, lean operations, and close partnerships with cities. In terms of research & development, we put user safety first. We created the safest and most reliable sharing e-scooter with an integrated helmet. Our scooter is slightly heavier and larger than comparable models with a wider platform, non-slip handlebars, larger tires, and a double bicycle-style braking system to guarantee a safe riding experience.
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