We talked to Thad Oviatt of ParkENT Cycles about the World’s First Universal Secure E-Bike Charging Stations and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Thad Oviatt: My family is doing fine. Thankfully COVID-19 has not adversely affected my family. Along with some really good food deals and a sizable garden, my family has done quite well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ParkENT Cycles.
Thad Oviatt: I grew up and went to school in Georgia. During my second undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern University, I came up with the idea of a smart bike rack. After graduating and having trouble finding a job due to being overqualified with 4 college degrees, I started my business. Soon after, I invited my father to be a co-founder because of his over 30 years of experience in the business. After the first business accelerator called “Flashpoint” at Georgia Tech, we pivoted to secure charging stations for electric bicycles (e-bikes). We recently finished a second accelerator called “The FARM,” where we honed in on our target market. Now we are the only company in the world to offer secure e-bike charging stations.
How does ParkENT Cycles innovate?
Thad Oviatt: Our company is based on the intelligent geometric design of our secure charging stations. In short, the station’s structure allows us to be technologically agnostic. We are constantly looking for new technology to equip our stations to make them more effective and versatile. Starting off, we thought of using a kiosk approach for the user interface, and now the station is phone app activated. The first version was strictly tied to the grid as a power source, and now we can adapt to the grid or solar power applications.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Thad Oviatt: While developing out our phone app, we did have a multiple month delay in getting developers who were not sick. It turns out the virus swept through the startup world before going onto the rest of the public. Then, starting in April/June, the whole Micromobility market experienced exponential growth as people chose it over mass transit. E-bike sales grew by 300% in the United States. Bike sales from China topped 1.1 billion dollars in Q3 alone, with third being e-bikes. Now we are getting more recognition, calls, and emails as one of the only charging station businesses for Micromobility in the world.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Thad Oviatt: At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a decision point as to whether to keep the business going or shut down. We decided to wait it out and spend time improving the product. The lesson learned is to be persistent, patient, and always keep aware of your surrounding market. We made a product that was years ahead of its time, and now the market is catching up to us much quicker than we thought it would, thanks to the Coronavirus.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Thad Oviatt: My parents always said if you’re bored, then go find something to do. We dealt with stress by keeping busy. If not on the business, then in our personal lives.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Thad Oviatt: Currently, e-bike charging stations are found only in Asian and European countries:
• Companies: Bosch, Bike-Energy, Biesieklette, SunCycle, Kyocera, and Daymak.
• None provide services to secure the e-bikes while charging!
Micromobility Charging Station Competitors:
• Swiftmile, Bikeep, Charge, Kuhmute, Bikelink, Knot, and Samocat.
• All are focused on fleet e-scooter charging.
• None of them charge e-bikes!
Your final thoughts?
Thad Oviatt: My father loves to talk about, as he says, an ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times.” You have to find something to do to make it through those times and the next ones.