Case study: RIDE in the tough but rewarding business of e-bike sharing
This summer, people in Riga could enjoy the city with RIDE – electric bikes that looked like real e-mopeds. The team launched the service right after the Covid-19 restrictions were eased with a cool launch event and the title of the most downloaded app on the App Store in the country.
Launch date: Summer 2020
Fleet: Xiaomi HIMO T1
Web page: https://ridemobility.eu
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/lt/app/id1522014903
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ride.app
Founder and the CEO of the RIDE Edgars Jakobsons first considered launching a ride-sharing business in his hometown Riga after visiting Singapore in 2019. “This was the first time I tried e-scooters myself. It was a fun experience and I thought that people elsewhere might also like it. When I came back to Riga, the first e-scooter sharing service had already started to operate here. We followed soon after in collaboration with Bolt,” Edgars remembers. A year later, he decided to create his own independent company that would offer a new means of transportation – electric bikes.
The future is in electricity
RIDE is the daughter company of TrafoNet – an organization that provides its customers with industrial electrical equipment. TrafoNet has been previously involved in the development of the infrastructure for electric vehicles – for just over two years now, the company has set up electric vehicle charging stations. “I think that electrical transportation is our inescapable future. When we started to set up stations, we didn’t know when there was going to be a demand for them. Now all the biggest car manufacturers have an electrical car to offer. And people are ready to pay for them.” Edgars believes in the future of electricity. That’s where the choice of electric bikes comes from. And, of course, there are no similar vehicles in the ride- sharing market in Riga. That was the second stimulus.
The season started later than expected due to Covid-19 pandemics – electric bikes appeared on streets on July 15. However, the launch event attracted huge attention – RIDE bikes were offered to ride for free for the first day. It is possible to drive approximately 45 kilometres with one full charge so this was enough to even get to one of Latvia’s summer capitals – Jurmala – and enjoy nice weather by the sea.
Respectively app downloads exceeded the company’s expectations. “Half the people who downloaded the app have tried our service at least once. Yes, we can say that we are lucky, but there is an enormous amount of work behind luck. Moreover, you should always enter the market actively and aggressively. That’s what we did! Competitive advantage should be easily understood and perceived by the client. And the devil is always in the details,” says Edgars, sharing his experience.
Weather conditions and vandalism – the two main challenges
Latvia is not the best place on Earth to start am electric bike ride-sharing business, because everything depends on weather conditions. Theoretically, it is possible to ride a bike all year long but there would be a small number of people interested in that. If temperatures are low during the coldest months of the year, the ride won’t be enjoyable. However, RIDE is ready to provide its services for as long as there is a demand for them.
The second biggest challenge for the business is people’s attitude. “We want to live in Europe, but sometimes I have a feeling that we are still in the Soviet Union. Plastic as well as mechanical components are broken. Screens have been smashed. These components need to be ordered constantly which creates remarkable costs. It’s a pity that there are so many people who don’t value the work of others,” says Edgars.
Not an easy business
Since the ride-sharing business has become popular, Edgars expects new players to enter the market any time now: “I just wanted to say that it is not an easy business. It is tough and more like a hobby to me. If you think that there’s a huge profit margin here, you’re wrong. When we served a Bolt fleet last year, there were 25 people on the team! You have to pay proper salaries, because the job is not easy and often people have to work at night or during early morning hours. In addition, we pay all our taxes. You really have to like this business a lot to invest your time and money in it.”
One thing Edgars is sure about is that this won’t be RIDE’S last season. The company has plans to expand in the Baltic region, as well as in countries all around the Baltic Sea. RIDE will work to establish its spots locally that will support the ride-sharing business in different cities. However, Edgars stresses that the company has gained experience and technical competences that are easier to replicate then to gather for the first time.
RIDE has chosen the Atom Mobility software that is used in their apps and dashboard. “Three factors are important for us as a partner – costs and costs of developing new features, the availability of different solutions as well as the quality of communication. Unless all these aspects also have value for our partner, we won’t be interested in changing it or creating our solution,” says Edgars.