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Mobility Startup to Watch

Dutch mobility startup Swugo electrifies bikes effortlessly, now landing in Taiwan to seek e-component supplier partnership

Aimee Wu 2021/08/12
 SWUGO
SWUGO

On AppWorks #22 Demo Day, Dutch mobility startup Swugo catches attention with its one-of-a-kind bike electrification service. Laying the foundation for mass production, the Dutch startup sets its foot in Taiwan to look for electronic component suppliers and engineering talents.

The Europeans are ushering in the era of e-bikes, as government officials across Europe take the initiative to promote green transportation. Just to name a few, the French government is offering a €400 subsidy per e-bike purchase. In the UK, officials are investing £2 billion in cycling commute route installment.

The Netherlands is the pioneer in sustainable transportation. In 2020, the e-bike trend was turbocharged under lockdown, as people pedaled to get around the city. This resulted in 50% of bicycles sales in the Netherlands last year being e-bikes. However, these electromobiles have yet to achieve full market penetration due to its steep price tag, which ranges from €1000 to €2000.

In 2020, the e-bike trend was turbocharged under COVID lockdown, as people pedaled to get around the city. As a result, 50% of bike sales in the Netherlands were e-bikes.

Dutch mobility startup Swugo saw the opportunity to tap into the e-bike market by electrifying traditional bikes, which is a scalable blue ocean market with over 20 million bikes in use over the world.

Taiwan has long been a key player in the bike component supply chain. The EU is Taiwan’s main market, accounting for 53.6% of total sales. In line with the EU’s active promotion of green mobility, Taiwan’s bicycle component industry is seeing a spike in demand. According to the Ministry of Finance, Taiwan’s e-bike export value in January-May 2021 amounted to an all-time-high of US$550 million, exhibiting 44.2% growth as compared to the same period last year.

Making e-bikes accessible to all

For those who aren’t familiar with bicycle mechanics, the bike conversion process can be lengthy and infused with all sorts of technical difficulties. Even for trained technicians, it takes roughly 2-4 hours to convert regular cycles into e-bikes successfully. To make matters worse, these converted bikes are destined to get stolen. In the Netherlands alone, over 450 thousand bikes are stolen each year.

For every bike existing on the market, Swugo provides an easy and affordable way to transform it into an e-bike. “Our business model is scalable in that we standardize the bike conversion process, making service accessible to every bicycle model,” said Dr. Samuel IJsselmuiden, co-founder and CTO of Swugo. To access Swugo’s service, fill out application forms in advance. Then, a Swugo technician shows up at the appointed time. As simple as purchasing cable TV service, under merely 15 minutes, your e-bike conversion is completed.

To solve the bike theft conundrum, Swugo enables bikes to be electronically locked. Furthermore, a tracking system is installed, allowing for lost bikes to be tracked down.

Swugo provides an easy and affordable way to transform any bike into an e-bike.

Subscription-based payment benefits consumers

“Consumers can enjoy riding e-bikes with our subscription-based payment model for less than €25 per month,” said Samuel.

The subscription fee is an attractive deal for many commuters, as it is much lower than procuring an expensive brand new e-bike (usually priced at €1000 to €2000) or converting it on your own. Furthermore, it enables flexibility of choice for consumers if commuting plans were to change.

Swugo’s subscription model is a considerate move for consumers, as it saves consumers the trouble of having to check for wear and tear every now and then. E-bike components require more intricate maintenance due to its additional layer of electrical parts, as compared to traditional bikes. Electrical parts including motor, display, battery and electrical cables, require check-up from bike technicians, subject to replacement every 3 to 5 years. Subscribing e-bike service on a monthly basis allows consumers to skip the tiresome maintenance process.

Prize-winning business idea

As cleantech is placed in the limelight, Swugo’s green business idea is shortlisted in the top 10 mobility startups at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Urban mobility award. Gaining momentum, Swugo is currently in the pilot phase, meaning Swugo is testing product market-fit in cities such as Den Bosch in the Netherlands and Belgium metropolitan areas.

Swugo’s green business idea won the EIT Urban mobility award, among which are top 10 mobility startups hand-picked by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

“In the pilot phase, we are meeting with city officials to discuss mobility objectives they want to obtain. A number of major cities in Europe are envisioning the day on which cars will be eliminated. Swugo can help them meet their sustainable development goals,” said Samuel, who also boasts cleantech consulting experience.

Samuel met co-founder Jodi Kooijman while they were studying at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The duo first worked together on a human powered submarine project, in which Samuel designed the machine while Jodi, a world championship mountain biker, pedaled vigorously to generate power in test sessions. From early on, Samuel and Jodi have shown interest and accumulated experience in the cleantech field. Possessing a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from TU Delft, Samuel has substantial experience in light material development, as well as in-depth knowledge in battery manufacturing, especially how to ensure battery circularbility.

Taiwan’s e-component supply chain

Swugo landed in Taiwan to secure e-component supply. Taiwan is well-known for producing high performance electronic components. For example, Delta Electronics is the key e-component supplier for Tesla, providing battery management system (BMS), motor, DC/DC converters and much more. Recently, Wistron partnered with Taiwanese bike-sharing startup Moovo, installing chips and IoT systems in Moovo’s e-bike, which won 200 million Pre A investment this April.

Taiwan is well-known for producing high performance electronic components.

“Swugo is mainly seeking hardware partnerships in Taiwan. That is, we are looking forward to secure collaboration with battery manufacturers, IoT system makers, battery management system (BMS) providers and motor controller suppliers,” said Samuel.

A snapshot of possible suppliers include companies like Wistron, Darfon, DynaPack, CelXpert, Eagotech, Han Win Technology, Titoma. On the other hand, eager to realize IoT on Swugo e-bikes, Samuel made clear that Swugo is also seeking software talent in Taiwan, “We are looking for engineers from Taiwan to join the Swugo team.”
Samuel has close ties in Taiwan, and the island’s abundant business resources have captured him. He has worked and travelled in Taiwan during his tenure at an Arabian company. “Taiwan is really a great place. As someone who has travelled extensively, take my word for it,” said Samuel.

Entering the AppWorks accelerator program is a boost for Swugo. “AppWorks has a well-designed structure. Seasoned mentors help connect startups with the ecosystem in Taiwan. This provides us with sufficient working knowledge so that mistakes can be avoided,” said Samuel.

About the Author
Aimee Wu
Contributor
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Aimee Wu is a journalist and business news translator with a keen interest in sharing innovative technologies developed by Taiwan-based companies. She is pursuing a master’s degree in translation and interpretation at National Taiwan University.

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