By CHI KO, MEET GLOBAL
E-mobility startup Moovo has formed a close partnership with Taiwan tech giant Wistron to develop its e-bike sharing platform. Leveraging its know-how in the micromobility space, Moovo is “connecting the last mile” in transportation to serve both retail and enterprise customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed people’s lifestyles. Instead of commuting in crowded public transportation, more citizens are choosing to use what are sometimes called “personal mobility devices” – traditional or electrified compact vehicles, in particular e-bikes. Such vehicles not only drastically reduce the effort that riders must expend to travel long distances, but also fit within global energy-saving and carbon-reduction trends.
According to one estimate, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the e-bike market in the U.S. and Europe will reach 17% in the next 10 years. International accounting firm Deloitte also predicts that around 130 million units of e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2030, a strong indication of the increasing popularity of these two-wheeled conveyances.
Moovo, a startup focused on next-generation electric micromobility, was founded by Mark Lin, the former head of international operations at Beijing-based Mobike, the world’s largest shared bicycle operator, and former TrendMicro software and Mobike Internet of Things (IoT) expert Jeffrey Chang. The two longtime friends-turned-business partners foresee an inevitable trend of micromobility and Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which led them to develop an e-bike and electric micromobility sharing/rental platform with total solutions that cover hardware, software, and IoT modules.
In 2016, as IoT technology was beginning to mature, a bike-sharing industry was already forming in China, addressing the strong demand for micromobility services there. The business model gained substantial attention from global venture capital but was despite this ultimately unsuccessful.
At that time, Lin was helping Mobike expand its business to global markets, including the U.S., Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. While at Mobike, he witnessed the rise and fall of the bicycle sharing industry and observed that an oversupply of capital and a lack of government intervention were the two major factors contributing to its collapse.
According to data provided by Lin, investors poured more than US$2 billion into China’s bike-sharing businesses in the first three quarters of 2017, resulting in overexpansion. This, along with mismanagement, notoriously resulted in turmoil. “Bicycle graveyards” – massive piles of abandoned shared bicycles – became a common sight in major cities. Many bikes were also stolen or damaged.
Although Lin’s initial bike-sharing/rental project did not go as planned, he was insistent that the idea would work, strongly emphasizing the solid fundamentals of the business. For one, the rental business is scalable and profitable. Second, there is a steady and growing demand for such services. In addition, Lin observes that customer acquisition cost is low and that the business has a tremendous social impact. Last and most importantly, there is serious potential for incorporating big data technology into the business model.
But at the same time, electric vehicle company Tesla was disrupting the automotive industry. Tesla’s market value surpassed the largest automaker, Toyota, in June 2020, and Lin had faith that the micromobility industry would experience a similar trajectory.
Eyeing the potential opportunity in this sector, Lin and Chang decided to establish Moovo with the aim of building a fully modularized micromobility platform focused on e-bikes that would serve a broad user base. Moovo’s approach ensures maximum scalability across different form factors at a minimal marginal cost. The team launched their new company in Singapore.
“Singapore’s government has the most stringent regulations for managing micromobility sharing operators,” Lin says. “If we were able to comply with those regulations, then we could expand our platform to the global stage.”
To meet Singapore’s requirements for bicycle parking, Moovo incorporated an electronic geofencing system into the platform so that each e-bike can only be parked in designated QR code-enabled areas. Furthermore, users must take a photo of the parked e-bike to confirm it is in the correct location.
“We proved that parking issues during the bike-share 1.0 era can be resolved through the latest technology,” says Lin. “We are also automating the parking verification process through rigorous data analytics algorithms and even AR [augmented reality] technology.”
In addition to the geofencing system, Moovo’s e-bikes are equipped with sensors that collect data along more than 100 parameters, including temperature, position, and torque. Using this data, the e-bikes consistently finetune themselves to give riders the best user experience. Moovo’s data platform is also compliant with international standards such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the personal data protection acts of Singapore and Taiwan.
“When we built the Moovo e-bike, we viewed it as a kind of consumer electronic and developed an operating system, software, and apps around it,” says Lin. “It has transformed from a pure hardware product into a service-driven consumer electronic device. We are on the cusp of revolutionizing the micromobility industry.”
Following its success in Singapore, Moovo moved into the European market, where it partners with local bike-sharing companies, equipping their bikes with Moovo’s platform.
Using this strategy, Moovo has expanded to around 20 cities internationally, with over 30,000 e-bikes in operation, and has accumulated more than 1 million users, about 70% of whom are in Europe. Early last year, Moovo also began operating in New Taipei City and in July installed a fleet of e-bikes in Changhua.
In the future, Moovo will further open-source its platform protocols to integrate multiple modes of transportation and maximize user convenience.
Teaming up with Wistron
Moovo’s platform eventually attracted the attention of Taiwan tech giant Wistron, which has been seeking deeper collaboration with companies that have innovative ideas for IoT products. The company formed the Innovation Integration Center (IIC) in 2016 to provide a full range of commercialized services, including product development, integration of IoT sensing applications, and product manufacturing.
“When I first talked to Moovo, I immediately felt the potential of its platform for the global market, and I think Wistron can definitely help fuel its business growth roadmap,” says Alex Chiu, director of sales and marketing at Wistron IIC. “We are also impressed by Moovo’s ability to expand quickly across the globe.”
Wistron will provide its IoT and systems integration expertise to help Moovo advance the e-bike sharing platform. “The key barrier to entry is the integration of hardware (e-bike), software, and IoT,” says Moovo’s Lin. “Wistron is an expert on integration, which makes it a perfect partner.”
Last month, Moovo closed their pre-A Round funding (a small initial fundraising exercise), securing investors including Cherubic Ventures, Cornerstone Ventures, and AVA, who were all impressed with Moovo’s tech capability and global execution.
Japanese mobile gaming company Colopl, inc. also made a strategic investment in Moovo this June. Like Wistron, it cites Moovo’s ability to expand rapidly overseas as a major factor in its decision. Colopl will work closely with Moovo to leverage advanced technology like AR gaming to optimize the user experience and increase operational efficiency through gamification.
With its new funding, partners, and Wistron’s resources, Moovo will continue to develop its micromobility business and help create the e-bike industry of tomorrow.
– Startup Spotlight is part of a content exchange partnership between Taiwan Business TOPICS and Meet Global. The article featured this month first appeared on Meet Global in June 2021 and was updated in March 2022. It has been reprinted, with editing, with permission from the publisher.