I spoke to Ardo Reinsalu, CEO of Stigo, for an interview about what is hailed as the “world’s fastest folding electric scooter,” a scooter I recently wrote about after I discovered it. We can’t wait to test ride this welcome solution to “last-mile” transportation needs.
How long has Stigo been around?
The Stigo team began to draw plans for a smarter mobility solution for city and busy urban centers back in 2007. The goal was to replace cars and the company went into a very long and extensive development process for years. Although it had originally planned for a carbon fiber frame, which took two years out of the development process, it was thought to be too difficult manufacture and ultimately wasn’t financially feasible.
By 2013, the Stigo was officially introduced with an aluminum frame. Two years later, Stigo found engineering and manufacturing partners in China and worked on its own sets of quality control to produce the 300 parts needed for the folding action.
We asked why Stigo focused mainly on Europe and Ardo told us that, while around 200,000 bicycles are sold in the US, Germany sells 900,000 a year. The German market is a leader in this industry and ripe for electric bicycles (e-bikes) and electric scooters (e-scooters).
The company is now branching off to Asia, where it already received a positive welcome. South Korea has particularly enjoyed this cool ergonomic e-scooter. The company also found a lot of success in Singapore and China. Next step is the US.
Ardo also announced that Stigo was named a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Accessible Tech product category, which reflects innovative design and engineering in some of the most cutting-edge technology products and services coming to market.
Motivation & The Original Stigo Idea
Everything started with an extensive marketing background focused on answering our urban and city mobility needs. Stigo quickly came to the conclusion that cars cannot be the solution for cities. On the other hands, while two-wheel vehicles are good, they don’t necessarily work well with work clothes. Although scooters are particularly good for that, parking is not easy and they can be stolen. A problem Stigo found was that charging is inexistent for small e-mobility vehicles. The answer was simple: a fast folding e-scooter that can be brought into an office, a coffee shop, or public transportation. It needed to have a small footprint and be practical enough to combine with transit.
Ardo surprised us with a study that pointed to tires and brakes creating massive particulate pollution. You can read more about it here. To date, a few cities have already taken drastic measures against pollution, such as London banning certain traffic and others looking into banning diesel cars. Oslo, Norway, will ban all cars from its city center by 2019. It is not alone, as Madrid, Spain, plans to ban cars from 500 acres of its city center by 2020 and Hamburg, Germany, will reduce the number of cars by only allowing pedestrians and bikers to enter certain areas within the next two decades. Finally, when Paris, France, banned car traffic with even-numbered plates for a day in 2014, its pollution dropped by 30%. Now the city wants to discourage cars from driving in the city center at all.
Stigo Focuses on Ergonomics
One thing Stigo worked to get right directly is ergonomics. A last-mile solution needs to be comfortable. The Stigo had to answer the questions: How do people want to get from point A to B, and will they want to sit up or down? Seating became a priority and it had to accommodate full-grown adults. In order to do that, the distance between the handlebar and the seat is the same as you would find on a bicycle. Despite the Stigo looking small, it feels big and comfortable enough to ride a mile or two, if not more. This explains why Stigo didn’t choose a two-wheel bicycle route since it would fold as well.
As we mentioned previously, US e-bike and non-existent e-scooter laws are difficult to follow since each state has its own and cities also have their own ordinances. A bicycle can go faster than a scooter and pedal laws make powerful e-bikes accessible to anyone. Ardo asks then why would an e-scooter be held under the same bicycle laws when it rides slower? The company hopes to change the current laws and open the market to more competition and innovations in this field. We also found out that there are no scooter lobbies yet to change the laws in the US.
Stigo & The Competition
As far as competition, Ardo believes there really isn’t much of it yet. Stigo does what it does very well and is already established internationally. According to the feedback the company has received over the years, resellers have tried other products and found nothing that comes close as far as functionality and practicality. He is looking forward to more competition and getting more people out of their cars while adapting the laws to our modern needs.
Ardo mentioned a brief competition stint that happened in China a few years ago. A company went as far as to raise an uproar. They had copied the Stigo piece by piece, infringing on intellectual property and seen locally as not representing China in a positive light. Today, Stigo has a subsidiary in China and seems to enjoy a good relationship with the country. Copying is easy, but the hard part is putting it together well and having the right market, the right market studies, and most importantly, the right financial resource. This is what makes or breaks a company.
Stigo, In Conclusion
Out future has a serious air pollution problem and big heavy electric cars won’t be enough to curb it back. We need a portfolio of various e-mobility solutions, including four-wheel cars, RT3 (three-wheeled vehicles), and two-wheel bicycles and motorcycles. Scooters occupy a very special niche that is not well represented so far.
Only a comprehensive e-mobility solution will curb pollution in a busy city center. It needs to include light and tailored e-mobility that offers a compelling solution for an average person for 1 to 5 miles at a time. That is the sweet spot Stigo is trying to answer.