MATE Bikes made its debut on the world stage with an affordable folding electric bike. CleanTechnica recently spoke with co-founder Julie Kronstrøm, who, along with her brother Christian Adel Michael, founded MATE two years ago. Their mission back then was to make an affordable, high-quality, well-designed e-bike that would make riding an electric bike an option for millions of people around the world.
Funded by the Crowd
They are back for their second act on IndieGoGo with the MATE X, which brings a ton of upgrades to a lightly polished version of same successful platform that they originally brought to the world. The core bike can still be purchased by itself — or customers can add on a number of options that let customers build up a custom bike for their lifestyle. On the back end, MATE has been hard at work to give the company a tune-up to ensure they are able to keep costs low as they scale up operations while delivering at the same quality that early riders came to love.
The campaign has already raised an impressive $11.7 million, which clearly takes what the team can do, and must do, to the next level. Julie shared that, “crowdfunding was one of the ways we were able to make it affordable at such a low price,” noting that the model allowed them to not only share their product directly with customers but to talk with them along the way.
Effectively engaging customers in the process turned customers into brand advocates and was one of the ways they built such a strong brand in such a short time, according to Julie. “It’s more or less one to one with crowdfunding,” which the team at MATE have demonstrated can be leveraged as a huge advantage when done well.
The Next Generation
The dynamic duo at MATE were excited to bring the second-generation of MATE to IndieGoGo because they were inspired by the feedback they had received through the campaign for the first-generation MATE bike. They were firmly committed to the idea of bringing a well-designed, affordable e-bike to the world, and the first-generation MATE demonstrated that there was demand. Also, along the way, they identified opportunities to improve upon the platform with add-ons as simple as fenders and lights. Julie shared that in the second campaign, they are looking to “give people the choice to make the upgrades they want.”
The new MATE X does add a few subtle base upgrades that Julie believes will boost the experience for riders in meaningful ways, including a performance boost that translates to a voltage boost that has been “increased from 36V to 48V, which means you get a much more powerful bike with more torque.” E-bikes are a lot like electric cars in that when you ride one, you just get it.
Julie shared that this is something they have seen at all levels. “Even those bike fanatics, when they get on an e-bike, they understand.” E-bikes enable bikers to ride for longer, faster, and even when they aren’t in shape. It’s a transformative experience that opens up the possibility of commuting and long-range biking to even more people. That lets people get in shape while getting the planet back in shape by cutting emissions at the same time. That’s a beautiful thing, whether it happens on a MATE bike or not.
Inspired to Change the World
MATE sprung out of some late-night ideation sessions between Julie and Christian. Julie was bored with the mundanity of life and out of the deep conversations with her brother they decided to take the plunge together, though Julie shared it was Christian who was the catalyst for taking the plunge. Their hard work, late nights, and the work they’ve done resulted in the MATE eBike.
Most importantly, the MATE has not only served as an inspiration for the establishment of the company, it has also inspired MATE customers around the world. Julie shared that they have shipped MATE bikes all over the world, including a few to exotic locales like Kazakhstan, where they shipped 4 MATE bikes. “I think we were just really surprised that it was so many countries,” Julie shared.
“We had some guy from Lima [Peru] riding and it was so inspiring to him that he wanted to change the whole traffic situation in Lima.” One of the beautiful things about promising new technologies is how they serve as a platform that opens up new possibilities for customers. E-bikes are certainly that, as MATE bikes are but a single example of how bike riders new to motors and batteries get on and take them out for a spin.
Julie shared that, “for me, it has been rewarding to see the impact we’re making on a single person.” That impact is being realized around the world by many more people in this second round of MATE bikes as the campaign soars to heights they had never dreamed of.
MATE X: Round Two
Don’t read this and get the impression that it’s all been a path covered in rose petals and champagne. Speaking with Julie, it was clear that the process of learning how to design a product for manufacturing, line up partners at all levels of the company — ranging from manufacturing to shipping and customer service — have all been challenges that have pushed the team to the brink.
Julie shared that, “we like to work together with people for a long time.” Building a company that’s not just filled with people, but that is filled with people who work together is key. “Making good relationships work,” is how Julie put it, but it really just shows how focused she is on building products and a company that works for people. “We let people shine around us,” she shared. And that’s amazing.
On the other hand, the experience has been extremely rewarding as they’ve built a team of people who now feel like family and that they can rally to overcome newer, larger challenges. Shipping has been one of the challenges for MATE, as the size of the LG or Samsung battery packs they use make all MATE eBike shipments “class 9 dangerous goods.” Not only that, but any container shipment containing a MATE e-bike is classified in its entirety as dangerous goods, which comes with its own set of increased rules and regulations.
We hope you are enjoying the weekend with your Mate! ✨
And if you haven't already, order your MATE X here: https://t.co/Bt8JtVgjNP #MATEBIKE #biking #style #matebikeinternational #ebike #indiegogo #bikelife #terrain ##durable #adventure #weekendmode #weekendride pic.twitter.com/30i6LplUW4
— MATE.BIKE (@mate_bike) September 9, 2018
This isn’t a MATE issue, but something that applies to all sorts of personal electric vehicles, including electric skateboards, scooters, e-bikes, and the like. “I really hope that the people working with these technologies can make them safer and easier to transport,” Julie shared. The good news is that with the volume of shipments steadily ramping up around the world and the continuous work to improve battery tech, it’s all but a certainty that the situation will improve over time. Until then, it’s one more item on the list of things to keep plugging away at for the team at MATE.
As for the dreamers, Christian continues to push the design of the MATE e-bike forward, with plans for a carbon fiber bike and smaller tweaks to the platform that they believe will allow them to reach more and more customers around the world. Yeah, not everyone needs a carbon fiber e-bike, but there are plenty of hardcore bikers around the world who would gladly pay a few hundred or thousand dollars more for a folding e-bike that was a few pounds lighter.
Features like carbon fiber frames and premium components are clearly not going to make their way into the baseline offering any time soon, but there are other bolt-ons that they’re looking at that they believe will help their customers even more. “There are many things you can do to improve the product, but then the price would be different.”
It’s onward and upward for the team at MATE as they continue to pave the road in front of them as they move forward while working hard at not taking themselves too seriously. Julie shared that, “it needs to be fun and relaxed,” and that part of the key to building a business where they actually want to work is “getting people’s input on what they like and not being too self-serious.” I think the unicorn paint job speaks loudly to this point, and while pink is not my color, it’s so ridiculous that it kind of actually makes me want to ride a pink (and green) bike.
For more info about the team at MATE and their new MATE X, head over to their IndieGoGo campaign to try to score a deal before the campaign ends.
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