When we opened our new location, Factory Görlitzer Park, we had 14,000 square meters and five floors to fill, and who better to help fill it than Urban Drivestyle? Urban Drivestyle was originally formed as an “electric only” bike and scooter rental company located on the Island of Mallorca. However, Urban Drivestyle has since become far more than this. Customers were seeking out rugged, powerful and cool e-bikes that the market couldn’t deliver. This is where Urban Drivestyle came in with the development of their previously named MOKE bike. After a successful round of crowdfunding in February 2017, they sold over 200 bikes across 40 countries in just a few weeks. This success laid the foundation for the future of the company and acted as a catalyst for their big ideas to grow. The result? A complete redesign of the MOKE, and the introduction of the UNIMOKE. A mere ten months after introducing their product to the market, Urban Drivestyle moved to Berlin and set up camp at Factory.
Now we’re sitting down with their CEO, Andi Kranki to delve deeper into the future of the company. Andi joined Urban Drivestyle in 2018 after racking up 20 years of experience within IT. Previously, he was building one of Europe’s largest news service ‘upday’ as CTO, as well as leading the technology front at one of Europe’s largest DMPs. Andi is a WHU alumni, Factory Berlin member, and dedicated to the speed of delivery, continuous improvement and products that create impact.
How many people are you at UD, are you currently seeking support? Tell me more about your routes.
We are currently nine people, based in two locations. Most of the guys are based in Palma de Mallorca where Urban Drivestyle and the UNIMOKE originated. That’s where product development, prototyping, and the Mallorca business is based due to the high volume of rentals and hotels out there. Everything else runs remotely as a virtual team between Berlin and Mallorca with commuting between the two locations whenever necessary. The actual brand will be build and scaled from Berlin. We don’t see Urban Drivestyle as a pure bike manufacturer; we rather consider ourselves to be an e-mobility solutions creator transporting attitudes towards urban mobility in style. We’re currently looking for support in regards to our US expansion. Demands from the US are huge, and we need well-connected people to couple up with us regarding Marketing and PR. In addition to that, we are currently working on improving our online shop. This is, of course, related to templating, custom development and UX. We are not aiming to grow company operations by hires and full-timers, and so we are seeking exchange in regards to modern operating patterns. You don’t build classical company operations within a non-classical environment like the Factory.
What were you working on before having joined Urban Drivestyle?
I spent the last 20 years in IT in various positions from programmer to CTO. Via CIO Stiftung I was granted a scholarship at WHU where I did an MBA for the last two years. For the last three years, I was accompanying an incredibly talented tribe of people to build ‘upday’ which is, by now one of Europe’s largest news services. In the summer of 2017, I joined the Factory family with it already being clear in my mind that I wanted to pursue new opportunities and seek to join a community of innovation and creation.
What drove you to leave the software business and join bike manufacturing?
Generally, my motivation is fuelled by products that create impact rather than concentrating on revenue and profits in the first place. I always dreamed of being part of a product development effort that is physical, tangible and improves people’s lives. You can do that with software, but for a long time, I had been observing the e-mobility sector. By now technology reached a level of maturity where even small companies and creators can offer products that delight people’s desire to move efficiently. This was when I became a backer of the UNIMOKE with their initial crowdfunding campaign at the beginning of 2017. When I picked up my UNIMOKE in Mallorca in October 2017, I met the founders. It immediately felt like a perfect match in regards to vision, personalities, and impact. I dropped founding ideas and job offers, and I am now part of the journey to make the UNIMOKE a world-wide success story. Nobody cares about the Vespa in 10 years, but everybody knows the UNIMOKE.
Pretty much from the beginning, it became very clear to us that it’s not about the awesome location on the ground floor but about the concept of Factory itself. We basically dropped all Job postings and started to reach out to the community. The openness and agility of the Factory family stroke back immediately.
What exactly drew Urban Drivestyle to Factory Berlin?
The founders got to know Udo at a barbecue party a couple of years ago by accident. Udo also was one of the early buyers of the UNIMOKE. Over time, with the successful crowdfunding campaign and the expansion of Factory, we came to the conclusion to move the business to continental Europe. Berlin is the perfect choice for its incredible bike and mobility scene, start-ups and the Factory building the most awesome campus at Görli in Berlin. Luckily we have been able to move into the ground floor of the Factory. By now our space is mainly acquired for assembly and storage of our bikes. In the future we will change this to become a meeting, collaboration and creation space around e-mobility solutions and experiments.
We know you’re big on collaboration. How does that tie in with Factory Berlin and what collaborative projects are you currently working on inside and outside of Factory?
It’s now five weeks since we begun operation out of Factory Berlin. Pretty much from the beginning, it became very clear to us that it’s not about the awesome location on the ground floor but about the concept of Factory itself. We basically dropped all Job postings and started to reach out to the community. The openness and agility of the Factory family stroke back immediately. We want to have our bike interconnected with mobile phones, the internet, and accessories. We are collaborating with IOT Ventures and pi.pe in regards to bike hardware and owner use cases. Sensorberg is prototyping with us for a bike lock. We met Audi and Vodafone to exchange ideas and brainstorm synergies. We are already in discussion with several family members to support us concerning the US launch. Thinking with New School mentors about crafts and other projects around our bikes and e-mobility. The list goes on. This kind of collaboration can’t be imagined outside the Factory family.
Apart from the UNIMOKE we are also building on a bike sharing concept which is based on electric micro bikes and especially aims at co-working spaces, hotels, and events. It will be based on a weatherproof, containerised and stationary concept which will be prototyped here at Factory Berlin. More to come soon…
You currently offer UNIMOKE, but what’s next?
We see ourselves as an e-mobility solutions company. The UNIMOKE is the first vehicle in a line of concepts we are working on. Technology and manufacturing possibilities make it possible to develop electric vehicles fast at the highest quality. The Urban Micro Bikes are the next to come, apart from that, IOT technology is a focus topic to be pursued in the future. The bike should not only look awesome and move nicely. We also want it to lead in interconnectivity and related use cases (lending, renting, alarm system, lock, advertising use cases). Apart from that, we have already been developing a cargo version of the UIMOKE that aims at B2B use cases like delivery riders as well as families and businesses with increased carrying needs. We are already imagining electric trikes, four-wheelers, and multi-seaters.
Tell me more about connected IOT bikes?
Are there IOT bikes? The majority of bikes that have connectivity features offer a mobile app that lets you visualise riding and bike data like distance, battery power and so on. On the other hand, you have software features like navigation and control of hardware accessories like lights. In addition to that, you have bike sharing concepts where you have interoperability with your backend to analyse fleet data like capacity utilization, renting, locking, etc.. There is very little IOT for bike owners currently available. Things we imagine with connecting the UNIMOKE are p2p lending, technical service, remote service for electronic components, shopping and events recommendations, affiliate models within urban areas and much more. All this needs to happen in an always-on, minimal bandwidth fashion to not suck up connectivity cost for the bike owners.
The UNIMOKE doesn’t look like an ordinary Bike, tell me more about the ins and outs of this?
The design of the UNIMOKE is the creative braindump after buying any e-bike on the market and transforming the learnings into a concept that is solid, safe and adaptable. To be honest, we also added some 70s/80s style, remembering bikes like the Honda Monkey and Honda Dax. With a classical bicycle frame design, you simply don’t achieve this level of adaptability and style. We are now in the process of launching V3 of the UNIMOKE which has several improvements concerning stability, modularity, and design. Although many consider the UNIMOKE a motor bike or moped, it is much lighter and very easy to ride. It got less than half of the weight of an electric moped with a front light bright as the sun. The fat tires do not only look rough but add extra safety when it comes to urban areas and offroad trips.It’s a pedelec in line with European regulations. You can ride it on bike lanes without a license plate, just as a standard bicycle.
What kind of people are you looking to collaborate with in the future?
There is no clear and/or continuous answer to this question. Collaboration and support in regards to people needs to develop in conjunction with projects and scale of the company. Currently, we are aiming at international expansion, improving our e-commerce strategy and leverage as well as building up an efficient supply chain. If you find yourself in one of these domains, let’s have a coffee together.