Ööbik Meets The Crowd
-By Neelie Verlinden
In ‘X Meets The Crowd’ I talk with entrepreneurs in the middle of their crowdfunding campaign. What’s the story behind their project? What are they looking for in an investor? Why do they think they stand out and what do they offer investors? Find out everything you want to know here, on our HelpTheCrowd Blog.
For my very first interview I spoke with Hannes Laar, one of the three founders of Ööbik. Based in Estonia, the “Nightingale of bicycles” is planning to enter the Western European and Scandinavian market next year. Passionate about their product, they aim to sell no less than 250 bikes in 2016, and were keen to tell me how they are going to become an industry leader.
HTC. Tell me about the first time you rode a bike…
Hannes Laar. The funny thing is that it’s probably one of the first things I even remember. I was in the countryside, I think my sister was teaching me how to ride without the support wheels. One day I wanted to practise but she couldn’t come so I did it by myself and I found myself just riding on my own. I can’t remember how old I was but it’s definitely one of the first memories I have.
HTC. How did you come up with the name, Ööbik?
HL. Ööbik means nightingale in Estonian. A nightingale is a small bird but has an amazing singing voice so we describe ourselves as a small company, coming from a small country with not that much funds behind us maybe, but we do make one of the best bikes on the market.
HTC. What’s your favourite feature of the bike?
HL. I think the actual smoothness of the ride. We have had a lot of work done and we’ve tuned the programmes and the electronics of the bike for it to be really smooth; the way it kicks in, the way it kicks out, when it powers you, when it doesn’t, how it is in the hills, how it is on the flats. You feel how the bike enhances your power, it helps you whenever you need it, but it doesn’t override you.
HTC. Why electric bikes?
HL. We saw the potential in the e-bikes appeal to a lot of people. Bikes are one of the most effective ways of transportation but right now I think a lot of people are afraid, and they do not actually comprehend what a bike can offer them. The freedom and the independence, the way you feel the streets, the way you smell, you can feel the autumn, you can feel the spring, there is something really special about that. I think having a bit of help with you makes the biking experience a bit more fun, a bit more relaxed. Probably 5 years ago I didn’t see myself getting into e-bikes as much as I am today, but I’ve been riding bicycles my whole life and I am so stunned as to how much potential it has and how it makes the commuting so comfortable, even on bad days, even with a lot of snow or rain.
HTC. The money you are raising through your campaign, what are you going to use it for?
HL. It’s more to actually support the launching of the new models and to have a supporting campaign for them. We are planning on a Kickstarter campaign in spring, this is one of the most important parts of our strategy for next year, and partly why we designed the models. One of the key features we’re doing differently with the new bike is that the battery is going to be inside the frame so there is not going to be any battery housings anymore. The wood is going to disappear or it’s going to be available only as an accessory, not as a necessity. The real revolution behind this is that the bikes are going to look like a normal bike but they are e-bikes. We are gaining funds because it’s going to be a different bike so we have to redesign the manufacturing process of it, redesign the frames. Prices are going to be really achievable for everyone, the most basic model is going to be around 1400 euros and that is achieved mostly by our direct selling model.
HTC. How have you been funded so far?
HL. From our own pockets pretty much. We are young and we’re very eager. Because of our background we can handle almost all of the stuff ourselves. I mean, electronics, mechanics, it’s all doable, so we’ve kept the costs really low but at the same time kept the quality really high because everything we do, our hearts and passions go into it. We really enjoy it when customers appreciate the quality and the attention to details that goes into the bikes.
HTC. What role do you see for your investors?
HL. We would like the investors and us to be a pretty tight knit financial collective so they can actually say what they think about this or that and maybe they can help to do something or share a contact base or a knowledge base. I think we’ve gotten some really good feedback from the early backers already. They have been asking some good questions and are making a lot of useful suggestions, so we see a good cooperation coming out of the investors side.
HTC. What are your investors getting in return, what are the perks?
HL. Besides the equity there are a couple of bonuses. If they invest at least a 1000 euros they get invited to the launching parties of our new models, they get a discount of 15% when they purchase one of our bikes, and they get the bike in a limited colour which is only available to the investors.
HTC. Can you tell me what colour it is?
HL. Nah, you got to invest in us. You become a part of a club that no one else can get into pretty much. If the sum is up to 5000 euros, you get 25% off on two bikes per year plus the other perks, and if you invest 25.000 euros you get a free bike.
HTC. Two years from now, where is Ööbik going to be?
HL. We are planning to be one of the the pacesetters of the field. Maybe 2 years is a bit ambitious, but I think that performance wise and innovation wise we are there so we just need to get out there, so to speak. Not only do we want to create the best bikes out there and be a brand with a good reputation, no, we want to really spread our message. It’s not just about creating the best bike, it’s about riding the bike and how the bike helps you to experience your city or your community. It’s about how it makes you feel, how it gives you the freedom and opportunities to go here and there, how it fits in a new and modern city. Having to take the bike instead of a car isn’t a punishment, it’s actually enjoyable, it’s a perk.
HTC. Any tips for other entrepreneurs looking into crowdfunding?
HL. Make sure to get your message out there and make it clear and simple. We know our field very well but we need to be able to explain what we try do to in an understandable way. Ask opinions about your materials and create a good video that’s not too long!