By Raoul Stöckle, founder and CEO of BOND Mobility
Almost everyone has seen it: Scooters lying flat on the road. Shared bicycles in the river. Vandalism and reckless behaviour are not only a logistical nightmare for many sharing providers, they also represent a huge financial burden and have already driven some shared vehicle providers to ruin. Raoul Stöckle, founder and CEO of BOND Mobility, explains how his company succeeded in preventing vandalism and therefore is on its way to profitability.
When we launched our service in April 2017, we installed a few hundred high-end e-bikes in Zurich and our offer was received very positively by the public. A few months later oBike launched and again, one year later, e-scooter companies flooded the streets. The main difference between the other providers as compared to our service: vandalism was a huge problem for them right from the beginning!
Higher quality vehicles encourage better treatment
After more than two years of experience, we are pleased to find that this is still not the case for us. We see some clear indications that one of the key reasons is the high quality of our e-bikes: They are rather expensive and are top premium vehicles valued at around $4,000 each. Our customers are aware of this fact and treat them with increased caution: they report damages via app, place them correctly in the bike rack and just treat them as if they were their own ones. All because they are aware of the equipment’s value and therefore do not want to be liable for damages.
These observations lead us to the conclusion that the acceptance of our high-quality vehicles on public roads is higher than the cheap and often broken vehicles of our competitors – which, furthermore, are often incorrectly parked whilst congesting cities.
The advantage of “flying mechanics”
Another factor that we see as a possible explanation of low vandalism is our high service rate. All our bikes are serviced at least every third day by trained, so-called “flying mechanics”. They not only swap the battery if needed, but also test the brakes, check the helmet (which comes with every bike), the rear view mirror, the mobile phone holder, and so on. If something does not correspond to the standard, they repair most damages directly on site. If it is a more complicated case, the bikes are removed from the booking system and taken to the workshop. For us, this complex and costly service pays off twofold: Our bikes have a very long service life of now over 3 years and customers enjoy the highest quality offer (and rate our service with an NPS of 63, a top value in the sharing industry).
Although the bikes are more expensive, we have not experienced many thefts so far. Each and every bike is equipped with an active main GPS tracker and a hidden secondary radio module recording all movements. Once you try to remove a tracker, the brakes and the motor lock automatically. These parts can’t be reinstalled on any other bike, because they are electronically encrypted. In addition, our bikes are relatively heavy and cannot be carried away easily. If something gets stolen, the parts cannot easily re-sold, because all assembly parts are branded. We also have many proprietary parts which are only usable on our bikes. To summarize – for thieves there are much easier targets than our bikes!
A Growing Fleet
Today we are active in Zurich, Bern, Zug, Munich and Helsinki – soon to come to more cities in Europe and other mature markets around the world. Starting in a new city, our bikes are well received by the population as the citizens love our offer. After initial mistrust, many policymakers have been quickly convinced by our clean and premium fleets, allowing us to sustainably enter new markets without the need of cluttering the streets with copious but inferior vehicles. We too have started to offer B2B solutions for corporates in addition to our B2C model.
Our experience so far clearly shows that it was worth trusting our DNA and following our Swiss values: Focus on excellent bicycles, high-quality bike support and very helpful and fast customer support. Today, we experience daily appreciation not only from satisfied customers, but also from city officials and happy investors.