3 Day Startup brings Austrian eScooter company to Austin

Bojan Jukic of goUrban visited Austin in 2017, as part of 3 Day Startup’s Austria to Austin program. He was wowed by Austin, and gained some strong business guidance during his visit. We were connected to Bojan by Smart Connect and recently sat down with him to hear about his significant business progress.

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Tell us your company story, and about the current state of your roll-out.

We were founded in 2016 though we first thought of the concept in 2015. It took one and a half years from our founding, to get our first scooters onto the street. Our greatest challenges during that time were, of course, hardware and software development, but also getting pricing right. And since our business is hardware-intensive, we had to fundraise first so that we could start to scale.

We now have 50 e-Scooters on the street in Vienna. Our system is free-floating like Car2Go, except that parking is much easier, as you can easily find enough space to leave your scooter between two cars. We’ve spent a lot of time on our app, which allows you to see a scooter’s location and reserve one for 15 minutes. Once you get to the scooter, you can unlock it digitally, take out a helmet and a single-use hygiene cap from the case we’ve designed, just press start to get going. We now charge 21 cents/minute, but the price can come down to 14 cents/minute with a $70 prepaid card. For next year, we have different target groups (young professionals, students, tourists). In fact, sightseeing tours can be booked via our app! Users can pay $20 to keep the scooter overnight, which they might do if they live outside of our core business area.

The scooter has an electric engine which is equivalent to 50 cc and it goes about 50 km/h, or 30 mph, with range of about 60 km [35 miles]. It’s easy to pass traffic, of course and, as a I said, to park. By the way, a fair amount of urban traffic comes from people looking for parking spots, by the way, so we think we are helping with that. And we’re also helping with the environment, more directly: our scooters come with exchangeable batteries, which our service teams support.

The original idea came from my colleague, Jonathan Gleixner, who was very interested in the sharing economy, and who first tried out a ski-sharing business. He personally felt a lot of frustration with the challenge of parking a car, used through a car share. On a visit to Asia, Jonathan saw that many cities were full of scooters, and realized that this would be his new big project. The entire founders group agreed that the problem was very real and that they were all experiencing it: They were always coming too late to appointments because of traffic, delays of public transport or because of the parking situation.

 

Thanks for that story. So, we’re in touch because you visited Austin this past summer and made some contacts here. What brought you to Austin and what are your thoughts about your future in our city?

About six months ago, I applied, through the US embassy, to participate in 3 Day Startup’s Austria to Austin program. Twenty-three Austrian students are sent each year to get to know the Austin startup ecosystem. We had an amazing experience here in Austin, where we met with potential investors and mentors, and visited co-working sites.

While we were here, I got impression that the city would be a perfect fit for us. There are many students in Austin. Over fifty-five thousand, I believe. They are centralized and have a lot of parking problems. The city has a lot of traffic problems and Car2Go has been successful here. So we thought, “Why not?” and initiated a conversation with city officials, who were quite encouraging about our project. They loved that the scooters were electric, especially

So there could be a great business fit but I have to admit that, more generally, many of us were really impressed by the vibrant cool atmosphere here. We were surprised by the median age of around 30 years old and loved the tech scene, yes, but also the rooftop bars and the open, ambitious atmosphere.

 

So, I’m sure you know that you would have competition here, and not just from car services. Who else would you be competing with here, and what other key obstacles would be in your way?

Yes, correct. Bike services, for instance, are now available in Austin, and we think that’s a good thing: We are very excited about people thinking about new ways of moving around town. What I will say is that there are some parking challenges related to those services, since the downtown stations get filled up in the morning, so that limits the attractiveness of using them for commuting.

We’re in discussion with the City of Austin, which is producing an RFI related to this project, and, initially, we would be looking at a business area to include downtown, Hyde Park, South Congress, and East Austin). We are also working with our scooter manufacturer as they gain the licenses, and pass the tests, they need to export to the US.

One interesting thing about comparing Vienna and Austin is that we did not actually need any permits in Vienna. America tends to be a much easier place to do business with fewer limitations, so that surprised us, but we are happy to work through the process, of course.

 

You mentioned your scooter manufacturer. Can you tell us more about the hardware you use?

Sure, the scooter is produced in China and NIU is the best mid-class scooter, in our opinion--we’ve looked at many! The batteries come from Japan, and the engine is a Bosch, from Germany. We are aiming for a partnership with the University of Technology in Vienna to work together on innovative sharing software solutions. The market is still in its beginning stages and rapidly growing.

 

Tell us about your team.

Our team comes from very diverse backgrounds. Jonathan, who is doing sales, studied economics previously. Michael studied law and is now leading our marketing. Previously, he was involved in an HR software startup. I lead the software and hardware customization engineering. This work includes app development, software installed on the bike, and the design of the helmet case, for instance.

 

Tell us a bit about your investment history and your plans for scaling.

Our first investment round supported a pilot, of ten scooters. We worked out the kinks and have started to scale. Afterwards we finished our second investment round to add 40 more scooters to the streets of Vienna. By next spring, we aim to have 200 scooters and we believe that the capacity for Vienna is at least 1000 scooters. Car2Go and BMW’s DriveNow together have 1300 vehicles in Vienna and Vienna is one of the most successful sharing cities. There are, in fact, about 7000 rentals/day on these vehicles.

Again, we welcome this growth from our competitors, since there is a lot of change happening in the mobility market and the competitors’ work helps the marketing get to critical mass.