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The vision of a better e-bike for rent

The Berlin scene produces start-ups that are almost overloaded with high expectations right from the start.

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The vision of a better e-bike for rent

The Berlin scene produces start-ups that are almost overloaded with high expectations right from the start. Dance is such a case. In 2020, rumors leaked out that the founders of the globally successful music service Soundcloud, Alexander Ljung and Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss were planning something new. It should be a start-up for “the development and operation of mobility solutions”, it said. A little later it became clear: the two scene veterans were planning a subscription service for e-bikes. Their first website featured a futuristic rear wheel with just three white spokes and a glowing rim.

The list of investors also raised high expectations for something completely new: the former Karstadt owner and major investor Nicolas Berggruen, the then Douglas boss Tina Müller, the rapper Will.I.Am and the Game of Thrones actress were there Maisie Williams. Later, the former national soccer player André Schürrle joined.

Matching the celebrity density, Quidenus-Wahlforss announced nothing less than a worldwide "movement" that Dance wanted to trigger. After all, the Swede had already managed to create a start-up with global significance 16 years ago: Above all, the DJ scene has changed Soundcloud forever. At the start of Dance 2020, Quidenus-Wahlforss also spoke of the hope of being able to have millions of wheels produced.

But Dance still falls short of the high expectations of rapid international expansion. So far there are only a few thousand bikes on the streets - and only in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna and Paris. And the more conventional bikes don't look as futuristic as in the first picture.

It should stay that way for the time being – despite fresh money. Quidenus-Wahlforss told WELT: "We will first focus on the cities in which we are already active". Dance will now receive twelve million euros of fresh money for growth in the existing cities, he announced. The existing venture capitalists such as HV Capital and BlueYard provide the additional funds for this - in some cases, however, not as equity, but as growth credit. Dance, like the entire start-up scene, is currently less focused on rapid growth than on working efficiently and showing that the business model can be economical, said Quidenus-Wahlforss.

As a result, Quidenus-Wahlforss was able to attract other well-established figures in the start-up scene as investors, such as the founder of the Berlin craft beer brand BRLO, Katharina Kurz, and the co-founder of the insurance app Wefox, Julian Teicke. According to "Crunchbase", Dance had already raised 55.5 million euros in several steps before the new round, most recently 20 million euros of this growth loan last spring. That is less than the older sharing providers: Tier from Berlin, for example, is financed with around 650 million euros, Lime from the USA with 1.5 billion dollars.

The dance business model is obvious, but not revolutionary: thanks to high-performance batteries and a fresh design, e-bikes for city traffic have become a real alternative to buses and cars. One obstacle to switching to this mode of transport, which is still unfamiliar to many, is the high purchase price of often several thousand euros. And the sharing bikes, which are offered in major German cities by scooter rental companies Tier and Lime, are hardly suitable for regular routes because of their steep per-minute prices and changing availability.

"We are very satisfied with the business development in the past year," said Quidenus-Wahlforss. For example, Dance has expanded the selection with a second bike with a low entry and created offers for companies that want to offer their employees discounted subscriptions.

The specially designed dance bikes are particularly suitable for city traffic, such as the way to work. Without gear shift and display, they are low-maintenance and fast, but less suitable for touring. In addition to e-bikes, Dance now also rents out subscription electric scooters for a monthly fee. Users can use the app to order repairs on site.

The Dutch provider Swapfiets could benefit from Dance's slow growth. He also made the bicycle subscription popular in Germany and also offers two e-bike models at similar prices to Dance.

Swapfiets is active in 22 cities in Germany alone. In addition to many Dutch cities and communities, there are also European metropolises such as Paris, Milan and London. Behind the Abo-Rad brand is the Dutch family company Pon Holdings, which owns the bicycle manufacturer Gazelle.

The Australian provider Zoomo is also pushing into the German market. There are also a number of subscription and leasing offers without their own on-site service. Other providers, on the other hand, have primarily discovered business with corporate customers such as delivery services - including the Dutch Swapfiets competitor E-Bike To Go, which has just come out of insolvency proceedings.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 5 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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