A letter from Per Hassel Sørensen, Podbike® Founder and Chief Technical Officer.
Dear Podbike Fans,
I’m Per Hassel Sørensen, Podbike® Founder and Chief Technical Officer.
Christmas is approaching so I wanted to send you a personal message.
It’s an important one because I want to explain where we are as a company and what our plans are for 2023.
In our last newsletter, we provided insight into how we are preparing for higher interest rates, and the prospects of a global recession.
None of these things are good for business. But we saw them coming and are responding as best we can.
Today, I want to go deeper and explain our plans for getting our Podbike FRIKAR® into customers’ hands.
We expected our first delivery to have been made long ago, but COVID, global lockdowns, and the war in Ukraine sent us into uncharted waters. You know the back story, so I won’t go into it again.
THE CHALLENGE OF TOO MUCH SUCCESS TOO SOON
Our dream of creating sustainable urban transportation has resonated with such a large number of people around the world that we have more pre-orders than we can handle for the time being.
I love that my Podbike dream has been so heartily received, but this success has also been our Achilles Heel. We thought we could develop the bike faster than turned out to be true.
The engineering challenges were significant.
Customer expectations were high.
And then COVID hit. Out of nowhere, our business plan became confetti.
Nothing worked any more. And I mean nothing.
We couldn’t get specialized parts made because our suppliers were placed into lockdown. We couldn’t even buy standard bike parts because people stuck at home suddenly realized that one of the few ways to safely and efficiently get around during a pandemic was cycling. The supply chain for bike parts crumbled overnight in the face of overwhelming demand.
That’s the business environment we are working in. The Podbike team has performed Herculean work over the last three years to meet the challenge.
2023 is a new year though. It’s a chance to reset.
So, here is what we are planning:
FULL FOCUS ON EXISTING CUSTOMERS
We love having such large demand, but we need to focus our attention on getting bikes out the door.
Therefore, we will temporarily stop accepting new pre-orders as of midnight Monday December 19.
MANAGING OUR CASH RESERVES RESPONSIBLY
Our dream was to start large scale production of the FRIKAR after final testing was complete. We lined up a manufacturing facility in Germany and were preparing for major expansion. Our expectation was to have thousands of Podbikes rolling off the assembly line in 2021/2022.
The demand was there. The market was primed. Customers were excited about the brand and wanted to get their hands on a FRIKAR e-bike.
But the setbacks just kept on coming. We even caused a few ourselves when stress-testing revealed some unanticipated weak points in the FRIKAR chassis that needed a design correction.
Unlike a Ford or GM, we don’t have large cash reserves to dip into. We’re a startup and startups need to make every penny count.
Our 2022 crowdfunding campaign raised 1.3 million Euro. This was much appreciated capital and has created an even closer bond with you, our customers and investors.
But 1.3 million Euro is not enough for us to open a factory that will manufacture thousands of e-bikes annually. That takes big money – at least 10 million Euro according to our projections.
Additionally, our largest financial supporters want us to start small before they provide additional funds to establish a manufacturing hub. Like any seasoned entrepreneur, we looked these business-cycle headwinds straight in the eye, understood what was required, and pivoted.
SMALL STEPS BEFORE BIG ONES: RECALIBRATING OUR AMBITIONS WITH A NEW PRODUCTION SCHEDULE
We will limit our first production run to 180 FRIKARs – but, with a twist. (More on this below.)
I chose 180 as the magic production number because this was the number of days I needed to recover from my bike accident in 2009. This accident is the reason for developing the Podbike FRIKAR as a safer and more practical alternative to a regular bike.
The small production run will allow us to assemble these bikes with our small team in Stavanger, which will save us the expense of creating a separate assembly plant. Unfortunately, though, because we’re starting small, we won’t get volume discounts on parts from our suppliers.
We also have some parts that are unique to the FRIKAR, such as the 360-degree handmade canopy, chassis and seat. These are expensive to manufacture under any circumstances because they require special tools, and they will be even costlier when we order them in small numbers.
That leads me to our next big announcement…
A BRAND NEW PODBIKE MODEL IS BORN: THE FRIKAR Signature
To date, we have told you about two models: the FRIKAR Standard and the FRIKAR Plus.
We will start production of these, after the Signature model, which is expected to be completed during 2023. If you want one of these models, please sit tight and hang on just a little longer.
To bridge the gap, we have created a first model: the FRIKAR Signature
It’s a full FRIKAR, but an early version.
To get these first bikes on the road as quickly as possible, some of the parts inside the bike will be made with low-volume manufacturing processes. The Signature model will have some small compromises like this and we want to be upfront about it.
The vehicle will still be an eye-catcher though and we stand behind its build-quality.
We chose the name Signature because this first model will be rare and unique. It’s an early version of the revolutionary vehicle we have in mind. We know that many of you just want to grab a Podbike FRIKAR and hit the road. That’s the space the Signature will fill.
Only 180 Signature models will be delivered. They will be hand-built at Podbike HQ in Stavanger, Norway. Each e-bike will feature a numbered badge and a certificate of ownership that confirms its pedigree.
As Podbike’s brand grows, we hope this limited-edition Frikar Signature will grow more valuable over time and eventually become a collector item.
In appreciation of our earliest and most patient customers, we will dedicate half of the Signature bikes to Norway and half to Germany.
MAKING YOUR ORDER & DELIVERY
Here’s how it will work: Buying a Signature will be by invitation only
The first Signature bikes will be delivered in January 2023 to customers in and around Stavanger, Norway.
We invite you to confirm your order based on the date of the pre-order fee payment in each area.
If you are one of our earliest pre-order customers located in the Stavanger area (Norway), please watch your inbox for an invitation to buy your Signature between now and Christmas Eve.
We plan to expand deliveries to Germany in the second half of 2023. The Signature e-bike will be bulk-shipped to central locations in Norway and Germany, as we establish service partners.
WHAT WILL THE NEW Signature model COST?
The FRIKAR Signature will retail for 9,500 Euro (same price in Germany and Norway) + sales tax and shipping.
If you’d like studded tires for the snow and spare batteries, they will be available for purchase as extras. Full pricing details can be found here website: podbike.com/configurator
9,500 Euro is more than we wanted the Signature model to cost, but materials prices have increased drastically over the last few years and rising inflation keeps pushing them higher. Building bikes on a larger scale would help us reduce our costs. This remains our goal.
To reward our followers for their patience and loyalty, I want to offer Signature customers the following bonuses:
- – 10% off all spare parts for the lifetime of the vehicle.
- – 20% off upgrade components for the vehicle.
- – 30% off all Podbike-branded merchandise.
- – A GPS tracker (Bikefinder) and a three-month subscription to their online service so you can keep an eye on your FRIKAR no matter where it might be.
- – Three months theft and damage insurance through Bikefinder.
- – An insurance companies-approved bike lock.
- – Invitations to test-ride future Podbike models before they are made available to the general public.
- – An invitation to meet me and my fellow Podbike founder Anne-Lise Heggland in a webinar in 2023.
- – The possibility to join our Ambassador Program. Volunteers will earn Podbike merchandise and rewards.
- – An invitation to visit the Podbike factory in 2024.
📍 So, that’s where we are right now.
Let me finish by saying how proud we are of the support you, our followers, have shown us during the last few years of ups and downs. A slow roll-out was not what we had in mind when Podbike was established in 2016, but it’s where real life has taken us.
Yours in trust,
Per Hassel Sørensen
Sustainable Transportation Entrepreneur