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“It’s a success for us if a single e-bike or e-moped can serve multiple customers over its lifetime,” says Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss, CEO and co-founder of Berlin-based startup Dance.
As with many new mobility startups, Dance is betting that in the near future, city dwellers will not want to own many of the things they use and remain unencumbered by expensive, infrequently used items in their fast-paced lives.
While there are a host of companies, including iMove and elmo, for example, believing that private car ownership is not long for this world, Dance has taken it a step further by offering temporary e-bikes and e-mopeds.
“The current ways of purchasing and sharing bicycles do not serve everyone,” Quidenus-Wahlforss explains. “In a survey we did with Wakefield Research of Europeans in major cities, they recognise that light electric mobility, such as e-bikes and e-mopeds, are more sustainable and healthy options, but they see ownership as an investment and the purchase process as a hassle.”
So, is Dance tolling the death knell for private bicycles?
A Livable Future
“We founded Dance to make cities more livable,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss. “That means creating cities that are more connected, more sustainable and more people-oriented. And the top way we can do that is by decreasing car traffic in urban areas.”
Dance, which was founded back in January 2020, has proved a rare success story from the pandemic.
“The last few years has accelerated healthy conversation and change about what we prioritise in cities,” Quidenus-Wahlforss says. “People rediscovered cycling and reconsidered their old ways of commuting and travelling and they saw the immediate benefits of having fewer cars on the road.”
If Quidenus-Wahlforss’ name rings a bell, that shouldn’t be surprising. He founded Souncloud in 2007 along with fellow Swede Alexander Ljung. The two would also found Dance, along with Christian Springub.
“There is a global appetite to rethink our cities,” explains Quidenus-Wahlforss, “and there’s a great opportunity for a service like ours to serve the needs of people that want to choose a more sustainable option, but also want simplicity and support. Electric mobility membership is a flexible option, and we’re excited to introduce more people to our community.”
The growing desire to travel in better, more sustainable ways around urban centres is certainly being felt in the select markets that Dance is already operating in. From its Berlin base, Dance grew to Hamburg, Vienna, and Paris earlier this month.
“Car-free initiatives and increased cycling infrastructure will only increase in popularity around the world,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss.
“Munich and Vienna have made meaningful cycling infrastructure investments in the hundreds of millions. Paris has committed to spending €250 million on infrastructure improvements as they work to be 100% recyclable. Berlin has received international attention for proposing a car-free zone bigger than Manhattan.”
“We are proud to be a subscription, not a sales or sharing business,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss. “Traditional bike companies aim to sell as many bikes as possible each season. Sharing companies depend on municipalities to fund their work.
“Our model is different: we want to build relationships with members, make it as easy as possible for them to choose a more sustainable commute, and encourage them to use their e-bikes and e-mopeds over and over again.”
In Dance’s conception of urban mobility, owning a bike comes with all sorts of annoying problems while sharing bikes require upfront costs for cities present problems for users.
“Traditional ownership comes with the burden of maintenance, dealing with theft, and a steep upfront investment. Shared vehicles mean you have to hope vehicles are available where you are,” explains Quidenus-Wahlforss.
Not being able to find a sharing bike – whether electrified or not – is one of the most annoying parts of sustainable mobility. You want to do the right thing but can’t.
However, Dance’s different outlook doesn’t simply extend to the ways that it gets bikes to customers.
“What we focus on at Dance is the whole membership experiences,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss. “It isn’t just about design choices with vehicles, but what our member experiences in the onboarding, repair, maintenance, and return experience. Our software, hardware, and operations teams work closely to ensure we’re making the experience as frictionless as possible.”
That hardware team is responsible for the stylish Dance One and Dance Step One e-bikes.
“The Dance bikes are a custom design,” enthuses Quidenus-Wahlforss, “created by experts across aviation, engineering, consumer products, and cycling here in Germany.
The bikes, which start from €59 per month, feature an aluminium frame finished in a silvery-purple hue called “Matte Prism.” The Dance One is designed for riders between 160-195 cm tall while the Dance One Step – the name a nod to its step-through frame – is meant for slightly smaller riders.
Both can hit a top assist speed of 25 kph, while the removable battery should be able to take riders up to 55 km and can be recharged to 80% in two hours.
However, not content with offering bike subscriptions to individuals, Dance also launched a business service last month which, from our view, looks like a very savvy piece of business.
“Dance for Business was a strategic choice for us. It is designed for companies that want to offer a sustainable commute option for their employees who are contending with a few trends,” explains Quidenus-Wahlforss.
€59 per month is expensive for a bike – even an e-bike. However, with Dance Business, people could pay as little as €26.55 per month, with their employers picking up the slack.
“Today’s labour market is incredibly competitive, and companies are completely rethinking how they want to attract and retain their employees. Benefits are a key part of that recalibration, especially ones that are tied to health and sustainability,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss.
“Offices are beginning to reopen, and many employees are rethinking how, when, and if they’d like to commute. Perhaps they no longer want to drive for 90 minutes each day; maybe they’ve moved and need a way to better connect to public transit hubs. Perhaps they’re looking for a more active way to get around.
“By providing an e-bike or an e-moped as a benefit, companies can engage their employees and show they care about their wellbeing in a low-pressure, simple way.”
Built for Everyone?
Looking into Dance’s offering, it is clear who the company is targeting. Young, trendy, urban professionals with busy, active lifestyles and one eye on the environment.
But its bikes are expensive and its Business offering will likely only be taken up by the kind of companies that want to attract young, trendy, urban professionals.
Of course, this problem isn’t unique to Dance. VanMoof’s e-bikes, for example, start from €2,348 – or €88 per month – in Dance’s native Germany.
However, with the company raising €16.5 million last September and expanding to new cities, and launching its e-moped subscription service in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, it’s clear that there is definitely interest.
“Our goal is to cultivate a thriving community globally, continuously improving our vehicles and service as we grow. We are encouraged by the positive feedback from members and prospective members so far,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss.
Plus, with further expansion planned this year, it certainly seems as though Dance is targeting the right movers and shakers to keep the music more than simply playing.