We’re in the midst of an e-bike boom, particularly in Europe. More than 3 million electric bikes were sold across the EU in 2019. Even during the pandemic, when overall VC funding is down, e-bike manufacturers have raised millions to capitalize on the growing demand for electric bikes. But one company, called Dance, isn’t betting on a future where everyone buys an e-bike. It’s offering an e-bike subscription service, instead.
Dance, launched by SoundCloud founders Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung along with their friend Christian Springub, announced on October 22 that it raised 15 million euros ($17.8 million) in its Series A funding round to bring its e-bike subscription service to Berlin.
Dance’s vision of an e-bike subscription service differs from shared micromobility startups. “You get access to your own vehicle, so you’re not part of a shared pool,” says Quidenus-Wahlforss. “If it gets stolen, if it breaks down, if there’s any problems with it, then we’re there for you.” Through the accompanying app, users can schedule repairs, get their stolen e-bike replaced (for free), and manage their subscription, which costs 69 euros ($82) per month, though Dance is offering an introductory pilot price of 59 euros ($70). With SoundCloud, Quidenus-Wahlforss says, “we were part of the whole transition from owning music to renting music. . . . We think something similar could happen here.”
When you first sign up for Dance, your e-bike will be delivered to your door (in Berlin, that delivery will be via a cargo e-bike, not a truck), and you’ll get a three-day trial to test it out. Users can also cancel their subscriptions any time. The founders hope their price point makes e-bikes more accessible to everyone, without also clogging up streets with shared vehicles.
“We’ve seen an explosion of shared micromobility, where you have on-demand scooters and bikes available in many cities. And there is now some amount of chaos going on there, and there’s some consolidation,” he says. “One of the things we realized is that as a commuter, you still really want access to your own vehicle for a few reasons. It’s accessibility, that you have your vehicle whenever you need it, but also price, [where] using shared vehicles all the time is way too costly for people.” The average cost of an e-bike in Europe is about 2,000 euro ($2,374). Bike share prices range, with a Citi Bike membership in New York costing $179 a year, and Lime bikes and scooters charging a per-minute fee.
Dance first launched in Berlin in June and has since been running an email-only pilot program there with a “couple hundred” customers and bikes it has acquired from small e-bike companies, Quidenus-Wahlforss says. This funding, he says, will help them continue the research and development for their e-bike, software, and app. The startup is designing its own vehicle, which it hopes to launch some time next year. That bike will be equipped with a smart lock, and Quidenus-Wahlforss says they’re thinking a lot about anti-theft measures and the longevity of their e-bikes, since they will have to own and maintain their fleet.
While Dance is starting in Berlin, Quidenus-Wahlforss says the company has “global ambitions” and sees e-bikes as the future not only because of the pandemic but because of the climate crisis. “We think cities need to transform. The vision of the future we really believe in looks more like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, places where more than 50% of people commute regularly by bike,” he says. “We want to build a connected movement that is all about this transformation.”