Formed in 2016 after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Copenhagen-based start-up Mate.Bike has managed to make a name for itself as a sustainable, independent online retailer of luxury electric bikes.
Siblings Christian Adel Michael and Julie Kronstrøm Carton wanted to tackle climate change by offering consumers an alternative to cars that was practical yet unique.
Three years after the success of their 2016 crowdfunding campaign to kickstart the business, Mate.Bike turned profitable, with revenues of $18.4 million and EBITDA of $600,000. It had also turned into a global ecommerce operation that handles orders and deliveries to more than 80 countries.
Mate.Bike’s success also allowed it to open division in the UK, where Harris Qureshi leads the operations as a partner of the business.
Prior to joining Mate Bike UK, Qureshi had always been a bike enthusiast who spent his childhood riding a minimum of 1520 miles each day. Before reaching the age of 16, he managed to form a successful business repairing bikes across his hometown of Cambridge before creating his own custom built bikes. he said he saw an opportunity with Mate.Bike “way before Covid” as it offered consumers a practical way to travel.
The cycling industry has undoubtedly seen a boom as commuters avoid public transport due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact according to the Bicycle Association, almost 50 per cent more electric bikes were sold in April alone last year – the height of the first wave of the pandemic.
Qureshi said there had “definitely been a rise” in sales at Mate.Bike. Many of its suppliers have continuously been sold out of stock, leading to longer lead times due to a surge in demand for electric bikes. Qureshi added that while this has encouraging, Mate.Bike was still “very new”.
“Almost 50% more electric bikes were sold in April alone last year.”
“Although we’re cool and we’ve got some amazing collaborations, we’re still brand new,” he explained.
“When you think about bikes, you might think of a more established business which has been around for 20 years, so currently we’re on that mission to let more and more people know about us.”
For someone who may be looking to buy their first electric bike – what makes Mate Bike different? Qureshi said consumers could use one of commuter bikes on offer – at least when when the current lockdown measures ease and offices reopen.
“We’ve got a number of unique selling points,” he said, pointing to the product’s practicality for being lightweight and foldable.
“One would be the practical design of the bike. Not only is it a folding bike that folds in half, you can fold the handlebar bar stem down.”
The bikes also have phone charging capabilities as well as a discreet battery that’s hidden away.
“Affordability is another point obviously, where the average e-bike can cost between £3000 to £5000,” Qureshi continued.
“The Mate X is priced very competitively around £2000 pounds, so it’s a lot more affordable than some of the competitors.”
Qureshi said Mate.Bike manages to keep its bikes affordable because it keeps margins as low as possible.
“We want our bikes to be an affordable way that someone can make the switch or cut down on the use of their car,” he said.
“If someone had to pay thousands and thousands of pounds, there’d be a much smaller sector, no doubt.
“By keeping the costs down anyone and everyone can get this bike, especially once we have the new finance options.”
Last year, Mate.Bike debuted its mobile showroom in Birmingham’s Grand Central, allowing potential customers to get a feel for the bikes themselves.
Later this year, when restrictions eventually ease again, visitors will be able to visit Mate.Bike pop up stores across various cities in the UK, including Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh for fortnightly periods.
Qureshi said the cycling brand and retailer has no plans to secure a permanent physical space for the time being, and would instead focus on its ecommerce operations and pop up stores.
“But we could see a bricks and mortar store in the UK later down the line as Mate.Bike launched its first flagship store in Copenhagen,” he added.
“We would go with the same concept and design and potentially doing in London.
“However, that’s a lot of money to be spent elsewhere as well.”
Qureshi highlighted that Mate.Bike’s products are also stocked in Harrods and Selfridges in London, which therefore reduced the need to open a standalone London store.
Nonetheless, 2021 is set to be a big year for the start-up brand. It has already kick-started the year with a collaboration with the luxury label Moncler.
“There are only 200 bikes available in the UK, and 1000 worldwide, so it’s very limited edition,” Qureshi said.
Qureshi also hinted that there could be a number of “very interesting collaborations” in the pipeline for 2021 and 2022, but he said those plans were being kept under wraps.
Looking back on the short term success of Mate.Bike, Qureshi offered up some advice to anyone keen to establish a business in retail as a start-up or independent brand.
“Fully understand and analyse the market that you’re entering,” he said.
“You’ve just really got to understand what you’re getting yourself into.”
He also urged budding retailers to make sure they looked at risk elements and aim to keep operational capital expenditures “as low as possible, especially in year one”.
“This way you can make sure that in year two you’re still afloat and you’ve made it work,” he said.