From the Tesla of e-bikes to bankruptcy
Since its founding in the Netherlands in 2009 by Taco and Ties Carlier, VanMoof changed the face of e-bikes and direct-to-consumer sales in Europe.
It released six bikes with features such as GPS, customised gear settings, and anti-theft technology. VanMoof won two Red Dot Design awards and received the moniker "Tesla of e-bikes."
It expanded its reach to various brick-and-mortar retail locations globally.
Yet despite these achievements, the company struggled with the supply chain woes that beset many hardware companies during the pandemic.
Customers were vocally querying the status of late deliveries over social media, and some reported their ~$2,000 investments arriving with scuffs, scratches, and assorted damages that occurred during shipping. Wobbly wheels, faulty hydraulic brakes, and a wide range of non-sensical error codes on the bike's display.
Despite the brand offering a lifetime of repairs, customers faced significant delays. Worse, proprietary parts made only by the company meant that regular bike shops sometimes could not fix the bikes.
In January, we learned that 2021 sales figures crunched by Dutch financial media outlet FD showed that VanMoof generated a turnover of €83 million in 2021 and a loss of €78 million.
Yet in August 2021, Dealroom valued the company at between $512 million and 768 million.
Things were looking up when the company most recently raised a whopping $128 million in September 2021 from a Series C round led by Hillhouse Capital Group.
But it wasn't enough, and the company filed for insolvency, going bankrupt in August of this year.
This left bike owners (who had received their orders) with expensive e-bikes, repairability woes, and connected apps that were no longer operational, making many functions unavailable once the company pulled the plug.
A saving grace, but with risk
LAVOIE's acquisition is a saving grace for the brand. But it comes with risk. Industry insiders share that Lavoie paid a price in the "tens of millions" of dollars – a far cry from that 2021 valuation.
It's also part of a more significant move by LAVOIE to include e-bikes in parallel with its existing premium e-scooter operation with a nod to serious automotive engineering. However, Dutch news outlet Het Parool reports that only 50 to 60 staff, from VanMoof's previously existing 700+ roster, will be retained.
Under the terms of the agreement, the acquisition will see LAVOIE and McLaren Applied inject stability into the VanMoof operations, combining and integrating their premium capabilities to create a next-generation e-mobility business and establish a world-leading premium e-mobility offering.
It also allows this expanded company to tap into the leadership of independent technology pioneers McLaren Applied.
Eliott Wertheimer, LAVOIE CEO shared:
"With its next generation of e-bikes, smart technology, innovative design, and loyal customer base, VanMoof and Lavoie fit together perfectly.
VanMoof has 190,000 customers globally and our commitment is to continue to keep those riders on the road whilst we stabilise and efficiently grow the VanMoof business and continue to develop its world-class products."
Nick Fry, McLaren Applied Chairman, stated:
"The acquisition of VanMoof underscores our commitment to strengthen and grow our world-leading e-mobility business.
We see a huge potential to transform the way people travel around the congested cities of the world in a more active and enjoyable way.
This exciting deal helps us to accelerate global growth, allowing us to increase the scale and quality of products and services we can offer to our customers.
We are fully committed to being leaders in manufacturing premium e-mobility products that are redefining the category with each ride."
It's been a tough year for personal mobility, and while the acquisition is great news, there are a lot of unknowns. VanMoof has not shared any news publicly on the acquisition.
We don't know what it will mean in practice for those waiting for deliveries or repairs or indeed, any customers with earlier iterations from the brand. I'm hopeful but not holding my breath until we find out more.
Lead image: supplied by VanMoof.