There’s a lot of attention to electric scooters on the market, both the moped kind and the push scooters. Today’s news is about the former — Berlin-based startup unu has landed a $12 million funding round led by Ponooc, with participation from Capnamic Ventures, IRIS Capital, Michael Baum, and NRW.BANK. The company claims to have sold some 10,000 vehicles since its launch in 2013; now it’s going to use the raised capital to build a second generation of its scooter that will be connected to the internet. Moreover, the company’s vision goes well beyond two-wheelers all the way to autonomous car fleets.
Founded in 2013, unu has been focusing on relatively affordable electric scooters starting at some €1,800 that are available across Germany, Austria, France, and the Netherlands. Unlike some competitors, unu scooters have a range of just 50km per battery and can’t go faster than 45km/h. The first-gen vehicles are produced with the use of off-the-shelf components.
“We basically took petrol scooters and transformed them into electric ones,” unu co-founder Elias Atahi told Tech.eu.
The next step for the company is the launch of a new generation of its scooter, this time built by its specifications in China by the ODM giant Flextronics. The vehicle, which will hit the market at an unspecified point in the future, will have 4G capabilities and be well-suited for the use by ride-sharing platforms or business fleets.
unu has already signed several memorandums of understanding with companies in Germany, the Netherlands, and the US, which are interested in operating such co-branded ride-sharing services. The company plans to deliver white-label solutions with all the software and hardware working out of the box, but won’t participate in running the local operations.
Atahi didn’t disclose the first places where the scooter-sharing platforms will launch, saying only that those are “big cities.”
The grand vision
Electric scooters are undeniably interesting, but for unu they are just another step towards its end goal — shared electric autonomous cars.
“We didn’t start unu with an intention to build an electric scooter company,” Atahi said. “The idea was always that we hate the direction that our cities are taking, that more and more people live in cities but they get to experience the city less and less. We founded unu to close this gap. We have an ultimate product vision that consists of the establishment of three major mobility trends: electric mobility, mobility as a service, and autonomous driving. The vehicle that we intend to see in ten years is an electric shared autonomous car — that’s the vehicle that solves all problems of mobility.
“So, how do we get there? Back when we started, we were students without money and experience, so we decided to have three product generations. The first one is the current scooter — it was all about making the first viable electric vehicle. Now we’re tackling the second step, connectivity — that’s mobility as a service. We’re going to expand it to different vehicle categories, like shared electric bikes and electric cars. And then we’re going to make the jump to the third product generation once the [autonomous driving] technology becomes commoditised, when the regulations are in place, and when it’s safe and secure. Our vision is not that we’re a technology leader — we’re just the ones using existing technology to offer the best experience.”
In the photo, left to right: unu co-founders Pascal Blum, Mathieu Caudal, and Elias Atahi