What you need to know
Eco-friendly scooters are planning to take on the crowded and polluted streets of Taipei.
Taiwan ranks first globally in the density of scooters – approximately 14 million scooters for the population of 23 million, according to the Taiwan Environmental Information Center. A 50 c.c. scooter emits almost three times the amount of carbon monoxide a small car does, and nearly seven times the amount of hydrocarbons, according to the Environmental Protection Administration.
Jeffrey Wu (吳昕霈), CEO of WeMo scooter, aims to solve the problem of overwhelming scooters in Taipei by providing a new service that combines sharing economy and eco-friendly scooters. The startup launched its services in October for a three to six month trial.
The News Lens International(TNLI): Can you briefly describe what the company does and how it makes money?
Jeffrey Wu: WeMo Scooter is a company that wants to build a better urban life by creating a new way of smart transportation that is sustainable, economical and fun. We do so through a fleet of e-scooters shared by the everyday consumer; all they need to do is install the WeMo App, the only interface they will need to reserve, rent, turn on/off, ride and pay for a seamless, point-to-point transportation service.
We will make money initially through rental fees of NT$25 (US$0.80) for the first 10 minutes, and NT$2.5/min thereafter. We will also release new pricing plans as we gain more insights from our pilot launch. In the longer term, we hope to also generate revenue through IoT/Big Data applications.
TNLI: How did you come up with the idea of WeMo Scooter?
Wu: Three of our four founders have extensive management consulting backgrounds. Being a management consultant literally means we do not have in-depth knowledge of any specific field, but that gave us the advantage and courage of thinking through real-world problems that we are passionate about and believe we can add value to.
We knew from the start we wanted our project to follow circular economy/shared economy principles, and at the same time we realized that the motorcycle culture is a unique Taiwanese trait that we can provide some new ideas in. The motorcycle is a very convenient form of transportation, but causes air and noise pollution. We hope to keep the good traits of the culture and remove the bad parts through our service.
TNLI: What is the current company status, including the scale, employees, customer numbers of WeMo Scooter?
Wu: We are a company that has been established for roughly a year, with about 10 employees (full-time and part-time). We spent most of last year developing a prototype, joining the Appworks accelerator, and now deploying our first commercial release (pilot test launch). Within the next couple of weeks, we will have released all 200 of our scooters into the streets of Taipei, in a limited zone covering Da-an, Xinyi, and Zhongzheng districts. As we have only introduced our service to Taipei residents – customer numbers are still in the hundreds and will probably need a couple of months before we reach the number that we are satisfied with.
TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges, both personally and professionally, of founding the company?
Wu: We picked a rather complicated project to work on – not only do we need R&D efforts to develop a smart control device to link to the e-scooters, we also have to know how to run and operate a fleet of e-scooters that runs free-flow (no hubs/stations). Furthermore, we need to educate the consumers how to use e-scooter sharing and why it actually makes their lives more convenient.
Other than that, startup life is the same for any entrepreneur. We have to handle everything with limited resources and limited manpower. We have to deal with families and friends that may or may not support you in this path. That is just part of our daily lives.
TNLI: What has been the biggest success story to-date?
So far, we haven’t had a big success story. I would not consider us successful until we are able to reach critical mass and provide a service that includes all of downtown Taipei, which requires probably 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles.
TNLI: How does WeMo Scooter work?
Wu: There are three components to the WeMo Scooter service:
a. WeMo Scooters – an electric scooter with a smart-control device that tells us its status (e.g. battery level) and receive commands and instructions (e.g. turn on vehicle). We insist on electric vehicles because we wish to reduce air and noise pollution in the city.
b. WeMo App – now available on Android/Google Play Store (iOS to follow before end of the year), the WeMo App allows the user to search, reserve, rent, turn on/off and make payments when they use our rental service.
c. Hassle-free rental – for the user, the whole riding experience is hassle-free and convenient. The user does not have to charge the scooter on his/her own, worry about maintenance (done on regular basis), or apply for an insurance (we provide high-coverage insurance). When any incident happens on the road, users can park the vehicle on the side of the road, notify us, and then leave, saving them the time usually needed if it were their personal vehicle. We took huge efforts to ensure that our users receive good services.
TNLI: How would WeMo Scooter benefit the people and the city?
Wu: We hope to become a convenient alternative for urban citizens with transportation needs in different scenarios. For example, other than taxis, there aren't any other transportation services operating past midnight – WeMo Scooter can very well be your alternative. I am sure there are many more scenarios where WeMo Scooters are needed.
TNLI: What is the next step for WeMo Scooter?
Wu: We are going to continue our pilot launch in the next three to six months where we collect and analyze data so we can offer better services. Meanwhile, we will also be in talks with VC for funding. We will hopefully be confident after our pilot to aim to deploy roughly 1000-2000 vehicles into the city.
TNLI: Are there any exciting upcoming plans or new services lately?
Wu: We are in talks with multiple parties (government, other startups) on several initiatives, including to detect pollution - PM2.5 levels, to figure out traffic congestion and to detect road cracks.
TNLI: What does WeMo Scooter hope to achieve in the next five years?
Wu: We hope to become a household brand name and be in all major cities in Taiwan, with international expansion plans being deployed.
First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White