The Business of Mobility: Dance finds its mobility groove

Dance, led by CEO Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss, explores the realm of e-bike subscriptions, capitalizing on the burgeoning demand for convenient urban mobility solutions.

The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.  

Q&A with Eric Quidenus-Wahlforss Co-Founder and CEO at Dance and Ross Douglas (Founder at Autonomy)  

Ross: Where are your headquarters located? 

Eric: We are headquartered in Berlin. Yeah. But Paris is our biggest market right now. 

Ross: Can you tell us a bit about the background to dance? What were the founders do- ing before? What was the idea of dance? What was the challenge that you wanted to overcome? 

Eric: I will try to keep the story short. I have a background in tech and the Internet. I started Soundcloud together with a friend and I did that for about 12 years and moved to Berlin from Stockholm to do that. And since then I’ve been based in Berlin. After 12 years of that, I felt like I had enough of entertainment and music and got more interested in climate tech topics as an angel investor and then eventually felt like I wanted to explore that world also as an entrepreneur. So I took a kind of a sabbatical in 2019 looking at what could be next. And I looked at a variety of different things, but mobility is something that I’ve been interested in for a while. And long story short, eventually explored the idea of building a bike subscription service. And that’s how I met my co-founder Christian. 

We went deep into the topic of mobility and saw that there was something really happening here around, cities transforming with the Ebike at the centre and we understood from our previous business that consumers like to subscribe to some services. 

Ross: When did you start? 

Eric: We decided in February of 2020, to start a company and this was literally just days before the pandemic hit with full force. This turned out to be the start of the biggest bike boom that the world has ever seen. So we launched across five cities; Berlin, Hamburg, Munich Vienna, and Paris, and have grown very quickly since then. 

Ross: Why did you choose to go the subscription model? 

Eric: E-bikes are great, But they are also expensive and tend to break or get stolen. So they’re like a bunch of headaches and issues connected with these bikes. And if you try to get a new bike serviced or repaired today the experience is never great as it takes so long to get the e-bike serviced or repaired. E-bikes are maybe 10X more complicated than traditional bikes and there is not yet the repairing infrastructure in cities. 

So, we understood that with an e-bike, your repair headache goes up, quite significantly. So that’s where a subscription can be great because you have no threshold, you just pay a monthly fee and the the services are included. And in our case we have a footprint in every city, right? So we have an operational footprint and have built the kind of machine that services the machine. So we have leveraged the software and data so that everything is highly optimised. We log every single repair for every single vehicle. We know a lot about the vehicle because of the data we get from every vehicle. 

Ross: How do you get the user experience right? 

Eric: The dance experience is that you download the app, you order a bike and then you can get it delivered to your door or you go and pick it up somewhere in the city. And that’s all pretty instant in Berlin and Paris right now where we offer same day delivery so we can go and pick it up right away. We also make sure that we can repair any vehicle within 24 hours. 

Ross: What has been your experience of operating in Paris? 

Eric: We launched across the five cities, fully in March, and April of 2022. And the last city we launched was Paris but this has also been our fastest growing city and most successful city with over 4,000 members in a year. 

Ross: How did you go about doing business in Paris? 

Eric: At the end of 2020 we got a big French investor in Dance. When they joined, they convinced us to go to Paris. We had already been looking at Paris before that, but they said look, you should probably just come here sooner rather than later and I think they were right about it. I would say they opened the city to us in a way and helped to make some connections and things like that. 

Ross: Why has Paris been so successful? 

Eric: I came back to Paris at the end of 2021 as part of the investment conversations. I had not been there since 2017 before, and it was a huge change with bikes everywhere. So, all this happened in a few years and it’s exciting in general that there can be such a transformation that actually happens more quickly than some people say, it’s possible. And so I think that’s being great so overall that’s been super positive. The city of course is not without its challenges. There is some vandalism, some theft. It’s sort of a bit of a messy, large city and it’s sometimes challenging for logistics. But on balance, Paris has been extremely positive.

Ross: What advice do you have for companies wanting to operate in Paris?

Eric: We’ve launched our Paris business one year ago and are very happy with the growth results. Paris as a city has invested a lot into bike friendliness and we see high demand for our subscription service. You obviously need a strong team on the ground, which we continue to invest in.

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