Rhyde – a sustainable urban micromobility solution
MAPFRE and CESVIMAP (MAPFRE’s Road Safety and Experimentation Center) invest in university entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial spirit among young university goers is alive and well. In most cases, this spirit is born from their awareness that something broken needs to be fixed, and their sense that they have a role to play in this transformation.
Campus-born companies have access to a wide network of support, mentorship, and counseling these days, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face challenges along the way. Erik Ojantakanen is the CEO and co-founder of Rhyde, a micromobility company that has earned its sustainability stripes by refurbishing and repurposing scooters and electric bikes. Ojantakanen shares his experience in this interview, and tells us about the collaboration with CESVIMAP, the mobility lab that is part of MAPFRE Open Innovation, on university-level entrepreneurship initiatives. Rhyde’s mission is to ensure that none of these personal transportation devices (PTD) are thrown away or abandoned. The company’s operation gets them back on the road and in the hands of users, contributing to making the mobility industry as circular as possible without compromising on safety standards.
To start, we’d like to learn a bit more about you and your company. Can you tell us what Rhyde is all about?
Rhyde is the leader in micromobility and refurbishment in Spain, (where, according to the Guesss analysis on the entrepreneurial spirit of university students, more than 20% of under graduates aspire to be entrepreneurs in the short or long term). We are a sustainable company with a fully circular business model: we buy used scooters and electric bikes, repair them until so they are like new and then sell them at fair prices. By reducing the need to manufacture new PTDs, we offset 200 kg of CO2 for each scooter we sell.
We have a team of professional mechanics working at our repair shop in Madrid. Thanks to our collaboration with CESVIMAP, MAPFRE’s Road Safety and Experimentation Center, the mechanics have been trained in repairing and refurbishing PTDs using an interactive module that was created by MAPFRE’s R&D team.
Our value proposition is simple: you pay less and pollute less when you buy a Rhyde scooter, without compromising on quality or service. We work with the best-known brands in the market and in the coming months, we’re going to expand our range to include electric bikes.
Where the business idea come from?
Rhyde was born in response to the urgent need to tackle sustainable mobility. From its creation five years ago, the micromobility industry has aimed to offer sustainable solutions through new and innovative ways of getting around.
It’s true that these electric vehicles don’t emit pollution when they are in use. However, this level of analysis doesn’t capture the entire reality. In fact, ride-sharing electric scooters can produce up to 3.5 times more pollution per passenger/kilometer than electric cars. The main reason for this is the short useful life of PTDs. And that’s where Rhyde comes in.
Our mission is to neutralize the impact of the urban mobility carbon emissions by systematically extending the service life of PTDs by professionally refurbishing them. We tackle the number one problem of sustainability in the micromobility industry, while offering the most competitive prices.
Each scooter bought from Rhyde represents one less scooter that needs to be manufactured from scratch. We want to make sure no PTDs are discarded in the trash by refurbishing them and giving them a second life, making the mobility industry as circular as possible.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur is all about solving a problem that exists. You have to provide products or services that give more value to the consumer, because they are better value or deliver better functionality or whatever. Defining entrepreneurship isn’t that difficult, but every entrepreneur has their own perspective on what it specifically means to him or her.
What knowledge and abilities do entrepreneurs need to make their business work?
Entrepreneurs should be passionate about their vision. Without the right attitude, it’ll be impossible to face the ups and downs of business, especially in the early days. Having a vision and making it a reality isn’t easy. You need grit, perseverance, and the ability to prioritize and manage people. Every startup has its good parts and its not-so-good parts.
In recent years, many startups have appeared that started life in the hallways and classrooms of universities. In your case, what tools did your university give you to help you on your way to being an entrepreneur?
I think the most important thing you can learn at university is how to face problems. Of course, you also get in-depth knowledge on various topics, but in a startup, your main job is to solve an everyday problem. Memorizing a formula or the theoretical comprehension of a concept, on its own, won’t solve anything.
You have to tackle problems systematically, understand the background of the problem, identify the interested parties and relevant topics, and, finally, clearly define the problem. Only then can you get to work on solving the problem. That’s the first thing I learned at university: solving problems that don’t yet have a solution.
If you were to give us just one piece of advice, what would you say to someone who is hesitant about setting out on the path to being an entrepreneur?
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Entrepreneurship is a never-ending process of trial and error. That’s the only way you can hope to understand what works and what doesn’t. You have to learn from every mistake and keep moving forward. Don’t be too hard on yourself when things go badly, and recognize that it’s a natural part of the entrepreneurial process.
What do you think the sector has in store for us down the line? What does the future of sustainable mobility look like to you?
Micromobility will account for more than 15% of urban mobility by 2030. That makes it a half-a-billon euro industry. We’re just in the early steps of revolutionizing mobility. New companies are cropping up every day with innovative ideas and products. Personally, I’m really excited to see where we’ll be in five years.
For us at Rhyde, the future is clear: we’ll keep working to take refurbishment to the next level within mobility. Electrification is only one part of the transition to a sustainable planet. We also have to minimize emissions throughout the value chain, mainly in product manufacturing, and the best way to do that is to extend the useful life of each apparatus.
At MAPFRE, we’re proud to support, from MAPFRE Open Innovation, innovative startups that are strongly committed to sustainability, because like us, they center their actions on the health of the planet and as a consequence, of people themselves. In short, at MAPFRE, we innovate for a better present that will give way to the future we deserve.