MATE.bike is an e-bike company born in Copenhagen, Denmark founded by Christian Adel Michael, Julie Kronstrøm Carton, and Bertrand Carton.
They launched their campaign in 2016 which became the most successful Denmark’s Indiegogo crowdfunding project.
Bertrand Carton – CEO of MATE.bike shared with us his vision about the right way of dealing with an idea and startup.
Olesya Novik: -What is your industry? Are there any trends now? Are you a part of those trends?
Bertrand Carton: -MATE is an e-bike manufacturing business. But we are really a lifestyle brand. We enable our brand to be more than just a bike, more than just a beauty solution.
About trends: in our business, we are trying to get cars off the streets. Biking seems to us an ideal way of transportation in many countries because of climate, landscape, and roads.
E-bikes are especially popular in the USA and Europe. It is more and more normal to see them on the streets. But e-bikes today are very bulky, inconvenient and expensive. We are trying to change that by making bikes more affordable so that they are a viable option to as many people as possible across the world. And I think our products solve life’s inconveniences, especially as they are foldable and help make everything accessible to all people. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, live in a city or in a village, in an apartment or a house.
Olesya: -What kind of innovation, advantage or message should your product/service bring to the customer?
Bertrand: -We are providing the market with something that appeals to many people. MATE contributes to the start of a cycling revolution. E-bike is a solution which will force people to buy bikes more. To use a bike you do not need to be a professional cyclist, you do not need much space, you do not need to do much effort to ride a bike like ours.
Olesya: -What inspired you and how did you decide to start your business?
Bertrand: -We started it together with my wife and her brother Christian. Christian has always been a fan of different gadgets and electronic products which stand out in a crowd. Julie, on the other hand, is a true believer that she will always use a bike instead of the car while there is an opportunity to do so. By combining these two character traits, MATE was born. Its mission from the very beginning, which will always remain, is to offer a bike that will attract a lot of people.
On the photo: Christian Adel Michael and Julie Kronstrøm Carton, Founders of MATE.bike
It has to inspire them to hop on a bike. We’ve done this by incorporating technological advances throughout our whole bike and packaging it in something sleek and cool-looking. We offered a friendly everyday companion that will transport you in a smarter, better and faster way. And you’ll look sharp while riding it! Basically, we’ve created a bike that will solve most people’s needs in one shot. And that’s how it all started.
Olesya: -How did you find the investments? What steps do you recommend in order to find investments?
Bertrand: -We decided to use crowdfunding to start production as it was the best solution for our project. It met market needs. Five days after we had launched, we reached our target to start production. In the first two months, we became the biggest crowdfunding campaign of all time. That told us that we are really onto something. And we just continued moving in this direction.
Crowdfunding is good when you have a physical product or, maybe, an app that will help people in their everyday lives. Crowdfunding is good when you have something that you can give back. You have to do a lot of work to create something attractive enough to meet crowdfunding requirements – to make people trust in your product and your idea.
But for other types of businesses, crowdfunding may not be the best way to find investments. It also depends if the product is targeting direct consumers or businesses. If you target businesses, crowdfunding will not be the easiest platform. You’ll need to find another way to monetize your business.
Olesya: -What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
Bertrand: -We are learning every day. Sometimes it is important to start something even if you are not completely prepared and must try to correct the steps along the way. You will never be prepared enough, you will never be close to reaching perfection. Perfection comes with time. So no need to be over-prepared before launching.
On the other hand, do not underestimate the amount of work that is needed to succeed. Do not underestimate your own investment if you opt for crowdfunding, as you will still need to invest a lot of your own time and money. The key is to try and find the most creative solutions to produce and ensure your product. You basically have to portray the image of success. I can guarantee you that if you have an unattractive product, you’ll never reach success.
It is important to also invest a lot in others around you. When others are interested in your project, they are more apt to be inspired to stand by you along the way through to the finish line. These people could be your employees or even possible collaborators.
Make sure you do some research before you jump into a new project. You need to be sure that you will be able to come up with a solid plan that can withstand the growing pains since you’ll have new issues every day. It’s always best to have a strong team behind you. You’ll increase your chances of success and make your job much easier, even when it comes to simple things like validation of your ideas. The saying, “power in numbers” really holds true here.
Olesya: -It is not a secret that winning customers is the main purpose of all businesses. So how do you win yours and what methods and channels do you use in your work to attract your customers?
Bertrand: -We invest a lot in marketing to first attract the customers. We use Facebook to do advertising, to make sure that we are targeting enough people. Then it comes down to things like customer service to keep them once they come in. Customer service alone can make or break a business. If customers lose trust in you, then they won’t recommend your products to their friends…at a minimum. Then there are social media, where disgruntled customers always have the most to say. And nowadays, before people purchase online products, the first thing they do is check social media reviews. With this said, it is really important to take care of your existing customers to ensure the future of your business.
We use platforms like Zendesk and Facebook to help be available to prospective and existing customers. It’s here where we really need to make sure all questions from customers are answered. Again, if we are not responsive to solid information in a timely manner, trust is lost. This alone can sink a business.
Olesya: -Why did you decide to use outsourcing solution rather building an in-house customer care? What was the most important thing when choosing support provider and why did you choose WOW24-7?
Bertrand: -We had too many customer inquiries coming from all over the world. At the same time, we became the victims of our own success. Some people will say that it is not a good way to outsource customer service, but for our specific needs, it was the smartest choice.
We looked at countless options before going with WOW24-7. You came highly recommended by our network of friends. We first looked into your qualifications to determine that you were indeed experienced in creating a solid solution for our needs. Once that was confirmed, we were then won over by how you were ready and willing to make ample time for us to get the job done well. The moment we decided on you, we moved quickly as you know. We didn’t want to lose any more time…or any more customers! You can say we took a chance on WOW24-7, something we don’t regret.
On the photo: Maya Momotok, CEO&Co-Founder at WOW24-7
Olesya: -What employee skills are important and valuable for you?
Bertrand: -People who can work in an autonomous way, who don’t need to be managed on a daily basis. People who can think “outside the box”. Employees who can solve problems in a creative way, as well as in a structural and rational way. They should have the passion for what we are doing. We do not want to waste our time on people who are just questioning what we do. Also, we appreciate people who like challenges, who are actually smarter than we are, and are able to come up with creative solutions.
Olesya: -What existing apps do you use and can recommend to young entrepreneurs?
Bertrand: -We use collaboration tools like Google Drive, Gmail. It works great for collaborating documents, for instance.
We have Slack, which is our way of communicating with each other and with you. We are trying to reduce emails as much as it possible to make sure that we are always connected with each other. For customer support, we use Zendesk, which is also a great way to handle the tickets.
Facebook is the social media channel that we use the most, although it’s very competitive with lots of brands advertising. But there’s also Instagram, which has more of a personal feel to it. Our attractive MATE photos work well there. We’re on Twitter as well.
Olesya: -What is still your biggest challenge?
Bertrand: -We are still not able to spend so much time on developing new products and new ideas. It’s simply taking more time from us to manage our current growth than we had imagined. Yeah, that too falls into the category of “growing pains”, something we are very familiar with as we simply grew faster than ever expected. We are working hard on getting up to speed, to give a stronger impact on the market. Our goal is to be bigger, faster and smarter.
Olesya: -What advice can you give to young people who are struggling with a business idea, to turn their dream into reality?
Bertrand: -I will advise not to be too shy in talking about making your product a reality. This is exactly what you need to realize your dreams and make them thrive. Find people who have passion and are as dedicated as you in achieving your dream and your vision. Continue to question yourself – your plan – along the way, so you don’t miss out on any possible alternatives or new ways of turning your idea into reality.
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