Upway, the French startup that refurbishes and resells electric bikes across a range of brands, launched in the U.S. Tuesday. The company will focus its efforts on the Northeast region of the country, but its bikes will be available for shipping across the continental U.S.
Upway has already made a name for itself in Europe, where it has refurbished and certified more than 10,000 e-bikes throughout France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since its launch in 2021. With the rise of e-bike sales in the U.S. that kicked off during the COVID-19 pandemic, a secondhand market is beginning to emerge.
It’s not enough, however, to just buy a used e-bike on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace — customers want to know that they’re getting not just an affordable product, but also a safe one, particularly as the rate of fires caused by e-bike batteries increases.
“Our goal at Upway is to be at the forefront of not only providing the consumer with an extensive selection of certified electric bikes from leading brands, but also provide them comfort in knowing that every product carried in our warehouse has been officially certified from leading mechanics in the industry and will be ready to safely ride upon arrival,” said Toussaint Wattinne, CEO and co-founder of Upway, in a statement.
Upway has the backing of institutional investors like Sequoia Capital, which led the startup’s $25 million Series A last year. The company aims to make its platform a marketplace for the largest selection of e-bikes, from road and mountain bikes to cargo and foldable bikes — and everything in between. Upway says customers can get up to 60% off the retail price of a high-quality, “like new” e-bike through its platform.
Upway already works with top European e-bike brands like VanMoof, Riese & Müller and Gazelle, but will expand its lineup to include American bike companies like Specialized, Cannondale and Rad Power Bikes, according to Wattinne.
The company typically sources e-bikes in three ways. The first is through individual owners who sell their bikes directly to Upway through the website. Upway says they provide sellers a quote within 24 hours.
The second way is via a wide network of retailers. Today, Upway has around 500 retailers in its European network and is working on building up U.S. partners.
“What we offer these retailers is a trading program, meaning whenever a customer comes into that store to buy a new e-bike, if they currently own a used e-bike, that store will be able to buy back that old bike, and the customer will only have to pay the difference between the price of the new bike and the buyback cost of their old bike,” Wattinne told TechCrunch.
Wattinne noted that not only is it a good deal for the customer, but it makes the retailer’s life easier, as well.
“They don’t need to price the secondhand bike. They don’t need to refurbish it. They don’t need to then put it on sale, because it’s all powered by Upway. We give them a quote, we collect the bike, we pay them directly.”
Finally, Upway also works with fleet owners or companies that provide fleets, like Zoomo or Cycle. These companies typically want to renew their fleets after two or three years and look for a partner to purchase their whole used fleet, says Wattinne.
Once the company sources the bikes, they’ll go to Upway’s warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a team of mechanics inspect, repair, replace and refurbish, assessing both the mechanical and electronic condition of each bike. Wattinne says it’s important for Upway to operate all its refurbishment operations in house, rather than outsourcing to local mechanics, because it allows the company to ensure the highest standards. Everything from the brakes and the drivetrain to the motor and the battery comes with a one-year warranty.
Upway hopes to open more local and regional warehouses across the country, starting with the West Coast. For the moment, the company’s goal with its U.S. launch is to learn more about the customer, confirm the appetite for this service from American customers and get some traction before expanding.
Today, Upway’s working with a small team of 10 people, but aims to grow its team up to 50 people by the end of the year.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Upway had 200 retail partners in Europe, but the company told TechCrunch that it actually has closer to 500.