Ridepanda launched in 2020 as a direct-to-consumer micromobility platform, a marketplace for high-quality e-scooters and e-bikes. The founders, alumni at shared micromobility companies Lime, Bird and Scoot, sensed the shift away from shared and toward small electric vehicle ownership and wanted to capitalize on it.
Within a couple of years of managing supply chains, providing maintenance to customers across a range of brands and dealing with customer service nationwide, the founders realized D2C was actually a hard business to be in.
Today, Ridepanda has completely rebranded, shifting its focus toward helping enterprise customers like Amazon offer e-bikes and e-scooters to their employees.
“We’re venture-backed, so we are aiming for high growth, predictable, recurring revenue,” Chinmay Malaviya, co-founder and co-CEO of Ridepanda, told TechCrunch. “That’s why for us subscription and leasing were very interesting concepts to go and dabble in.”
Ridepanda initially approached Amazon after the retail giant announced its intention in 2021 to offer its employees e-bike benefits, including rentals, maintenance and more.
“[Teaming up with Amazon] was our first attempt at this pivot, and it worked out very well,” said Malaviya. “They wanted a single vendor, a platform with many different kinds of products. They wanted somebody to take the full service experience, and they wanted someone to give them all the data on how it’s performing.”
That partnership has helped form Ridepanda into the business that it is today, one that is delivering an enterprise-level product with an end-to-end solution featuring a customized employee portal, a selection of scooters and bikes at different price points and a robust data reporting dashboard. Ridepanda counts 10 businesses as customers today, including Google, Intuit, Expedia and various city agencies, but is eyeing expansion plans.
The startup just raised $7.5 million in debt and equity in a round led by Blackhorn Ventures and Yamaha Motor Ventures. The funds will be used, in part, to expand into a new city. Today Ridepanda has so-called “Panda Hubs,” where employees can test out vehicles or take them to get serviced, in Seattle, San Francisco and New York. Ridepanda’s strategy for growth is to look for where the employers are and choose cities that are good for scooting or biking.
Ridepanda also has a goal to get 100,000 employees riding micromobility vehicles by 2026. To do that, it’ll need to invest more in end talent, like sales and marketing, to build out a growth engine.
“In terms of the tech platform, we are really turning it into a turnkey solution for employers that gets everything done from helping the customers browse the vehicles, pick the right one for them, to the servicing and all the in-person pieces that need to happen, to the marketing,” Charlie Depman, co-founder and co-CEO of Ridepanda, told TechCrunch. “Just a full spectrum solution much like you have with a company like Gympass.”
What didn’t work with D2C
Malaviya said the team learned from the mistakes of now-bankrupt e-bike darling VanMoof, which failed in large part because it didn’t have a robust enough supply chain and service network to handle fixing and replacing all of its proprietary parts.
Ridepanda dealt with a range of supply issues during COVID, when “there was no supply,” which meant “the margins were very tight,” said Malaviya.
“As a middleman, we were just not able to get the margins we wanted to make it a sustainable business,” he continued.
It was also hard to provide customers with the sort of white glove customer service they expected when Ridepanda was relying on third parties or the brands themselves to handle any maintenance issues.
“The issues we were facing working with multiple different brands are, if you ship a product, and there’s a warranty issue, they have nobody to help. We are responsible. And the bike is maybe in the middle of nowhere in the U.S.,” said Malaviya.
That’s why all of the vehicles on Ridepanda’s platform today are brands that use off-the-shelf parts that are easily repairable.
“It’s less about what didn’t work, and more about the objectives of these companies that started to emerge,” said Depman.
“Return to office is big. Sustainability and Scope 3 emissions is big. Health and wellness is top of mind, and so is being more efficient with parking costs,” continued Malaviya. “We’re touching on a lot of these tailwinds.”