Since we started our business in 2014, room44’s aim has always been to be a bit different. ‘Thinking differently’ has unfortunately become something of a cliché, and future-proofing has become rather under-valued since COVID-19 knocked everybody for six.
Reading the runes and ‘helping’ clients see trends that will affect them is the currency that a new breed of consultancies trades in.
We did it differently in 2019 and 2020.
In early 2019, it was pretty obvious that the climate change agenda would impact mobility. Our thinking suggested internal combustion engines were doomed, and not only because governments laid down dates by which they would be outlawed, but also that these dates may be brought forward as new data became available.
Thinking differently has always been our strength and so, rather than sell this mantra exclusively, I decided we’d leap again.
Seeking a new venture for room44 to expand into, that would benefit from all the signs we read, we settled on eBikes. The reasons are many and various but after running our own scenarios assessment, this sector stacked up as a great opportunity.
How did we capitalise?
Simple. We started another company and now we sell eBikes, eBike service contracts, eBike hire schemes and we’re active in promoting local micro-mobility as part of the evolving multi-modal model.
Hang on, did you miss that bit: localism is a trend that had to evolve and this was part of the rationale too.
I have to admit, we didn’t factor in COVID-19 as part of the equation back in Q2’19, but serendipity has its place.
“The more I practise, the luckier I get.”
To start a company from scratch would have taken more time than I wanted to spend getting going, and we got lucky in the same way that Gary Player got luckier at golf the more he practised. Researching, meeting, talking, interrogating, investigating and filtering all featured in my personal bid to get into a market I simply knew would be good for us. And eventually we found our partner.
I met Fully Charged at the inaugural eBike Summit in Oxford and from that moment on our trajectory was set. A new partnership and venture takes tenacity and energy: even eighteen months into our relationship, we still have to work really hard to keep the ball rolling but, with trust on both sides, I couldn’t be happier with where we are and I know that Fully Charged is happy with our first year’s performance. Everybody wins.
Back to the ‘we help’ generation of consultancies. It’s not usual for a creative agency like room44 to step out of its groove and try something completely new based on its own trend analysis. It’s more common for them to create a digital version of project delivery so they can pull in more clients without increasing their staffing costs. I believe in thinking differently.
Ask yourself, who would you rather talk to: a business that has started up in this market environment, got going and become established when markets are in turmoil…?
Or someone who ‘helps you’ to see new ideas without the recent experience of seeing a trend and following their own intuition?
If this encourages you to have a chat, here’s how you can make a date that suits you.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what I/we do.
At the start of 2020, room44 had made the decision to diversify into a business segment that our trend analysis identified as growing. As things turned out, we were right for more reasons that we could have imagined.
room44 is delighted to be able to develop ideas for our clients using similar techniques, but for now, we’re thrilled to present the outcome of a project.
Working with our London-based partners, Fully Charged Ltd, Milton Keynes Council and the Energy Saving Trust we are supplying a new generation of urban mobility users with eCargo bikes. This will take cars and vans off our roads, reduce carbon emissions, provide an alternative to public transport and allow residents to try new ways of moving people and products.
Fully Charging towards a greener future for Milton Keynes
Fully Charged Silverstone has been awarded the contract to provide Milton Keynes Council with 21 eCargo bikes.
The Council, which has received funding from Energy Saving Trust, will take delivery of 16 Riese & Müller, two Urban Arrow and three Tern eCargo bikes over the coming weeks.
Ben Jaconelli, CEO of Fully Charged, welcomed the order: “The new age of transport is here. eCargo bikes are a truly viable alternative to cars and delivery vans in cities. The growth of enthusiasm for eBikes in the last couple of years has been phenomenal: once people try them, they’re hooked.”
Milton Keynes Council is committed to reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Its new eCargo bike fleet will provide three bikes for food distribution charity The Hubbub Foundation, which runs a nationwide network of Community Fridges, including four in Milton Keynes, and the Council will create a small rental fleet for use by local businesses for last-mile delivery. The eCargo bikes will help make council business travel more sustainable; the Council’s highway and tree inspectors will use the bikes as a greener way of getting around the borough for their investigations.
Cllr Lauren Townsend, Milton Keynes Cabinet Member for Sustainability said, “We are committed to new and innovative ways of achieving our ambition of being carbon neutral by 2030. eCargo bikes are a fantastic way to help us achieve this, enabling the council staff, social enterprises and local businesses to all play a part in reducing our impact on the environment. I think electric bikes are the future, and I’m really proud that yet again Milton Keynes is leading the way.”
Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, said: “The Department for Transport eCargo Bike Grant Fund attracted a significant number of applications. The 18 local authorities who have successfully secured funding will purchase a total of 273 eCargo bikes and nine eCargo bike trailers, enabling more businesses to benefit from access. eCargo bikes are an attractive low carbon transport solution which offer important benefits – most impressively, fuel cost savings and contributing to improved local air quality. Last-mile delivery is an important area for consideration in our drive to reduce transport emissions to net zero by 2050.”
Fully Charged Silverstone has a test-ride centre on Silverstone Park, next to the iconic racing circuit. Tristan Allen, director of the regional partnership with Fully Charged, said, “We are thrilled to have won the tender to supply MKC’s eCargo bike fleet. These bikes are extraordinarily high-quality machines, with superior build quality, industry-leading Bosch batteries and low-maintenance running. They’ll certainly be in demand.”
The eCargo Bike Grant Fund scheme is funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.
Notes to Editors The eligibility criteria and code of practice are available at: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/transport/ecargo-bike-grant-fund
For further details, contact:
Tristan Allen, Fully Charged Silverstone T: 01865 522122 E:email@example.com
Hayley Roche, Milton Keynes Council Hayley.firstname.lastname@example.org
We are often asked why it’s important to know what a trend might do to a business when the business is doing just fine.
It’s simple: everything changes, and your business will too.
Being alert to opportunity allows you time to prepare and to work to a plan, rather than forcing you to knee-jerk when competition springs up.
Here are a few current viewable trends. If they’ve never occurred to you, do get in touch – there are a lot more where these came from.
They don’t need engine components, fuel gauges, or gas tanks. If you’re in the supply chain at the sharp end of this business, it’s time to re-think.
Should you get into componentry for E-cars or focus on a growing heritage market? Like mechanical clocks and watches, classic cars went out of style for a while, but collectors now value precision engineering over digital accuracy, and old-school mechanics, like watchmakers, are hard to find. Scarcity also means ‘premium’.
Brewers and publicans will come to love e-bikes. Country pubs and restaurants away from public transport routes have been hit by stringent policing of drink-drive laws. Now, let’s make no criticism of drink-drive laws, but they have encouraged stay-at-home drinkers, and the unit price of alcohol has been forced down by supermarkets, hitting the pub trade hard.
Right now, e-bikes are treated like push-bikes by UK law. Add low-effort, motorised mobility and a pub’s appeal falls within comfortable range.
Accountancy is going to shrink as an industry. Professional services are entering a period of automation. The UK Treasury is imposing digital tax requirements on individuals and businesses alike; book-keeping packages allow small businesses and large company employees to file expenses and revenue on their phones. At school and university careers events, accountancy is starting to look pretty outdated compared with all the other skills-based careers on offer.
Traditional book-keepers and management accountants may not be feeling the squeeze just yet, but there’s a strong suggestion that a skills shortage is looming, and this will drive more automation, completing a vicious circle.
Cannabis in the UK
In the UK, cannabis is illegal as a recreational drug. But it depends where it’s used as to whether you’d get prosecuted for doing so.
Recent reports that this law may relax indicate that a change is coming. Features in the UK press reveal that non-UK companies are investing in this changing environment. Linking this back to drinking, outlets selling social experiences (like pubs and restaurants) face the same mobility (driving under the influence) issues as those who will promote cannabis consumption – maybe e-bikes have more potential than even the current operators think.
When Wikipedia was launched, the founders wanted it to eventually be possible to complete a degree from Wiki alone.
Since then, distance learning has evolved. The Open University has struggled to maintain its USP with every bricks and mortar uni offering a distance learning option and most people now turning to the internet for research of every kind.
Some universities will undoubtedly survive. But, like lots of products that are only differentiated by their marketing and their packaging, they’re probably looking at a future with less physical patronage.
Most of the experiences available through virtual reality (VR) still have a long way to go before they are totally immersive. But it won’t be long. Forget falling off a cliff or walking the plank. I’m talking about living in a VR world while you learn at a university, and interacting with fellow students but saving the costs of accommodation by doing so at home. If students can sign up to a degree anywhere in the world, regardless of their personal location, the emphasis will be very much on the academic provision, rather than the en-suite bathrooms in the new halls of residence.
Everything here is predictable
These insights are based on a creative extrapolation of trends you can read in the media any day of the week. But you have to be looking – or have someone doing it on your behalf.
Future thinking. Future-proofing.
Sometimes innovation feels too hard and takes too long to begin when common sense says ‘good enough’ is fine.
Radical solutions may be the best way forward but a single step moves the game on far enough for the next step to feel more possible – and the next…
A personal story
Here’s an example of my own where ‘radical is the end point but an analysis of the situation revealed a more pragmatic plan.
In 2016 I raced age group triathlon with Team GB. Lots of work and then it was on to the next campaign. Next, I had a bike crash. Three months later, on my very first ride after recovering, I had another one. Just riding to work my front wheel fitted perfectly between two paving slabs. What followed was a sudden teeth/paving slab interface and a cracked sternum. Cause and effect.
Eighteen months later I started to think about riding a bike but had no interest in repeating the experience.
I started looking around at ways of getting back on a bike. Being inclined towards new ideas my first stop was eBikes. They’re great. However, it’d need some investment. Sure, it’ll extend my range and relieve the use of my car but right now I need to ride a bike to avoid city traffic charges and parking costs.
After lots of looking around at possible solutions I realised that I didn’t fall off my bike because I can’t ride a bike. I fell off because a 23mm tyre fits between paving slabs. My tool of choice was inappropriate for the environment.
Getting back on the bike
In response I applied the values we teach and upcycled, recycled and designed a bike for this environment.
The picture at the top of this story is that bike. Wide tyres, a saddle that avoids the need for suspension, mountain bike gears and a rack to carry a laptop or shopping.
On top, it’s a parts bin special. There are charities out there, re-purposing donated bikes and doing so for far less than high street retails.
This one cost me less than £200 and perfect for my need, today.
Here’s my product development trajectory. Short term actions that are good enough, a mid-term plan with more deliverables plotted against the size of investment and a longer-term commitment to know what’s emerging so we can leapfrog to that if necessary.
This is the pragmatic side of innovation that demands we keep an eye on trends as they develop but which gives me what I need, and want, now.
This trend identification programme could be what you need too. It doesn’t have to be hard or take long.
Learn more about outside insight here.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
A few years ago, probably 2012 or so, there was a right old kerfuffle when some bright spark fitted a skateboard with a petrol engine, and the craze for powered personal mobility took off. For the first time, a semi-viable alternative to a bike was available and early adopters took to the idea as a commuting option. It didn’t last. The UK government decided the idea was silly and stories started to appear in the red tops saying that users weren’t contributing to the road fund license in the way other road users did (ignoring cyclists, of course).
Then came mini-bikes: the scourge of common land at weekends when dads turned their kids loose on waste ground. More headlines and an occasional sad accident saw the end of another passing consumer trend and a flood of unwanted Christmas presents on eBay and Gumtree.
But things are changing. Welcome to the age of fully sanctioned, free-from-surcharge, powered mobility for everybody? eBikes have changed your journey options and given us democratised mobility for the 14 to 104 age range.
What’s changed? Technology, that’s what.
Today, the gradual realisation among road users that cars aren’t the only option for getting to work is helping a new market expand: the electric bicycle.
Where will this lead?
Increasingly difficult road conditions and congestion have seen a rise in the use of bikes as a commuting solution. Not so much that the UK has invested in significant infrastructure developments, but enough to cause a blip on retail indices. In response to Team GB’s success at the 2012 Olympics, and by Brits in high profile road races, weekend warriors have been out and bought carbon bikes that now get them to work and into triathlon and other bike-based pastimes.
The recent development of (almost) affordable electric bikes has seen the age of cyclists rise too. A realistic 40-60 mile range gives new life to older legs. The price of eBikes is still pretty high, but we can see the trend in downward prices and greater choice. Not all schoolkids will be getting an eBike for their birthday, but some might.
Why is an eBike allowed when powered skateboards weren’t? According to Electric bikes: licensing, tax and insurance “You can ride an electric bike in England, Scotland and Wales if you’re 14 or over, as long as it meets certain requirements.
These electric bikes are known as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). You do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.”
Say that again: sanctioned, free-from-surcharge, powered mobility for everybody?
Now, take a look around the world at what’s going on in urban centres. Powered scooters are a serious Metro alternative in many EU and US cities. Not so much in the UK, but it’s an observable thing now. eBikes are entering sectors where bikes previously didn’t get a look in: mountain biking, general leisure, shopping, commuting and so on.
In the 1970s, sixteen-year-olds used mopeds as their ticket to freedom and independence. 50cc motorbikes fitted with fold-away pedals were de rigueur. Recently, Harley Davidson released first sight of its Livewire project, originally announced in 2014, with bikes ranging from full-size Harleys through lightweight urban vehicles to eBikes. What are the chances that fold-away pedals get a look-in along the way to blur the edges between a bicycle and a motorbike?
So, what does this all mean? Democratised mobility for the 14 to 104 age segment. Less reliance on car parking. Potentially less road tax revenue. Smaller road footprint options for single occupancy vehicles. A variety of demand levels, depending on the climate. Product development in insurance. More onboard camera and security products. Changes to workwear styles and materials. Different ways of using roads, pathways. Different ways of travelling in groups such as in families. Greater demand for dedicated bike lanes and integrations across existing vehicle networks. Workplace charging facilities. Releasing space to bikes on public transport for people who travel further, but who want to use a bike as part of their journey. Rental and shared access. And the list goes on…
The striking thing about these developments is that they are happening now and will mushroom over the next 18 months. These aren’t local influences affecting notorious early-adopting cities like LA, Amsterdam or Shanghai. These are global trends that are limited only by availability of a newly feasible product and how willing you are to adopt them.
Wherever you live, your mobility options have recently shifted into a different paradigm.
You can find out what we’re doing in the personal mobility market and how the emerging trend is opening up new product opportunities by talking to us. Click here. Just like cycling, talking is free.
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Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.