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.
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.