We want our riders to feel like superheroes: Interview with Wind EMEA CEO Ed Schmidt

ed-schmidt-wind

E-scooters have been sweeping cities across the world in the past year or two, drawing both praise and criticism on issues from fun to convenience and safety.

Wind was founded in 2018 in Berlin, and we covered its initial raise of €19.2 million last November. The startup earned a spot on our list of our 10 cleantechs to look out for in 2019 – because unlike most other e-scooter companies, it uses replaceable batteries, so the scooters don’t have to be transported and charged at night, reducing CO2 emissions.

Wind went on to raise another round of €45 million in July 2019 to support its international expansion. The e-scooter startup has operations throughout Europe and Asia, employs over 120 people worldwide, including at its own R&D center in China. The company offers its services in over 20 cities across the globe including in Germany, France, Spain, Israel, Austria, Portugal, Demark, Korea and Japan.

Below we interview Wind’s EMEA CEO, Ed Schmidt, about what sets Wind apart from other e-scooter startups – their hardware, work culture, relationship with local authorities, emphasis on fun – and about its plans for expansion following its sizable funding round.

What’s your background, and what is your role within Wind?

As Wind’s EMEA CEO since October 2018, I’ve been involved in a really exciting period of growth for the business. I have an extensive background in companies within the technology sector and have worked for a number of international businesses; namely Groupon across China and Europe and Rakuten across Europe. I’ve been an entrepreneur at heart ever since I launched my first startup while at school and have wanted to successfully nurture a growing business ever since. I was drawn to Wind for its vision to shake up the micro-mobility sector, and its ambitious outlook for the future.

There are so many e-scooter startups that have emerged in the last year or so – how does Wind differentiate itself from other e-scooter startups?

The e-scooter market has become increasingly competitive over the years with many companies seeing the potential of the sector.

One of the ways that Wind is different from competitors is that we take a responsible approach to the markets we enter. We liaise closely with city officials and local authorities to ensure we comply with local rules and customs and launch our scooters in a responsible way. Not every company in the market follows this model!

An example of this approach is evident in Barcelona, where our headquarters are. Not only are we the first legally-approved e-scooter provider in the city after winning formal accreditation from local authorities, but we’ve also partnered with a local university to offer designated parking spaces in the city centre.

Another way we set ourselves apart is because we have the best e-scooter on the market. After eight months of development at our R&D centre, we’ve released a scooter with an industry-first swappable battery, improved safety features and a life expectancy three times longer than our competitors.

We’re also different because of our new brand identity. We have recently undergone a rebrand – working with award-winning London agency, Ragged Edge – to reflect our fun, fresh and contemporary foundations. Our new identity centres around superheroes – empowering our riders to feel like superheroes when whizzing around on an e-scooter. In a bold yellow colour, our scooters are now even easier to spot as they take on our arch-nemesis – boring journeys. We want to turn every moment of ‘travel misery’ into one of joy.

Lastly, our culture sets us apart. To work at Wind, it’s not enough to be smart and pass the case study tests – you also have to be an interesting, fun, and passionate human being.

And we encourage individuals to embrace their uniqueness and share it throughout the company. The results are powerful – on any given day, you might find someone coordinating a beach cleanup, or rounding up coworkers to meditate. It complements our no BS, Get Sh*t Done ethos rather well, actually.

You’re present in 20 cities across the globe, including in Germany, France, Spain, Israel, Austria, Portugal, Denmark, Korea and Japan. Can you tell us more about the differences, regulations and challenges in these different markets?

They vary widely, but in general, there are four trends across different cities:

  1. No national law allowing scooters – scooters are completely banned in certain countries (the UK, Ireland) – so these are naturally markets we’re not in yet
  2. No national laws regulating scooters – cities are able to pass local laws to allow scooters (Spain), write agreements with operators (France) or have informal agreements with cities (Poland)
  3. National laws allow scooters (Portugal, Israel) or equating them to bicycles (Denmark, Sweden) – cities set their own terms (Stockholm, Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Brussels, etc) or calls for tender
  4. National blanket law making scooters legal in all cities (Germany)

In which cities have you seen the most successful adoption of your e-scooters, and why do you think that is?

That’s a good question, and it depends on what you mean by ‘most successful’. Our scooters are incredibly popular in Bordeaux, Málaga, Barcelona and Tel Aviv, in particular.

Not only do we have one of the best products on the market, we also offer a fantastic customer service and we believe that word has spread.

You recently introduced a new type/fleet of e-scooters. How do they differ from your previous e-scooters?

Our third-generation model is among the best available for public rental anywhere in the world. These scooters have been redesigned by Wind from the ground up and we are the first e-scooter provider to have included a swappable battery in our hardware, dramatically improving the battery life – which is both good for the environment and durability.

These scooters can now go a whole 80km on battery power, which is three times longer than our previous model and the new battery design reduces the amount of downtime, meaning there are more scooters available to use for extended periods of time. Interestingly, the scooter also has the highest waterproofing with IP 67 standard and can withstand over 12 months in the shared mobility environment – testament to an eight-month design period to ensure our scooters came out as ground-breaking as possible.

We love that our new scooter design aligns with our ambition to provide a fun, affordable and truly sustainable micro-mobility option at the tip of your fingers.

How is Wind addressing the safety concerns associated with e-scooters?

We continually monitor the safety of our e-scooters and find ways to ensure the safest conditions for our customers. Our scooters are equipped with innovative technologies that ensure security and stability.

The new model comes with bicycle-style handbrakes that allow the rider to stop more smoothly and steadily, two bright lights to increase visibility and a horn button to replace the old-fashioned bell. The improved durability of our new fleet also ensures our fleet are in top condition for longer.

You recently raised quite a large round of €45 million. What are your plans for the future?

Since Wind was founded in 2017, we have received two rounds of funding; the first set of Series A funding was secured in October last year after the pivot to dockless scooter sharing. Our next round, from Summer 2019, has opened a number of doors for us to expand the business globally and develop the most effective scooters on the market. To date, we have used the funding to develop our new superhero branding, enhance our visual appeal to current and future customers, as well as developing our third-generation e-scooters.

We currently have operations throughout Europe and Asia, employing 120 people worldwide, and we even have our own R&D centre in China. That’s just the beginning – you’ll hear a lot more about Wind in the coming weeks, months and years.