Anthony Clyde, founder of Electric Bikes NZ, talks supplying a fleet of e-bikes to the St Johns equivalent in Israel and the country's recent e-bike boom.
What does your business do?
I formed Electric Bikes NZ in 2007 and we import and distribute electric bicycles across New Zealand. We have around 70 dealers across New Zealand now. We decided not to sell online and made that decision pretty early in the journey.
We were New Zealand's first e-bike brand that was carried nationally, and begun when e-bikes were almost unheard of - it was a challenge in the beginning.
What was the motivation for starting?
I actually had a dream about electric bikes, that was back in 2007, and I woke up and I thought 'what a great idea', you can put a motor on a bike and call it an e-bike so I Googled that and there was literally no one in New Zealand selling them so I checked if electricbikesnz.co.nz was available, purchased that and began importing samples.
I had always imported semi-precious jewellery from India so I knew how to track down a product so I tracked down a couple of samples, one from an Australian brand and another from China and bought them back. I always remember the first time I hoped on my sample bike and that's when I got what an e-bike was, that first wooosh.
When did e-bikes first gain popularity in New Zealand?
It really started to kick off around two and a half years ago. That's when our sales really started doubling year on year.
We were always expecting it to happen sooner but it was quite a new product and quite disruptive to the cycling fraternity as well. There was quite a lot of negativity in cycle stores, against it, to begin with. I was seen as cheating but then as people's understanding that it was not trying to cheat at sport cycling and was transport cycling - a different category and another way of getting round instead of a car.
The baby boomer market see it as a form of recreation, and that's what is booming now. I'm amazed, even in the last six months, at the amounts of groups of people out riding. Now everyday, even here in Ohope, you see as many as you do bicycles.
Where do you import your bikes from and who do you sell to?
They are imported from China. In 2011, I decided to start my own brand, Smart Motion, and now we have distributors in Australia, United States and Norway, it's starting to grow as a global brand now which is quite exciting.
We've actually just done a fleet for the equivalent of St Johns ambulance e-bikes in Israel, it's like their rapid response to someone who has had a heart attack or an accident - they have flashing lights and everything. The first fleet we sent was 200 and there's more on the way. We're also trialling he bikes with the NZ Police at the moment and have several other countries in Europe chatting to us about the same.
How do you create a e-bike brand?
It's been a learning curve. In the beginning I did things pretty basically and used what I learnt importing other brands. I worked with a friend of mine over in China and tried to create a bike suited for our market here. Once we had enough turnover we started designing from scratch; full frame design, even some of the electronics, LCD screens, the projects have got bigger and bigger.
The bikes range in price from just under $3000 up to just under $5000 for our top model. The model that established us and e-bikes around New Zealand was the e-city which is a step through bike.
What are your long term plans?
My Smart Motion international hat is becoming bigger and bigger. I'm focused on turning Smart Motion into a major global brand. I had a pretty exciting meeting over in China last week, working out the structure and the way forward. That's my next mission. We'll also be moving everything back to New Zealand.
Some of our management was in China but we've decided to create a fully Kiwi company, and are looking at manufacturing in Taiwan as well, which will mean the [product] is a little more higher-end.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Seek advice and mentorship. Be OK with getting it wrong - you win some, you learn some.