Four school friends went off to Valencia for a study trip in April this year. They all jumped on an electric scooter for the first time in their lives and think: “Wow, this is fun. That’s what we need in the Netherlands too.” Half a year later they are the ones who break the deadlock around the introduction of the scooter in the Netherlands.
The first scooters have been on the road in Tilburg since November 1st. It’s Waalwijk turn next year. The first target is about 400 rental scooters by the end of next year. And after that? Who knows. The Netherlands is big and so is the world.
The story of Hannes van Bellen, Teun Verschuren, Mike Meeusen and Thomas van Heeswijk is almost too good to be true. A youthful dream with American allure. They set up a start-up within six months which also turned out to be successful. Respect!
Four boys from Breda
As already mentioned, it started in April with a study trip as a part of their Entrepreneurship & Retail Management course at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, says Hannes Van Bellen. Who, besides Citysteps, is also busy with setting up the Fruit Pause company. They had an amazingly fun day there with the e-scooters and thought “this is bound to be a success in the Netherlands too.”
They just didn’t realize how much opposition there was to these scooters. This was due to the Stint tragedy in Oss that cost four children their lives after a train accident with an electric wagon. Since that horrendous debacle with the Stint in 2018, new electric vehicles have to comply with much stricter safety requirements. This is compounded by the fact that many Dutch cities are reluctant to allow scooters to dart about in their city centers.
However, the four boys from Breda didn’t allow themselves to be discouraged. “In spite of all the rules, we decided to buy a container full of scooters, even if only for private individuals in other countries.” The container is gradually emptying out, but the scooter is still not allowed on the road in the Netherlands.
What did you do then?
Van Bellen: We had a few good contacts with a few entrepreneurs in Tilburg who were eager to help us. Like Jaap van Ham from the rooftop bar Doloris in Tilburg. Then when we went looking for a scooter that was in line with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW) regulations. Strangely enough, we ended up with a company through that very same RDW, who managed to design the exact kind of scooter we wanted. Subsequently, contact was quickly established and the ball started rolling.
What is so special about this scooter?
The main differences can be found in the design which uses bicycle handlebars and larger wheels than scooters in other European cities. This benefits both safety and comfort as well as insurance coverage. Moreover, the scooters are only able to travel up to 20 km/h, which is relatively low compared to the scooters from competitors like Lime, Tier and Bird.
Meanwhile, you’ve already made a start in Tilburg. How is that working out?
We’ve now started out with 20 scooters that are mainly for recreational use. You can order them as an all-day package from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm. The costs are €49.50 for the scooter plus coffee, cake, lunch and a drink in the rooftop bar Doloris at the Tilburg Central Station.
What is your goal in Tilburg?
We hope to have expanded to 200 scooters within a year and a few extra collection points besides Doloris.
The main difference with Tilburg is that we are targeting the business user more in Waalwijk, at least in the beginning. The goal is the same. Start small and then within a year get as many as 200 scooters. We think that there is more than enough market potential for this, what with large companies like Bol.com nearby.
And are there other cities where you want to start working in?
Certainly. I can’t name names, but we are in discussions with a few cities. What we ultimately want is a national network. We have great ambitions, but please give us a bit of time. After all, we’re just getting started!
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