Interview With Clare Sayas, Sr. PR Manager at Dance
Describe your product or service:
“Dance is a sustainable transportation and micro-mobility company that provides its members with a green and easy way to commute. Unlike traditional ownership, Dance makes creating sustainable habits easy, combining a premium ebike with an insightful app and an on-demand repair service that comes to customers within 24 hours.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Dance is a startup with an ambitious goal: to make cities, and therefore the world, more livable. What does that mean exactly? It means neighborhoods designed for people, not cars, especially in dense areas like cities. More than half (52%) of the world’s population now lives in an urban area, according to the World Economic Forum, and with governments everywhere committing to decarbonizing the planet in the face of climate change, there is a need to move away from traditional transportation.
Though electric cars are a solution, Dance’s belief [is] that everyday trips to work, to school, to errands, etc., can be done with lighter vehicles.
The trouble with traditional bicycling is the friction it can create for most commuters. Hilly terrain, inclement weather, the threat of theft, and the fear of arriving at a destination sweaty can be less than ideal. But with ebikes, research shows riders can reap the benefits of a greener commute while enjoying similar physical benefits; ebike riders also tend to ride longer distances and more often than traditional cyclers.
Though ebikes do exist as a category, there are two existing ways of access: spending thousands of Euros or dollars on purchasing a vehicle that will be outpaced by a new model each year or needing to depend on shared dockless ebikes in a municipality. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but do not give customers 1) the immediate support to maintain ebike commuting in case an ebike is stolen or needs maintenance when purchased via traditional means and 2) guaranteed supply when there is a demand to travel.
Dance’s model ensures members can have a flexible option designed to last: our goal is for each ebike to last as long as possible, while continuously being maintained and upgraded as part of membership.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“The company has received 36 million Euros of funding, a combination of traditional venture capital and angel investors such as BlueYard Capital, HV Capital, Eurazeo and individual investors like Chance the Rapper, Maisie Williams, Nicolas Berggruen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Dance has 50+ team members. A ‘digital first’ company, team members are located all around Europe, but the company currently has an office presence in Berlin, Germany. The team combines experts across hardware (bike experts), operations, software, marketing, and people. The founding team are second-time founders (SoundCloud, Jimdo). All have strong foundations in software and experience in building companies — from small and scrappy to international companies — and have distinct roles as CEO, chairman, and chief operations officer respective to their strengths. They complement one another as they build a new sustainable transportation company that provides services as well as vehicles.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“The company founders are lifelong entrepreneurs and founded SoundCloud and Jimdo before Dance.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“Eric, the CEO and one of the co-founders, took a sabbatical after spending more than a decade as CTO of SoundCloud. Interested in climate, he wanted to see how he as a founder could lend his skills to fight the climate crisis. While on a walk with a friend, he discussed how the industry was moving from ownership to subscription and the rising trend of ebikes. They asked the question, ‘What if you could rent an ebike that was yours?’ The friend then said ... ‘you know who else has had this idea? My friend Christian.’ Christian and Eric were introduced, and Dance was born, with the help of Eric's longtime co-founder from SoundCloud, Alexander Ljung.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Riding an ebike is a joyful, easy experience: just like dancing. Plus, because two of the founders had a deep heritage in music via SoundCloud, Dance seemed like the next step.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Dance is a startup with global ambitions but is deliberately starting with focus. From concept to launch, the first generation ebike began rolling out in 18 months. However, in order to truly achieve the company’s mission and create more livable cities, we are focusing on understanding what members need so they can choose the more sustainable commute more often. Our focus is fostering our community, and building relationships takes time, which can be a challenge.
Currently, Dance has hundreds of members in Berlin and is gearing up for future pilots, markets, and other research and development efforts to ensure that we can create a holistic, sustainable transportation community that inspires adoption and loyalty.
When Dance scales its service and markets, it could very well change our world. In Europe, there are nearly 243 million cars on the road. If Dance could incentivize even one-eighth of those car owners to choose lighter vehicles like ebikes as their primary means of transportation, 30 million cars in Europe would be used less frequently. That means less traffic, quieter streets, and, ultimately, more livable cities.
In addition, Dance’s ambitions also lie in encouraging a nascent category: vehicle subscription. Though leasing and rental are established categories, they still encourage consumers to commit to vehicles long-term. And though dockless sharing systems are experiencing a surge in popularity and visibility, they are not available in every city and need significant investment from a local government to operate. Dance’s subscription service empowers people to try new ways of moving on their own time and terms, with no investment needed from local governments.
Notably, Dance’s model is ultimately circular. The company’s goal is not to nudge customers to buy a new model every season. We want our ebikes to serve multiple customers and last as long as possible, incentivizing sustainable habits. And because our vehicles do not experience the kind of wear and tear dockless vehicles do, there is less of a chance you will find a pile of Dance ebikes piled in a public green space. We invest in repairing, maintaining, and extending the life of our ebikes.
Dance’s potential is that it could unlock the ability for more people in more regions to have a sustainable commute. Other modes of sustainable travel such as traditional cycling, electric cars, viable public transportation, and walking are simply not an option for many people in urban areas. And, ebike ownership and the self-imposed maintenance and repairs needed may not be a reality for many either. By creating a holistic, supportive service designed for customers, not expert riders, Dance can change the world — two wheels at a time.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Dance is made for anyone who lives in a city that's looking for a cleaner, more active commute.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Dance's aim is to engage with users on multiple platforms, meeting them where they are. Dance is still building its brand and leading with its unique service offering first.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Dance's mission is compelling: to make cities and everyday travel within them more sustainable. It has been compelling to early customers.
Before launch, Dance invested in a year-long pilot with potential members to refine its product and service.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Like any business, Dance monitors growth and loyalty of customers. But unlike traditional bike companies, Dance's goals aren't to sell as many bikes as possible. We want our ebikes to last as long as possible and serve multiple customers.”