The Gi FlyBike may well be the ultimate commuter cycle. It folds in half in a single second, so you can easily take it on a train or store it in your apartment. Its electric motor allows you to speed to work without breaking a sweat. And it’s packed with tech – from built-in lights and an electric smart lock to a port that charges your phone. Inhabitat recently caught up with Gi FlyBike Co-Founder Lucas Toledo to ask him a few questions about the folding electric bike of our dreams – read on for our interview.
The Gi Flybike launched on Kickstarter in 2014, and it was a runaway success. After raising over $650,000 on Kickstarter and $1.5 million in investment, the folding electric bike is finally nearing mass production. We caught up with Co-Founder Lucas Toledo to learn more about the Gi FlyBike’s story and the company’s next steps.
INHABITAT: What inspired you to create the Gi FlyBike?
TOLEDO: We started the Gi FlyBike something like 3 years ago. We had a huge problem here in Argentina with public transportation. At that moment I had my second company, and some of my employees weren’t able to go to the office – so I started to ask why they didn’t have freedom, and why they weren’t able to achieve their goals. I started to think about the best option to move from A to B in urban areas, and the answer is the bicycle. The bicycle is ecologically sound, it’s healthy, and it’s efficient in terms of resources.
But why are we not using this kind of transport everywhere? Our conclusion is because bicycles have not received as much innovation as other forms of transportation like cars, airplanes, and motorcycles. The bicycle that was created 300 years ago is very similar to the current bicycle. So we started to think about what we can innovate in the bicycle to create the best form of urban transportation.
We started by listing all of the problems that affect transportation in urban areas. Then we created a product that solves every problem. For example, we created a bicycle with an amazing design because aesthetics were a big problem that we identified. Another problem is the folding mechanism, because all of the folding bikes on the market are very complex – and many have small wheels, which are uncomfortable to ride on. We wanted to create a bicycle with normal 26″ wheels that you can fold in one second, in one movement. Our bicycle has electric assistance, because people want to go to the office without sweating. And it requires very little maintenance thanks to its solid tires, belt drive, and aluminum frame. You can also wirelessly manage the Gi FlyBike through your smartphone with an app.
INHABITAT: Can you tell us about the bicycle’s connectivity features?
TOLEDO: You can connect with the bicycle wirelessly through bluetooth. With the app you can select the level of electric assistance, you can turn the lights on and off, you can share all your stats in social media, you can lock and unlock the bicycle, and you can share the bicycle with anyone – if an approved user goes close to the bicycle, the bicycle will automatically unlock. The app is available right now for Apple and Android phones, and the bike has a USB port to recharge mobile devices.
INHABITAT: How did crowdfunding help you launch the Gi FlyBike?
TOLEDO: When we finished the development of the product, the second step was the validation of the product – the validation of the concept, the validation of the design, and of all the features. We decided to use a crowdfunding campaign to validate everything. We launched our first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and we went to the US for three months to incorporate our company there and move our office to New York. There we started our first campaign where we did everything – the video, the pictures, and the PR.
After 30 days we reached more than $120,000; the GiFly bike was published by 300-400 of the most important media organizations in the world, and the video achieved 50,000 views on YouTube. We achieved all of these results without spending a penny in marketing. After that we closed our first round of investment for $1 million and the second round of investment for $500,000. With that money we made more prototypes to test the design. We closed an agreement with one of the largest technology manufacturers in the world to produce our bicycle. We made the software for the app and the web platform.
We started selling the second crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter – but now with professional video and professional pictures. We invested in marketing, digital marketing, and so on. We achieved our goal in less than 5 hours – $75,000, and we finished the campaign with more than $450,000. Right now we are close to $650,000 in cash. 45% of the sales come from US, 30% from Europe, and the rest from Asia and Latin America.
INHABITAT: What are you most proud of in terms of the bike’s design?
TOLEDO: We wanted the bike to be minimalistic – so we included only the parts that you need to use the bicycle. For example, in both wheels, you only have one arm – because if you can do it with one arm, why use two? The thought behind the design was minimalistic and very carefully detailed. We started offering our product in white because it’s more pure. This is why our first articles in the media called us the “Apple Bike” or the “Tesla Bike.”
INHABITAT: What were some of the challenges with designing and producing the Gi Flybike?
TOLEDO: The first one was the development of the product, because we are competing with the automotive companies who are huge. We are also competing with the bicycle companies, so we had to create something with a big value. To create something with big value, you need big innovation. The second challenge was the validation process – how to validate the result of that innovation. The third challenge was gathering the resources to make it a reality. The fourth challenge was showing our product to the world with our resources – if you have a budget it’s very easy, but if you don’t have money, how can you show your product to everyone? The fifth challenge is mass production – how to produce the product and ship it to everyone. In some ways shipping is the most complex problem to solve.
INHABITAT: How do you plan to roll the bike out?
TOLEDO: During the second crowdfunding campaign, one of the most important challenges was a partnership that we closed with Amazon. This made Amazon our distributor in the US, the UK, and Mexico – and a month later we closed an additional agreement with Amazon to distribute the bike in Germany, Italy, France, and other countries. Amazon gives us access to more than 2,000,000 customers. We’ve received lots of emails and calls from distributors around the world who want to sell our product in different markets, but we will focus first in Europe and the US and then we will try to expand to everywhere – we are looking for strategic partners to work with in every country.
INHABITAT: Do you have a price point for the bike?
TOLEDO: Right now you can pre-order a bicycle for $2,190 plus shipping, duties, and taxes. After the Kickstarter orders are fulfilled, we are trying to get the bicycle into the market close to $4000. Right now anyone can but the bicycle from anywhere in the world, and in the next 4-6 months we will focus on sales only in the US and Europe.
INHABITAT: Do you have any advice for other designers out there who are inspired by the Gi FlyBike?
TOLEDO: Entrepreneurs often say that if you want to be successful, you have to look for your passion – you have to follow your dream, because the way is very difficult and you need to have passion to move forward. The problem is that less than 5% of people know their passion – so they have to find it. I started with two things: a list of things I didn’t want to do, and a list of things I wanted to try. Between these two lists I started to find things that I was passionate about. When you find your passion, first you have to identify a problem – and then you have to identify a solution to that problem.
If you wanted to start a company without innovation, or without value, you’d find it very difficult to compete with companies that are selling right now on the market. The trick is to solve a problem with innovation and value. Right now it’s a lot easier to start a company than it was 20 years ago, because now you have crowdfunding, investment companies, digital marketing, and social media. But the most important thing – the biggest problem to solve – is knowing yourself and your passion.
INHABITAT: What are the next steps for the Gi FlyBike? Do you have any future products in the works?
TOLEDO: We are focused on mass production first. And then we want to build distribution lines around the world to help us sell our product and provide after-sale services. Right now we are also starting development on a new product that is not related to transport – it’s about green technology. Of course, the Gi FlyBike will continue to be updated – we’re starting with our first bike, but in 2017 we are launching the second one and in 2018 we are launching the third one – we will continue innovating with all of our products because this is the key to growth.
What types of innovation can we expect to see in future version of the Gi FlyBike?
TOLEDO: Everything – lighter, better batteries, better motors, more features, a line of accessories that will only work with the Gi FlyBike, complementary products; that kind of thing.