In the absence of proper infrastructure and public transport, Wave is providing a transport solution to provide commuters with a healthy and stress-free experience of moving around in the city while saving time and money.
Founder Jan Willem de Coo talks to us about how Wave blends the Dutch cycling culture with the locals and offers the community a traffic-free and healthy lifestyle with a tailor-made e-bicycle subscription.
Q: Why did you decide to work on this solution?
A: Dense cities such as Beirut are in desperate need of smart commuting solutions. Especially with the lack of efficient public transport. 47% of pollution is caused by traffic, citizens waste 50% more time in traffic, and more than 80% of citizens are not sufficiently active. Wave was born to help tackle these issues.
Q: How did you get started?
A: Wave kicked off its operation in Lebanon in March 2021 with 75 bikes. The full fleet was rented out in no time. With such high demand, we increased the fleet for the Beirut market to 325 bikes in Fall 2022.
Q: How does your product/service work?
A: Through an all-inclusive monthly subscription, members receive the Wave package, which includes:
- A premium e-bike designed specifically for the streets of Beirut.
- A long-lasting detachable battery for easy charging.
- A reliable double lock system for safety and theft risks.
- A helmet.
- Free maintenance.
- Supportive digital platform and IOS & Android Apps.
Q: What makes your solution special or unique?
A: At Wave, other than our mission to encourage cycling for the many benefits it offers, we stand out with the product and service we offer today. We have specifically designed a product for the streets, climate, and environment of Lebanese cities. We offer free maintenance and bike replacement if needed by a dedicated professional team and a supportive digital platform and IOS & Android Apps with a growing community of cyclists and community activities.
Q: Who is benefitting from your solution?
A: Anyone who is looking for the best city commute solution, including individuals, companies, universities, lodging establishments, and delivery companies. Why take up to 30 mins to get from Achrafieh to Hamra, when you can do it in much less?
Q: Why is your solution important to you?
A: At Wave, we are on a mission to enable cycling in dense MENA cities. The more this solution is practiced by citizens the more we as Wave have contributed to making change whether environmental, social, or economic.
Q: How is your solution relevant to your sector?
A: Cycling is one of the healthiest, most efficient, environmentally friendly, and financially accessible modes of city commuting:
- Environmental impact: Every 6 cyclists save a carbon footprint equal to 1 household’s consumption.
- Social impact: Cycling provides freedom of movement, reduces stress, and offers the required daily physical activity.
- Economic impact: Cycling is time-efficient and with a subscription plan, very affordable.
Q: How is your solution relevant to Lebanon?
A: Lebanon is in crisis and citizens are looking for alternative modes of daily transportation. The solution Wave offers is highly relevant to Lebanon when:
- Beirut does not have an efficient infrastructure and public transport system.
- Citizens spend 50% more time in traffic than necessary.
- Fuel and maintenance costs are continuously increasing.
- 47% of pollution is caused by traffic.
- More than 80% of citizens are not sufficiently physically active.
Q: Why did you apply to the GIMED program? What were you hoping to achieve when you applied to it?
A: We wanted to be part of the Lebanese startup community, get access to its network, and learn from the many mentors and trainers involved.
Q: What did you achieve so far?
A: We have launched a successful green alternative for city commuting in Lebanon with a monthly growing client base.
Q: What are your key success factors?
A: Startup ecosystem support (like Berytech), that we could install our solar power generator to have 24/7 electricity, the excitement of our team which is a mix of mainly Lebanese cycling enthusiasts with some Dutch touch who are super dedicated to working on our mission.
Q: If you had to choose one achievement to highlight, what would it be and what lessons did you learn from it?
A: That our subscribers love our bikes. They make a change to our subscribers every day by getting them safely and efficiently around the city. At first one might expect cycling not to be something for the culture and environment of Lebanese cities, but it is, and the number of cyclists is growing vastly.
Q: What are the main challenges that you have faced so far? How did you overcome these challenges?
A: Our main challenges include: The lack of cycling infrastructure like bicycle lanes, the lack of bureaucratic facilities and efficiency, and internet reliability. We have three different internet connections and have installed solar panels to allow for a 24/7 electricity supply. We are working on in-App virtual bicycle lanes that offer you the bike friendliest road to your destination and offer free bicycle training and rides to create more awareness, visibility, and safety for riders.
Q: What is one thing you would have done differently throughout your journey?
A: Start with a longer liquidity runway.
Q: Have you ever thought of giving up on your venture? If yes, what made you pull through?
A: Yes, at the very beginning, when we were still in the ideation phase, the revolution started and COVID kicked in. Then it was very difficult for us to proceed and be able to launch our operation. Fortunately, on the day we decided to stop the project, or at least put it on hold, we found the required investments and could proceed.
Q: What are your long-term goals as a startup?
A: Our plans include our expansion to other Lebanese cities and then into the MENA region, starting with Istanbul, Turkey.
Q: What advice would you give an entrepreneur starting in your industry?
A: Big global problems require big global solutions! But big solutions require micro-level steps to achieve. The micro-mobility industry is still in its early stages in this region, so there is room for many more players and work to do on many different fronts. So, it’s imperative that innovators just start and contribute, go for it!
Berytech is the official partner of The Green Impact MED Project – Positive Investments for Positive Impacts (GIMED), an EU-funded project under the ENI-CBC Med Programme aiming at supporting green entrepreneurs to better access finance and market in the Mediterranean. The project provides training, coaching sessions, capacity building workshops, and sub-grants to consolidate green business creation and green business development. Learn more about the GIMED Project.