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This week we caught up with Paul Lavelle, the founder and CEO of Lavelle Bikes, currently raising with Seedrs. Paul is an experienced entrepreneur, passionate about the environment and on a mission to produce eco-friendly, beautifully designed city bikes.
Tell us the story about how your new venture, Lavelle Bikes, came to be.
Throughout my career I have been an entrepreneur, innovator and polar environmentalist. As a young man I began my career as a deep-sea diver in the North Sea. I quickly spotted a new opportunity within the oil and gas industry and started an engineering company providing solutions for ultra deep-sea work. This business was hugely successful and grew to be one of the most respected subsea technology companies in the world. I sold my shares in this company in order to pursue other projects such as the design and building of eco-properties in the Cotswolds.
At the same time I was extremely concerned for the environment. I started a number of high profile environmental projects, for instance I was the first person ever to fly a balloon taking off at the North Pole – which carried an ozone saving message. I also successfully organised an environmental awareness balloon festival deep inside Russia during the communist era, in a city which had never seen western visitors before. I have never shied away from delivering challenging projects in this area.
As an innovator and technologist I firmly believe that electric mobility is the future for transport. Electrified bikes are one of the best examples of this and therefore an obvious next step.
I have been around bicycles since I was a young boy, building my own at the age of 12. I loved cycling, but felt inherently that bicycles, which haven’t changed much in one hundred years, could be a lot more comfortable and a lot less painful, especially when it comes to getting up a hill. Given that a huge percentage of bicycles once bought are ridden a handful of times and then end up decorating people’s garages, it seems these potential cyclists have also discovered the limitations of a standard bike.
I was excited to start Lavelle Bikes two years ago because I knew with my expertise gained in the subsea industry that I could design and build an electric bike which not only looked beautiful but that was technically superior and functionally ergonomic.
What has been the highlight of your experience with Lavelle Bikes so far?
A real highlight was seeing the response from the bicycle industry both at Sea Otter near Barcelona and Eurobike in Germany (the world’s biggest bike show). We had worried that the industry would not be as welcoming as we had dared to change things that are sacresant to bike specialists. But that wasn’t the case; we were overwhelmed with the amount of interest and support we received.
Also, having spent 35 years in the oil and gas industry working on very specialist industry products, it is so exciting to make something that can be used everyday and by everyone.
The whole team love the attention we receive when we ride the bike around cities. People stop and stare, they want selfies, they want to know where they can buy one, we have even had a number of policemen flag us down to ask what this amazing bike is all about!
Where would you like to see Lavelle Bikes in a years time?
In a year’s time I would like Lavelle Bikes to be a firmly established brand within the UK and other European countries. Of course, we’ll sell bicycles as well, but it’s important to make a valuable brand as that gives us endless possibilities.
In terms of what’s next, we’ve got a lot of ideas of how we can take the e-bike into the future. Instead of designing and making the bike, we’re looking at designing and manufacturing processes that make a very low cost but very high quality device. It’s essentially the reverse way of designing, which is a very important difference because that way you can make a real optimum solution.
Tell us more about the e-bike market. What sets you apart from the competition?
Firstly, it is a massive market; European e-bike sales totalled 1.7 million in 2016 and is expected to rise to 10 million units by 2030, so we think there’s room for everyone.
Currently, the bike industry traditionally have Taiwanese or Chinese companies assemble components and box them over as ready-made items. The e-bike industry has mostly followed this mould, simply adding an electric motor and a battery to an existing bike design and from what we are seeing, it seems unlikely that any of our competitors will be able to move outside this model.
Lavelle Bikes, however, believe that an e-bike is a different type of device and benefits from using specially built items and not standard bike parts. Lavelle has actually designed something which is made for the purpose and not just a collection of components everybody uses. This is much more akin to the motorbike and scooter industry, which we believe is the correct paradigm for e-bikes.
We set ourselves apart from our competitors in that our bike is beautiful in form and highly functional in technology as well as providing a very comfortable ride. Instead of being stuck with a vast range of preconfigured models, customers configure their own bike.
Most early-stage investors say that the team is one of the most important factors when making an investment decision. How do you go about building your team?
It is very, very difficult and it’s probably something that I’ve struggled with throughout my career. It’s virtually impossible to judge someone based on their qualification or experience. However we already had a proven team and a lot of infrastructure in place with designers, and software from the deep-sea company, and although it was a drastic change from making robotic solutions, it’s also the same process of analysing what is required and then designing innovative and clean-sheet solutions to solve it.
What attracted you to equity crowdfunding?
With the dearth of companies looking for funding right now, the VC route can be quite challenging and competitive. Moreover, the whole concept of engaging an amazing community of supporters in a way that makes them become not just investors, but fervent evangelists in a brand is very exciting. So for this stage of Lavelle I would like to have those kind of investors that aren’t just putting money in, but are also joining the company in some other way; bringing their own expertise.
If you’d like to ask your own questions to Paul, you can do via the discussion forum on the campaign page, where you can also find out more about how Lavelle Bikes will be bringing their product to market. Lavelle Bikes’ campaign is due to remain open until early-March.
Investing in startups involves risks, including loss of capital, illiquidity, lack of dividends and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. This blog post has been approved as a financial promotion by Seedrs Limited.