Author: Sebastiano Colosio, Investment Analyst Intern at Inventures IP.
Our portfolio company Cowboy has just raised $80M in series C to enter the US market. Inventures co-invested in the pre-series C round, on the side of Index Ventures, Exor Seeds, Hardware Club and Siam Capital among others.
Founded in 2017, Cowboy is a well-designed, connected smart e-bike that ultimately became a popular brand in Europe, and it’s finally making its US debut.
A worthwhile question might be: what is the combination of key value differentiators that allowed Cowboy to pioneer the smart e-bike segment, scaling revenues and impact at an impressive rate? Well, let me introduce the answer with a second question: what do we think about when we ask ourselves which are the elements that make the sustainability story-telling something real?
It’s not an easy question to address, because the answer is embedded in a broad cohesive vision that comes from a deep understanding of a market and allows a small growing venture and its investors to lead the revolution of an existing product or process.
That’s what the CEO Adrien Roose had clear in his mind in 2017 while thinking about entering the e-bike market with a visionary concept of connected electric bike, thought to reduce car rides (and therefore CO2 emissions) in a smoother and smarter way.
Around 60% of car trips are below 5 miles, and we saw hundreds (if not thousands) of players trying to convert them into sustainable rides. At Inventures we realized that Cowboy had the potential to bring this conversion pattern to the next level, accelerating exponentially the impact generated thanks to its value proposition, driven by technology, connectivity, safety and style.
As everyone is realizing the importance of mobility technologies, particularly within cities, many companies are active to sustain this trend. We have been following the e-mobility ecosystem for a long time, looking for ventures meeting 4 criteria that we consider a must:
1. A concrete impact potential, that is aligned with our requirements and vision.
2. A well-defined software differentiation and strategy, being one of the main drivers of competitive advantage throughout the last years.
3. A motivated and experienced team, that has the right ideas to enter a competitive market, truly believing in the process and able to set ambitious achievements.
4. Amazing commercial potential, supported by a strong market, a clear brand identity and strategic sales channels.
Once we decided to invest in Cowboy, we had clear in mind these aspects, starting from the team, that has consistently beaten its own plans despite the ambitious projects.
The founders, Adrien Roose, Karim Slaoui and Tanguy Goretti, have outstanding entrepreneurial records as co-founders of companies like Take Eat Easy (a European food delivery service founded in 2012 that raised more than 16M), DJump (a ridesharing platform that raised 1.3M€), and Menu Next Door (a gourmet meal platform that raised 2M€). What is even more impressive, is that they hired profiles with similar entrepreneurial mindset and experience, creating a mix of interdisciplinarity, maturity and motivation that surprised us.
This “primordial soup” managed to create a product that, in terms of technology and software, is a notch above most of the players active in the e-bike market, redefining the idea of smart e-bike and laying the foundations of a new niche market.
As proof, their application enables the device to be switched on and off, track location, provide ride stats and support remote troubleshooting. The app can also be used to do updates on motor assistance. More recently, Cowboy has launched a whole range of anti-deft detection, which is by far the most advanced technology in their market. If your Cowboy is stolen you can track it down with the Cowboy app via GPS. The software also allows data collection that may be developed in the future for various applications.
If it’s true that half of the eating is done with the eyes, the superior design that differentiates Cowboy from the mass will play a crucial role in the expansion in Europe and the US soon. From day 0 they invested a lot in it, given their will to make an e-bike not only maneuverable, but also cool to see, leveraging again on the idea that also the look could have its impact in fostering sustainability (good old Elon teaches).
Furthermore, the e-bike market was convincing, with a forecasted volume of more than 50 billion by 2026. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, the need for alternative urban mobility solutions enabling social distancing has driven high customer interest in e-bikes and helped raise awareness for the entire category, fostering sustainability education. Many major European cities, including London and Paris, have reconfigured transportation infrastructure to incentivize greater bicycle adoption.
Within this context, we are excited to back the Belgian e-bike startup Cowboy, sitting at the same table of Siam Capital, Index Ventures, Exor Seeds and Hardware club, among others. Inventures is glad to be the first Belgian investor and to play an important role as impact investor, supporting Cowboy in assessing and redefining its impact and sustainability goals.
The way we are collaborating with Cowboy and our co-investor Future Positive Capital to ensure that they remain at the top of their sustainability goals, clearly reflects our impact approach.
Transportation accounts for 20% of global CO2 emissions, 45% of which comes from road passengers transportation (motorbikes, cars, buses…). A big part of Cowboy’s mission is to drastically reduce this number before 2030, following consistent impact activities. While B-Corp status is just around the corner, in 2021 Cowboy built a full program to sell refurbished bicycles, and is finalizing its lifecycle analysis to determine how to improve its supply chain. Overall we have been collaborating with them to do a full diversity and inclusion review, setting D&I as a top priority.
Inventures is proud of Cowboys’ impact achievements, and we are meeting with them monthly to discuss their impact strategy for the future. As the only Belgian investor of the Belgian startup, we hope that we will be able to act as glue for the Belgian entrepreneurial and sustainability ecosystem of the future, inspiring both founders and other funds to contribute to preserving our world.