The WWW's — A chat with Jorrit Heidbuchel from Ellio
Have you heard of The WWW’s? Through this section on our website, you’ll be able to get to know our clients a little better, as we’ll dive deep into the WHO, WHAT and WHY of their brands. Intrigued? Then read on to discover more!
Meet Jorrit Heidbuchel, co-founder of Ellio. This innovative company wants to develop the best speed pedelec on the market and thus, shape the mobility of tomorrow. That's why at Ellio they integrate advanced automotive technology and use electric cars as a reference for the user experience. In this way Ellio offers a worthy alternative for your car.
Hi Jorrit! Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and education?
I am an engineer by training. I specialised in vehicle mechanics and was actually particularly interested in cars. Rather by accident, I ended up researching drive systems of bicycles for my master thesis. At that time Ellio’s cofounder Tomas worked at Toyota. Each year they submit research questions for students and Tomas also submitted his hobby project which would eventually develop into Ellio, an innovative speed pedelec.
Bicycles weren’t really my first choice, but from the moment we started the research, I haven’t regretted getting into this matter a single time. From an engineer’s point of view it’s quite rewarding to work on e-bikes since the technology is very new and still in its infancy.
How did you come about marketing a speed pedelec?
So Tomas came up with the idea to incorporate the propulsion of hybrid cars into a bike, but it had never been built. Once we figured out the technology, we decided to assemble a prototype. This mock-up really exceeded all expectations. Funnily enough, when I presented my thesis to the master jury, I didn’t tell them we had built and brought that very first Ellio.
The jury was quite sceptical at first: “you will never succeed at getting the sense of riding a bicycle with that kind of system.” You can imagine, then, how great their surprise was when I offered a test drive and how intuitively they could drive that bike. We knew we had to enter the market with our product.
Ellio is all about innovation, in what ways is your product and business innovative?
The bicycle industry is traditionally a business of assemblers. Bicycle brands mainly screw together components that are available. Because these bikes are so modular, the technology is quite rudimentary, very mechanical and simple. Often old systems are kept being used only because they are still on the market, even though they are really outdated.
With our backgrounds in car engineering, however, we work completely the other way around. In this field of business the manufacturer will design a complete vehicle in a very integrated manner and based on that, it will pass on specifications to suppliers who then build parts specifically for that car. At Ellio we also develop almost all the technology ourselves, so it’s built to our specifications. This tailor-made way of working is much more integrated and allows for much greater innovation.
Building a business with sustainability in mind is not always easy. Do you have a tip for future sustainable entrepreneurs?
There are different motivations to purchase an e-bike. I believe sustainability plays less of a role in the minds of the customers. Travelling with a bicycle instead of a car, will of course be better for the environment. But it has always been more of a mobility issue for me. All of us separately in our big car for almost any distance isn’t sustainable, but also simply not efficient. I wasn't really a cyclist, I didn't mind driving around and still with Ellio we managed to make a product that I prefer over the car for a lot of trips.
When it comes to sustainability, I have a bit of a hard time with symbolic actions. I call these the “showing you care” activities: brands doing things just to show on the surface that they care about the climate. That doesn't appeal to me at all, I want to try to make an impact but those actions are often not as “sexy” as “showing you care.” With Ellio we never advertise about ecology. We believe that by developing the best possible product people will simply want to cycle more.
How do you hope your brand will grow in the coming years?
With Ellio we are actually focusing on two domains. On the one hand there’s obviously the speed pedelec market itself for which we want to become a major player in Europe. On the other hand our efforts are targeted towards technological leadership. The automatic drivetrain that we developed is ultimately our core business. We intend to one day supply this system for other applications… We hope to find a clear position on the market too.
As an engineer I find the world of marketing quite challenging, especially when it comes to branding. This rather subjective field contrasts highly with the deterministic world of engineering where you can measure what works and what doesn’t. If only something like evidence-based branding existed, that would make me very happy. In the meantime we surround ourselves with partners, such as MARNIX and ALLY who can draw from their experience in branding journeys.
Thank you, Jorrit, for the inspirational talk! We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors!
Intrigued and want to know more? Check out Ellio and get inspired.
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