#122) THE TORCH - Climate CEO Interview - Chinmay Malaviya and Charlie Depman, Cofounders of Ridepanda
THE TORCH is an interview series from Entrepreneurs for Impact. We profile CEOs mitigating climate change. Our goal is to highlight their work and inspire others. As we deal with multiple crisis, from COVID and racial injustice to climate change and economic recession, we need some of this positive light in what seem like dark times. Onward and upward.
Why did you create Ridepanda?
It all starts with our goal to reduce the environmental harms caused by modern transportation—cars in particular. By some measures, transportation is the largest sector of carbon emissions in the global economy, and though electric vehicles offer a partial fix, the solution space is really much broader than that.
Our specific mission is to reduce consumer dependence on two-ton cars by offering e-mobility transportation solutions that are cheaper, simpler, and, frankly, a more enjoyable way of moving through the world. Everything that we do as a company is focused on making e-mobility solutions the default transportation option by reducing friction of the buying and ownership processes.
As a founding team, we feel like we have the experience to achieve this ambitious goal that we have set for ourselves and the company. We have backgrounds in the sharing economy with team members coming from Lime, Bird, and Scoot, and were fascinated by the impact these companies have already had in terms of changing the form factor and dynamics by which people move through cities.
At Ridepanda, we are motivated to expand these offerings and benefits that have been traditionally offered in urban environments, and to young millennials, into new demographics and rural portions of the country. We are creating a marketplace that vets and provides access to high quality e-mobility products reducing consumer friction and increasing consumer adoption.
Who are the customers that you serve?
The primary demographic at many of the traditional sharing companies is a younger millennial demographic who live in urban areas. Our model is more focused on broad e-mobility ownership and at this point, our customer base has been more diverse with representation from baby boomers, delivery drivers, and families.
Ultimately, there are so many different form factors and use cases, so we really want to play a major role bringing these options to the mainstream and expanding who has access to access these mobility solutions—in cities and in rural areas alike.
How do you help customers?
Our singular focus is reducing the friction of the e-mobility purchasing and ownership experiences. In our experience, searching for e-bikes with a simple Google search or an eBay query is a very fragmented process with thousands of potential offerings and very little information by which to confidently evaluate the available options.
As a marketplace, Ridepanda is able to offer more clarity and consumer confidence by vetting these offerings sold on our site. We have a two-step vetting process that includes a digital and physical component.
Our digital vetting process uses an algorithm to produce a scorecard for the quality of each vehicle, but that is also able to customize product recommendations to use cases, with a product called RideFinder. For instance, if you live on the top of a hill in San Francisco, RideFinder will recommend a product with a higher power output motor. We believe this provides additional consumer value by reducing consumer adoption friction. To further ameliorate the pain points of ownership, we have developed maintenance plans, extended warranties, and financing options that essentially act as a dealership would in the automotive industry.
On the flip side of that equation, we work with manufacturers to help tailor their products to the customers they are looking to reach because we have that data as a part of our marketplace. Overall, the Ridepanda seal of approval helps provide consumer confidence and drive market adoption.
How has COVID changed your business?
Throughout the world, we’ve seen a transition to greener and more fun versions of transportation. While commutes have declined in frequency and distance, these trips are increasingly being taken on e-bikes. This trend is particularly strong in Europe where e-bike sales now exceed traditional bike sales.
The second big move in this broader mobility market is the shift to e-commerce for both traditional transportation options as well as the new mobility options that we offer. The other big trend in this space is the role of governments, which have embraced new mobility options by reducing public car parking spaces in favor of expanded bike lanes.
What has been the impact on the capital raising side?
It’s certainly been a little tougher. The human touch and feel of the investor relationship development is important in the capital raising process. This is especially true in the early funding stages where capital raising is so much about the vision and early founding team rather than market data and product success. That said, we’ve been fortunate to have some great investment partners share in our broader mission.
How have you navigated the struggles of early entrepreneurship?
It’s always difficult in the beginning. Sometimes it's easy to feel as if you're taking on the world by yourself when challenges begin to stack up. It’s important to work on yourself personally and to really lean into the relationships with other team members.
In the U.S. in particular there has been a real challenge in shifting cultural norms around how people think about transportation. It’s a fact that Americans love cars, and this notion won’t go away overnight. With that said, we strongly believe the e-mobility solutions that we offer today provide superior value—it just takes time and patience to shift consumer behavior.
From a personal development perspective, do you have any personal habits that keep you all motivated and focused?
Absolutely. As a founding team, we have spent a fair amount of time together going to yoga classes and meditating. We each enjoy running as a method of disconnecting from the digital world, as well as reading books about other entrepreneurs that have navigated difficult challenges and ultimately had success.
More than anything else in our experience, it's important to maintain a growth mindset, as cliché as that might sound—many of our daily habits and routines are really in service to achieving and maintaining that mindset.
Beyond that, as individuals and as a company, we put a lot of focus on mindfulness. It’s easy to lose track of the present moment, but it's important to stay engaged and live in the moment as part of your path to reach that longer term goal.
Do you have any books, podcasts, or quotations that you'd recommend?
We are fans of the Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk biographies as a window into the world of successful entrepreneurs. But more importantly, these books reveal the uncertainties and challenges that these people faced along the way. These industry-changing entrepreneurs are brilliant at what they do, but it’s important to hear about their struggles and successes alike— give us confidence that the challenges we face each day are faced by all people trying to a big impact on the world. There’s some comfort in that.
We also really like the podcast by Guy Raz called How I Built This. From a mindfulness perspective, there is a recent book called How to be a Monk that has some useful insights, too. Another favorite of ours is The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Because our work is fundamentally about addressing the global environmental crisis, we’d also recommend The Invention of Nature.
Photo from Jason Rosewell on Unsplash