What’s going on with e-bike start-up VanMoof?

19 Jul 2023

A VanMoof service hub. Image: VanMoof

Despite a rise in e-bike numbers worldwide and massive funding rounds, VanMoof has entered a downward spiral into bankruptcy, leaving its future uncertain.

VanMoof, a popular e-bike maker from the Netherlands, has entered a tough financial spiral and declared bankruptcy.

The company has expanded globally in recent years and raised $128m in a Series C funding round in 2021. This made the VanMoof the most funded e-bike company in the world, according to the company. The start-up saw sales more than triple in 2020 and has grown to have stores in Ireland, Europe, the US and Japan.

But now, the Court of Amsterdam has declared the company’s Dutch legal entities – VanMoof Global Holding BV, VanMoof BV and VanMoof Global Support BV – bankrupt. Options are now being explored to help the company survive, according to a VanMoof FAQ page.

What happened to VanMoof?

As reported by TechCrunch, the company’s prospects changed recently with a pause in sales, customers demanding refunds and a struggle to raise more finance. Sources also claimed that several senior staff members left their executive roles in the company.

This has occurred during a period of growth for the e-bike sector. There are estimates that the total number of e-bikes in circulation worldwide will grow to 300m this year, an increase of 50pc compared to 2019.

The company’s e-bikes are a significant investment, with prices ranging to more than €3,000. Meanwhile, there has been a rise in e-bike start-ups in Europe offering cheaper rental services. These companies have surged in popularity in recent years.

Earlier this month, VanMoof said it paused sales temporarily to “catch up on the production and delivery of existing orders”. A similar notification is still visible on the company’s website when trying to order an e-bike.

VanMoof’s legal entities outside of the Netherlands are currently not involved in the insolvency proceedings. However, this could change in the future, as the company is still exploring the impact the bankruptcy will have on these other legal entities.

The court has appointed two trustees to the bankruptcy process. These trustees are setting up a sales process for the assets and activities of the company, in order to “find a party who is willing to continue the activities of VanMoof”.

What does this mean for customers?

The future for customers remains uncertain, though VanMoof said it aims to keep its app and servers online to keep customer bikes “functionable and ridable”. However, there is a risk of “unforeseen circumstances”.

As a result, the company has advised customers to create a “backup unlock code” so they can unlock their bikes from the handlebar. Meanwhile, competitor company Cowboy has jumped in with an app designed to unlock VanMoof bikes.

Outgoing deliveries of replacement VanMoof bikes and accessories have also stopped and it remains uncertain if any open orders will be fulfilled.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic