Chinmay Malaviya and Charlie Depman found themselves at the center of the shared micromobility industry just as it took off, working for companies like Bird, Lime and Scoot. They experienced a rollercoaster ride of venture funding and skyrocketing demand, product pitfalls and regulatory hurdles. It was in the midst of this activity that the pair noted a shift in the industry — and an opportunity.
“From our vantage point there was a massive shift happening in mobility and transportation, in terms of personal ownership,” Malaviya told TechCrunch in an interview last month. “People were looking for their own electric scooter, electric bike and electric moped.”
Malaviya and Depman, who met on LinkedIn, determined there wasn’t a suitable way to research, vet and buy e-bikes, e-mopeds or e-scooters beyond Google and Amazon searches. And Ridepanda, an online marketplace for light electric vehicles, was born.
It’s safe to call the pair “light electric vehicle” evangelists. They see Ridepanda, which raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from General Catalyst and Will Smith’s Dreamers Fund, as the best way to deliver on the mission of getting more electric bikes, scooters and mopeds in the public’s hands.
“We are all for cities that can be happier and efficient, if they run on these vehicles that are small, quiet eco-friendly and also a lot more fun,” said Malaviya, who added that light electric vehicles are particularly well-suited for the majority of trips people take, which data shows is up five miles.
The startup, which the pair launched in early 2020 and recently came out of stealth, aims to be a one-stop “e-ride” shop where customers can find a curated set of expert-vetted e-rides and a customization feature that helps shoppers home in on the right product. Ridepanda launched in late September a new site with an improved user interface, a “Ridefinder Quiz” that helps people find the right product, as well as other support services. These support services, which are bundled and branded “pandacare,” connects users with information on insurance, home assembly, repair and maintenance plans, as well as help finding the right helmet.
Visitors to Ridepanda will spot the “Ridefinder Quiz,” which lets users select the electric bike, moped or scooter icon, their height and weight, top uses and, finally, preferences, like foldable or cargo and budget. The user is then given a few results that best match their selections. Users can skip this process and just conduct searches based on the three product types or use cases such as “commute,” “adventure,” “delivery” or “accessibility.”
Not just any electric bike, scooter or moped qualifies for Ridepanda’s site, said Depman, who is the company’s CTO.
“We’ve seen like a Cambrian explosion of different vehicle types; there are literally hundreds of options out there,” said Depman. “If you go on Amazon’s website, you’re going to see 150-plus in each category, and it’s really hard to sift through them. So what we’ve been building on the back end is a vetting system.”
For a product to be included on the platform, it must meet certain criteria and rating. The company rates vehicles across performance, safety, sustainability, durability and repairability, Depman said. That rating is achieved by evaluating all the different components of the vehicle, including the battery, motor and brakes.
Ridepanda is focused on the U.S. market for now, particularly cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. The company offers customers financing and it’s even looking into a subscription service, although it’s unclear when or if that will roll out.
“Basically I think we are fighting the noise and the decision fatigue,” Malaviya said.