Riding enables us to discover our surroundings from a new perspective. Whether we’re commuting in the mornings or meeting friends in the evenings, using two wheels changes the way we interact with our environment. Free of fixed departure times and traffic jams, urban mobility finally becomes an experience to enjoy.
Lifestyle is no longer judged by shiny bodywork or big engines. Riding a bike is the very definition of a modern, progressive style. It makes a bold statement. Nobody switches to riding because they have to. Rather, they do it because they can.
Ono Bikes is an independent custom e-bike and bicycle manufacturer, which makes bikes that are not just solid and reliable, but outrageously stylish as well. Ono bikes are handcrafted, as the team takes particular pleasure in addressing the individual needs of their customers, so the bike they order fits them perfectly. This is why each example is unique.
For starters, tell us how you came up with the idea of producing an electric bicycle in a country where cycling is not the most loved activity?
We came upon the idea in the same way all great ideas are born: out of passion. As bicycle enthusiasts, we just wanted to create a means of individual urban transport capable of taking people to work in comfort, meaning without breaking a sweat, but also without burning fossil fuel along the way.
What are the basic features of the Archont, a bike with an electric drive, as you call it, and which target group of customers did you have in mind when you created it?
The basic features would have to be the large-diameter wheels, paired with unique riding ergonomics, aimed at providing the most pleasant riding experience. Also, the Archont super e-bike has the most exciting performance provided by the powerful motor, a big battery pack consisting of the latest generation Lithium cells and a custom controller that enables connection with a mobile device.
We did not have a specific target group in mind. The design, beautiful as it is, only followed the set goal. It was only when we saw it finalised that we realised the Archont would be best suited for an affluent, environmentally conscious gentlemen, with a keen eye for aesthetics and the apparent need to ride with style.
Your Archont model was presented at the “Pioneers” Festival in Vienna, where, according to all reports, it attracted the great attention of visitors. What was the response like among potential buyers?
Potential buyers are everywhere, so it was a good thing that a few of them actually decided to visit the Pioneers Festival. More importantly for us, at the present stage, was the fact that potential investors found it quite interesting as well.
By finding ourselves in the company of the likes of Hyperloop, Starship Technologies and Icarus, we achieved more than we had hoped for. We picked up a lot of connections and a few promising leads, which also reminds me to thank the Serbian Chamber of Commerce for their love and support.
Which markets do you consider as being particularly interesting for the placement of the Archont and which models will you offer the market in the first phase of development of the company?
Although at a first glance Archont might seem to be intended for an American buyer, considering its style and size, it is actually perfectly at home on the streets of any city on the planet – with enough sunny days.
The basic features would have to be the large diameter wheels, paired with unique riding ergonomics, aimed at providing the most pleasant riding experience
At the same time, its stance makes it the perfect product for an early start-up development, because it attracts attention and steers the hype so effortlessly. It comes as an e-bike or a super e-bike, but it is also possible to order a regular bicycle.
There are contrasting opinions about your discovery, but all agree that the Archont is equally interesting due to both its technical characteristics and its unique design, which combines to form a retro and modern bike. How did you decide on such a design?
The design is itself timeless because it was made to be good, rather than beautiful. It follows simple rules of physics and ergonomics.
It is particularly interesting that each bike is unique, given that they are all handmade. How will you be able to produce manually and cater for the expected market demand?
Making bicycles by hand adds value to them. Also, we had built our business model with scalability in mind from the very beginning. We are fortunate that we live in Serbia, which is bursting with skilled workers these days.
How does Ono Bikes function as a company, from planning to the finished product?
There are contrasting opinions among successful entrepreneurs about when a start-up company needs to allow the entry of investor angels or venture capitalists. What is your opinion on that?
The best timing to allow capital into a start-up company is upon producing a working prototype and gaining initial traction. Only then can you set the valuation of your company, and the art in it is not to overrate nor underrate it.
The best timing to allow capital into a start-up company is upon producing a working prototype and gaining initial traction
The key factor of every successful start-up company is the team, and the key values that investors bring, apart from providing cash, are the experience and willingness to become an integral part of the team. Bringing their network along is crucial, in order for the company to gain rapid growth. Without this, money itself doesn’t mean much. Picking the right person as an investor in the early stage is essential.
Given that you have been an entrepreneur for many years, with several successful start-ups, what is your general impression of the possibilities and opportunities for start-ups in Serbia?
As the start-up culture and community in Serbia grow and diversify, it is becoming considerably easier to succeed, especially given that – with regard to angel investors – the whole region draws investment funds and VCs into the spotlight.
On the other hand, transforming a promising start-up into a successful company requires not only a brilliant idea, but also a team that share the same vision and passion, has enough education, and is willing to persevere and work hard.
The Guardian recently published its list of “hot new tech” and included your Archont electric chopper in the first place. Has that recognition already generated some more interest in your product on domestic and foreign markets?
It has been an honour to be in the company of such advanced start-ups, even more so when we know who made the selection. It did open doors even wider.