One of the many defining characteristics of Vietnam is the syncopated cacophony of our motorbikes. Whether they're squeezing through graffitied alleyways under the Bitexco Tower, transporting local spices from the countryside to city center bodegas, or picking up hungry students from a long day at school, these two-wheeled rides fill almost 90% of Vietnam's roadways, so much so that they have been deeply woven into the daily lifestyle of the Vietnamese.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, there are approximately 45 million registered motorcycles in Vietnam at present. For a country with a population of 96 million, that’s almost one bike for every two people! Although motorbikes can pride themselves on their extravagant, fast-moving image, it all comes at a cost.
Most assume that gas-run bikes emit less pollution per kilometre than cars simply because they are much lighter, and therefore must consume less fuel. This is true in relation to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but where bikes score less favourably is in ground-level pollution. Motorbikes emit far more smog-forming hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, as well as the toxic air pollutant carbon monoxide.
So with this in mind, what extra steps can we take to have the same ease of transportation, yet still maintain a green environment and the essential role motorbikes play in Vietnamese culture? The answer: electric motorbikes.
Though a cleaner, more environmentally conscious commuting experience, electric motorbikes have long been seen as inferior to gasoline bikes as they are typically more low-ranged, delivering only half the performance of a typical gas bike. Adoption is also lagging because when comparing the current imported electric motorbikes and Saigon's traditional gas bikes, the latter is much more efficient.
However, consumers are beginning to see the value in switching to the more humble, and environmentally friendly electric bike. And the Vietnamese are one of the first to make that shift by turning to the nation's very own, first ever local electric bike, the Dat Bike's Weaver, the only electric bike that can performatively rival the traditional gas bike.
From Silicon Valley to his home garage
Dat Bike's story began in a small garage in the United States. Son Nguyen, current CEO of Dat Bike, had given up his high-paying job in Silicon Valley in the hopes of pursuing a project that can create an impact on his home country. After teaching himself how to build a bike by tinkering with scrap parts in his home garage, Son knew he wanted to dedicate his new found knowledge of bikes to a project for the Vietnamese. And once he was ready, Son eagerly returned home to Vietnam, and quickly assembled a team of young engineers who helped him progress from building one bike a week to shipping out hundreds per month.
Son's ultimate mission for his electric motorbike startup is to drive mass adoption of green transportation in his home country, and ultimately in Southeast Asia by creating electric bikes that are powerful and dependable enough, so that his customers can make the switch from gas to electric without making any compromises. Currently, the company has been seeing a 35% MoM growth in demand for their bikes.
His target is to be the first fully home-grown, market leader in the rapid greenification of the $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia. And after having recently raised 2.6 million USD in a pre-Series A funding led by Jungle Ventures, as well as Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund, and iSeed Ventures, they're the top-of-the-line in the e-bike market.
With a 5000W motor, the Weaver has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 50km/h within just three seconds! So not only is it three times more powerful than any other electric bike in the market, it also surpasses the performance of most traditional gas-run motorbikes. Besides its powerful engine, the Weaver has an amazing longevity of up to 10 years and takes only 3 hours to charge, and it can last on the road for approximately 100km. No need to worry about running out of power in the middle of the road.
The time it takes the Weaver to charge is also faster than any other bike in the industry as well, just under three hours. And its brake mechanism is also tailored to the traffic situation in the country — which is regrettably problematic.
Why sustainable transportation? And why now?
If given a choice, Son Nguyen believes that everyone would choose the electric bike over its gas-powered counterpart. But since the current electric motorbike in the market lags behind in power and range, it makes it more difficult for people to make the switch. So in pursuit of promoting electric bikes as the greener, more practical (and inarguably cooler) option, Son shares that fresh funds will allow Dat Bike to continue to innovate and invest in the right technology to make this transformation in Southeast Asia and eventually in the world a realistic, achievable goal.
There are currently three big motorcycle markets in the world: China, India, and Southeast Asia. While both China and India already have dominant local bike manufacturers, Southeast Asia has yet to have a local motorcycle brand as most of the market is dominated by Japanese players. And Dat Bike wants to change that by becoming the motorcycle company of Southeast Asia.
Amit Anand, Founding Partner of Jungle Ventures shares that their investment into Dat Bike marks Jungle Ventures first ever investment in the mobility sector, which is continuing to rapidly transform due to the increase in technological advancements worldwide. And according to Amit, the $25 billion two wheeler industry in Southeast Asia is particularly ripe. There is exponential development in electric vehicles and automation, so now more than ever is the right time to invest.
Jungle Ventures firmly believes that Dat Bike will lead this shift by creating a new sustainable benchmark, not just in its founder’s home country, but globally for the next generation of two-wheeler electric vehicles in look and performance.