STEP USA is a 5-day startup boot camp launched and organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce New York (GACC NY). A highly successful program, it focuses on facilitating U.S. market access for young innovative companies and takes place four times a year. It also exists in a virtual format. STEP USA prides itself on having created a network of more 300 STEP USA alumni, more than 60 U.S. incorporations, and 35 investment rounds. It is tailored to the needs of startups who intent to scale their business internationally.
The GACC NY is featuring selected STEP USA Alumni, calling these founders “STEP USA Ambassadors”.
“Always get up one more time than you are being knocked down. It’s worth it!”
STEP USA Ambassador Daniel Tykesson is one of the founders of E-bility GmbH. Founded in 2010 in Remagen by the brothers Patrik, Daniel, and Philipp Tykesson, they have been passionately promoting e-mobility and started producing high-performance E-scooters at their home base. E-bility GmbH currently employs 75 people. In November 2019, Daniel and his brother Patrik joined us for our STEP USA program in New York. Today he talks with us about his U.S. market plans, his most valuable take-aways from the STEP USA program, and has a word of advice on how to deal with strong lobbies and opponents.
GACC NY: Daniel, lovely talking to you. How are things working out for E-bility in the current economic crisis?
Daniel Tykesson: Good to see you as well. We fondly remember the STEP USA program that we were able to join last fall. I wish that traveling would be as easy again as it was last year… The corona crisis had quite a grip on us, especially as it was this year’s plan to heavily expand into other European markets. On the other hand, we are delighted to see how strong the interest in individual mobility solutions currently is. In times when using public transportation doesn’t seem as secure as usual, there is an absolute increase in the need to get from A to B quickly, flexible, and “Corona-compliant”. Our E-scooters are highly sought after at the moment.
GACC NY: Daniel, what does E-bility exactly do?
Daniel Tykesson: In 2010, my brothers and I had a vision of creating a family business. It’s a company that we want to pass on to our children as well one day. Our dream has always been to shape urban mobility. So we started creating E-scooters that did not only have a cool retro design but would also relieve the pressure of traffic hotspots in big cities while using green energy. Up to this point, we have sold 10.000 units. Our goal however is to have more E-scooters driving on European roads than gasoline-powered ones by 2030. To achieve this, we are constantly developing our Kumpan designs and are researching new ideas and technologies for our customers’ needs. Our E-scooters are made with passion, sophistication, and excellent German engineering. We are truly proud of each and every one of them.
GACC NY: I can tell! It’s really impressive that you were able to acquire Scrooser GmbH a couple of months ago. Tell us how you managed to get this accomplished?
Daniel Tykesson: It started with a successful 2-digit million venture capital round that enabled us to acquire Scrooser. It’s also a young and dynamic mobility company but with a different focus: Scrooser is producing big-wheeled carving E-scooters that are very popular in the tourism sector and are a fun lifestyle vehicle, perfect for beach towns and for the last mile in urban areas. They’ve built a strong brand in the past years so we are very happy to be now joining paths and complement our assortment.
GACC NY: Is that what you consider the greatest success in your company’s history?
Daniel Tykesson: Yes, the deal was great for us. But for me personally, the biggest milestone we ever reached was on the day we went into serial production with our E-scooters. They are really top of their class and manufactured in Germany.
GACC NY: Looking back, is there ‘a lesson learned’ that you can share with us?
Daniel Tykesson: Oh yes! Every business is competitive and has supporters or opponents. Our products are emotional ones, the retro design of our E-scooters either appeals to people or not. We found ourselves in legal struggles with the goliaths of our industry and were strong enough to stand our ground. They were not able to sweep us off the market. It’s about perseverance. You always have to get up one more time than you are being knocked down. It’s very hard, but it’s worth it!
GACC NY: Thanks for sharing this, Daniel! Please tell us why the U.S. market is important for you?
Daniel Tykesson: We are planning our next investment round and – needless to say – the U.S. is an excellent place for raising venture capital. Furthermore, we are constantly broadening our network and are on the lookout for new distribution partners. The U.S. is our best market with regards to retail, online sales, and shared economy strategies. In the meantime, we have founded our own U.S. subsidiary, which is truly exciting.
GACC NY: Is that why you joined our STEP USA program in November 2019? What were your most valuable take-aways from this 5-day boot camp in New York?
Daniel Tykesson: Yes, absolutely! Taking part in the STEP USA program was a no-brainer for us, as we were approached by the German American Chamber of Commerce New York directly. Being located in Remagen, we were able to receive generous funding from the federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz. The Ministry of Economics in Mainz funded a group trip for start-ups from our federal state. We were a group of 11 companies and grew into a really tight team in New York. Up until now we are still in touch and help each other out. With the backup of the Ministry of Economics in Mainz, we are also able to tap into their networks more visibly and this is truly helpful. At this point, I want to say a big “thank you” to the great staff there! I hope that many more Rheinland-Pfalz-based companies will get the chance to participate in such a funded program. It’s a game-changer!
GACC NY: What is your most valuable takeaway from the STEP program as an entrepreneur?
Daniel Tykesson: My biggest takeaway from the STEP USA program is that New York is the perfect spot to start out your American business. So many times, founders think that only Silicon Valley is the place to be, but New York offers it all: an excellent investor environment, a city full of potential clients, business opportunities everywhere, and exciting cultural scene as well as the “proximity” to Europe by being only six hours behind German time. That helps tremendously with doing business. It’s a very mature and fast-paced world and ideal to scale your business fast – if you have done your homework.
GACC NY: In your opinion, what do startups generally underestimate when coming to the U.S.?
Daniel Tykesson: Oh, there are many things. But I would say that in general the enormous size of the country as such is totally underestimated. You cannot conquer the market with one salesperson sitting in New York. My advice is to pick a certain target region and start from there. Get your product into the market. Build a network of dealerships and distribution partners there. Once you are successful in that one region, pick the next one and restart the process.
GACC NY: Could you share a success story that has its roots in the STEP USA program?
Daniel Tykesson: Absolutely! After having had a number of excellent meetings in New York, we were able to negotiate new importer sales contracts that resulted in us being able to kick off sales in the U.S., so thanks to you we really had a great jump-start!
We also got several introductions to potential venture capital investors that we are following up with currently. As we are looking into raising a new VC-round, the STEP USA program came for us at the exact right time.
GACC NY: We are happy to hear that – great! So, what are your next steps in the U.S.?
Daniel Tykesson: We are planning on being back in New York and the Valley as soon as the situation allows for it. Our focus is to expand our partner and investor network. We are definitively ready for the next step!
GACC NY: Daniel, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and all the best for E-bility!