LA Report: What education or training did you have?
Taco Carlier: I studied industrial design engineering at Delft university of Technology, then I did internships at Philips and TATA Steel.
LA Report: Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Taco Carlier: My business partner and my brother Ties. We founded VANMOOF together. He is 36, I’m 37. He lives in Taiwan, he leads the design team and is responsible for Asian and American sales.
LA Report: Why did you set up your company?
Taco Carlier: We love commuting by bike. It’s our goal to help the ambitious city dweller to move around town faster, more confidently and in utmost style. New York, Barcelona, Bangkok, Tokyo or Sydney – wherever you live and work, we want you to enjoy the convenience of commuting by bicycle. In VANMOOF's native city of Amsterdam, riding a bike to work is a normal part of the daily routine. We believe it can be so in every city around the world. Our bikes are maintenance-lite, weatherproof and hassle-free. It stands to reason that a bike dedicated to daily commuting requires different functions to the bike made for racing, or the occasional trip up a mountain side. So we removed all fancy functions and re-designed the bicycle with inner city use in mind.
LA Report: What is the specific benefit that distinguishes your product or service from its competitors?
Taco Carlier: At VANMOOF we push the limits harder, all bikes are especially designed for urban commuters. VANMOOF bikes are made of anodized aluminium, have integrated Philips lights (one less thing for the urban cyclist to carry around or lose), integrated ABUS locks which makes our bikes more secure. Thanks to a partnership with Vodafone, our newest model has an integrated internet connection, GPS and an integrated electric lock, therefore it can be used for bike peer- 2-peersharing.
LA Report: How does your bike sharing concept work?
Taco Carlier: Our system is something like CAR2GO meets AIRBNB, where people buy a VANMOOF which they can then share. The cool thing about a peer2peer bike sharing system like this is that government won’t need to invest millions in the system and we don’t have to attract big sponsors. We will introduce the first project in Portland in September. This movie will give you a good idea how it all works: And there’s a good article about it in Treehugger: .
LA Report: How does your product change people’s lives for the better?
Taco Carlier: The real benefit is that our bike solves many of the issues that come with modern city life like traffic jams, air & noise pollution; and above all, the health of its citizens.
LA Report: How long did it take you to set up your business?
Taco Carlier: We started in 2008 and then launched in May 2009.
LA Report: Where did you get your funding?
Taco Carlier: We started our first company with only 1000 euros, then we funded VANMOOF with the revenues from that first company. We don’t have investors, but we do have a bank loan and are applying for a loan of the Dutch Foreign Investment Bank for our activities in Taiwan.
LA Report: How would you describe your progress so far?
Taco Carlier: Our annual turnover is almost 4 million Euro and we are growing on average 75% per year.
LA Report: How long did it take you to break into new markets?
Taco Carlier: It’s our goal to bring the Dutch way of cycling to the entire world. So I guess you could say export is in our DNA. We started exporting to the USA and Japan in our first year.
LA Report: What would help you grow the business? Would more Infrastructure help?
Taco Carlier: It is true investment in cycling infrastructure would help us sell more bikes. Especially investments in separate bike lanes in cities.
LA Report: Do you work with governments to achieve this? For example, would you consider advising or lobbying them?
Taco Carlier: We hope cities all over Europe will invest more in infrastructure, however as a company we decided to focus on creating the best bikes and not on lobbying. We leave that to others.
LA Report: How are you planning to grow your business?
Taco Carlier: We invest all the cash flow we generate into research and development, so we can create even more innovative bikes. We believe our customers will themselves share the story all over the world via newspapers, magazines and social media. Also we don’t just use social media for marketing; we share early designs and concepts with our clients and the feedback helps us refine our product development.
LA Report: What are the three main barriers to its growth?
Taco Carlier: First, capital. We have bank loans, but more money always means faster growth for us. Secondly, time. Innovating products and developing hardware takes a lot of time given the needs of the R&D process, testing and hipping. Everything is different compared to software.
LA Report: Were there any EU programmes or funding that helped you set up and grow?
Taco Carlier: We had a lot of help from the Dutch government by spreading the VANMOOF message through all the Dutch embassies in the world. We are also using a WBSO subsidy, which is a Dutch research and development tax refund.
LA Report: With hindsight, which would have been the most valuable skill set to have before setting up your business?
Taco Carlier: Learning to code is essential, they should teach it to all kids at school. Also languages, especially English and German. I also think it’s essential for all entrepreneurs to take the trouble to learn everything about business administration.
LA Report:Do you have a mentor?
Taco Carlier: Luud Schimmelpennink is a Dutch social inventor, industrial designer, entrepreneur and politician. He is the main person behind the famous 1965 White Bicycle Plan in Amsterdam, whereby he and colleagues collected several hundred bikes, painted them white, and left them around the city to be freely used. He comes by now and then; and it’s always inspiring to hear his vision on urban commuting.
LA Report:If you were in charge of the government ministry for SMEs and start-ups what would be the three most important changes you would make to help them grow?
Taco Carlier: I would simplify legislation for crowd funding of companies fast and turn it into EU legislation, so European people could lend money to successful companies and they will have to rely less on the banks. I’m impressed by what the guys of BREWDOG did with crowdfunding in the UK. I would also create a single set of European rules for the incorporation of EU businesses. One European company statute, and one European tax system. The new generation of entrepreneurs works easily in multiple cities across Europe. From the outset, companies could choose if they want to be an EU entity or local entity.
LA Report: Why are entrepreneurs important to society?
Taco Carlier: Real change comes from entrepreneurs. The world is facing some tremendous problems. We need entrepreneurs to solve them.
LA Report:What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Taco Carlier: Having the opportunity to turn your dreams into reality to create a better, healthier, funnier, greater planet with a great group of friends.
LA Report: If you could go back in time to when you were just about to start your company and tell yourself something useful, what would it be?
Taco Carlier: Think fast; think big; and hire the best people. Trust your own instincts.
LA Report: Thank you very much; and the best of luck for the future of your business.
Taco Carlier: Thank you.