Zachary Schieffelin of Civilized Cycles Answers Four Questions for Founders
Civilized Cycles builds ebikes that have the comfort, utility, and active safety of a scooter or light motorcycle with the ease of use and legality of a bicycle.
1. Why did you start Civilized Cycles? Do you remember the moment when you first thought of the idea?
I was listening to customers on my retail sales floor play the same game of ‘goldilocks’ I had been playing. We would identify each of the best features of the Vespa, ebikes, cargo bikes, and dutch cruisers, while trying to figure out which compromises had to be tolerated for a given trip. We were all looking for the same thing – an effortless, quick, comfortable, easy to park machine that carried people + stuff, all while looking good. And surprise – no one wanted to deal with the DMV, ever.
2. How do you see Civilized Cycles impacting how we live our lives?
Our goal is to prove that our low carbon future isn’t a sacrifice, its an upgrade. If we do our jobs, we transform the mobility landscape away from heavy, dangerous, gas-guzzling vehicles to light, fun, healthy and safer alternatives. We hope to create a culture shift by showing what is possible and making it cool. The formula of two wheels, suspension, a little bit of power, and the ability to carry two people and some stuff is a globally proven mobility platform – the Honda Cub used that formula to become the best selling motor vehicle in history. We use our technology to deliver the same value proposition and then improve it by losing 150lbs, adding storage space, and eliminating the need for registration, license, and insurance.
3. How have New York and Newlab positively impacted the development of your business?
New York City is the incredibly challenging transportation environment that forged our solution – and home to the rich ecosystem of people and organizations that are needed to turn a concept into a business. As a solo founder, I was excited to join Newlab for the unique combination of hardware, community, and most importantly, human resources. It’s hard to overstate how much it helps to be able to get a small piece of information, share an experience for feedback, or get guidance on prototyping from an expert when you need it. I’ve never really been a ‘networker’ but having a real community and a steady flow of high-quality event programming makes it easy to make genuine and valuable connections.
4. What do you see as your responsibility to make technology ethical and accessible to all?
For manufacturing companies like ours, the way we operate production makes a huge impact on the world. We operate with a very small ‘virtual’ corporate footprint and as we seek B-Corp certification, we are working with our production partners to demand best practices for our factory and supply chain. Our brand and the costs of implementing our tech mean that we’ll be entering at the top end of the market, but we plan to license our ebike geofencing IP to enable the development of a broader US product mix. As we grow, we will be able to lower our price points with the efficiencies that come with scale, and we have a plan for creating a secondary market that will drive price accessibility lower still.
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