What Does It Take To Win Over An Investor For Your Startup? Is it timing, expertise, personal interest or ROI?
Why, when you feel that you are sitting on a gold mine, is it seemingly impossible to get investors to see the potential?
I sat down with Josh Rasmussen, CEO of Monday Motorbikes, to chat and discuss some hurdles his company is facing in securing their next funding round.
Your co-founder, Dr. Nathan Jauvtis, and you both ride motorcycles. What do you guys ride?
I ride a Ducati Monster and Nate rides a Yamaha R1 but we keep several other bikes here at the lab to ride around.
As motorcycle enthusiasts, why was it important to develop an electric alternative?
It wasn’t just to create an electric alternative because some already exist. What we created is an electric alternative that is easy to ride, stylish and feels like a motorcycle without a license or registration required to ride; that is the difference. As riders, we know the intoxicating feeling of riding a motorcycle. People often go their whole life without being able to experience that and we wanted to allow everyone the opportunity to feel that rush.
Where did the name Monday Motorbikes come from?
We were founded on a Monday out of a garage in San Francisco. We look at Monday as a new day and a fresh start. We see the products we create as a new way for people to see mobility in a way they haven’t before.
How long have Monday Motorbikes been in the works?
We have been developing for 7 years and launched the company in October 2015.
How much funding have you received to date?
Approximately one million and five hundred thousand dollars.
What was your greatest expense in the past 2 years?
Product refinement for mass production. More specifically, building 22 early M1 models for use-case evaluation and user feedback, embedded systems, and batteries research and development. Getting the custom tooling and machinery for large scale manufacturing was very time consuming but we are ecstatic that it’s all complete!
Tell me about some of the other members of your team.
Our core team consists of leaders in three specific areas – Product development, Website/SEO and Business Development.
Dr. Nathan Jauvtis, my co-founder, is a former engineer at Zero Motorcycles. He has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and also the sweetest sideburns to boot. Nate leads the product development side of things and is responsible for the first generations of the Monday Motorbikes lineup.
Neil McLellan, our Director of Business Development, is a strong closer allowing us to make some significant deals with sports teams, TV shows, and dealerships both nationally and internationally.
Our main distribution occurs online direct to customers. We like it that way as we can directly connect with our followers and customers to learn more about them and what they like. Charlie Schock oversees everything online and is an absolute machine when it comes to SEO and marketing. With the international attention we receive, it’s nice to have a polyglot like Charlie on our team as well.
How have you been able to run a company, employ a full team and continue development of the product on such a lean spend?
Very cautiously. When you don’t have very much money, you can’t afford to make mistakes. With every decision, we have to put a significant amount of thought and strategic analysis behind it. We have been scrappy by negotiating aggressively with supplier and manufacturing contracts. Also, Nate and I did not collect paychecks for the first two years, which allowed us to use the money for business advancement and to pay team members as much as possible.
With one of the most successful Indiegogo campaigns in history, being called the “Tesla of electric motorbikes” by TechCrunch and having already won GQ’s “Best Stuff of the Year” award, what has been the biggest driving factor in sales?
Making a kick-ass product. Our unique design aesthetic and the problems we’re solving help spread the word organically. Customers buy our motorbikes because we’ve created a solution to their problems of getting around the city they love. Even our pre-order customers are willing to wait, so that speaks volumes.
How many bikes have you guys sold in pre-sales?
We keep those numbers pretty close to the chest but today we have a few million dollars in orders that we are fulfilling. The process of developing our latest motorbike, The GEN7, took us almost two years and we would not be here without the confidence and loyalty of our amazing fans and customers around the world. They are amazing, ravenous and understanding.
What is the biggest challenge you have come across when pitching Monday to potential investors?
Some investors put the product into a bucket. People either see this as an electric bicycle or an electric motorcycle. However, Monday is somewhere in between and nothing like this yet exists in the market. Think of when Segway was introduced. In fact, that is why we got connected to Rod Keller, the former President of Segway, to advise the company as we move forward.
Is there a disconnect between how the consumer and investors perceive your product?
Yes. Investors are looking at this as one of many products in a very saturated market. Consumers see us as an extension of their personal style, and as a solution to their urban transportation problems. We are going after an “aspiring rider”. Studies show that 1 out of 10 American want to but have never ridden a motorcycle. This is potentially 32 million Americans that want to ride.
What is the most common reason of rejection an investor gives Monday?
They don’t feel like the US market is big enough to sustain a company like ours. With lightweight urban mobility companies like Bird Scooters and their amazing growth, it’s clear they didn’t understand it back then. They definitely understand it now. The question we have to face is how we scale at a price point 10x higher than companies like Bird. That may remain a concern for investors until it’s proven that a company can do it.
The word “venture” in venture capitalist is defined as an “exposure to the risk of loss”. How do you feel about investors wanting to review your business plan and seek the consultation of their advisors to basically eliminate risk in investing?
There is no way to eliminate all risk. We welcome that. It is my job to de-risk the company as CEO. In fact, it would be irresponsible and wrong if I presented Monday as a guaranteed success.
What is the most frustrating task you have come across as CEO of Monday?
Keeping a team happy on a tight budget. When you’re competing against companies that have millions in funding, a full snack bar, a ping pong table, it’s really hard to attract and maintain a happy team. I want what they want too, but the dollars speak.
How have you kept current investors engaged and involved on Monday?
All 325 investors are given quarterly updates with what we are doing. I also give an “investor call to action” which outlines the current needs of the organization and a call of action to see if they can reach out into their personal network for us to help achieve a solution to those needs. Our investors are like family, and they are always welcome to our Labs to see and test some of the latest and greatest.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years, we’ll have a global brand of lightweight electric mobility devices focused on unique, stylish design and amazing functionality.
Why do you believe Monday will succeed?
Three reasons. One, we are stupidly passionate about motorcycles and we want to share that passion with the world. It is an indescribable feeling after a good ride. It’s like being a kid again. Two, we are extremely capable. We have some of the best engineers from some of the best universities ranging from mechanical, to electrical, and systems engineering. I call the team the “300 Spartans of Hardware”; battle-hardened and focused on the task at hand. Three, we have a fantastic product. It evokes emotion from people at first sight. We have people that fall in love with and buy our product just from the website. And, it solves a real problem as well.
If you could have any celebrity investor, who would it be and why?
Keanu Reeves. First and foremost, his personal character. When he made his money from Matrix, he gave a large portion to the film crew and bought his stuntmen Harleys. Anyone should want to work with someone that selfless. He is also a die-hard motorcycle rider, like us. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, if he is in it, I buy it. He also owns a shop that designs and manufactures motorcycles. I believe he shares our vision of giving everyone the experience of riding. Some investors don’t see or follow the vision of the company. They just see some dollars and want to take us in a different direction. We want someone that enjoys the visceral experience and would remain true to the reason why Monday was founded. I believe he is that type of guy.
To reach Josh for information regarding investment opportunities, please email [email protected]