My Big Idea: Arriving from Venezuela to Dublin, Annie wants to get the nation cycling on her electric bikes
Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30
Annie Aragón, from Venezuela (29), is a co-founder of Artik Bikes, a Dublin-based electric bicycle manufacturer.
"I came to Ireland a few years ago to learn English in advance of a trip to the US - and never left. My educational background is in psychology and I joined a startup based at the Guinness Enterprise Centre which combined software with psychology.
Then I crossed paths with 007 Ideas, a startup investment and acceleration group based between Ireland and Spain.
They are the main backers of Artik Bikes, which is how I got involved with this company.
We launched it eight months ago, again headquartered in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin.
Our concept is lightweight, accessible electric bicycles. These types of bikes, which use a small engine to boost the cyclist's pedal power, are popular around the world but most models are either quite bulky and intimidating, or really high-end and expensive.
We wanted to make an electric bike that everyone could see themselves cycling.
We use a Pedelec system which is a combination of a pedalling and electric system. It gives you assistance in proportion to how much you pedal.
They are a brilliant way to get around. I was impressed by the popularity of cycling as a transportation method when I first came to Europe, but I was a very poor cyclist.
That turned me off even trying and it was only with encouragement from my husband that I improved. I know lots of people feel similar and are dissuaded from cycling because they don't feel fit enough.
Studies actually show that people with e-bikes make greater use of theirs than a regular bicycle.
A study done by the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK shows that e-bikes are used at least twice as often than regular bikes.
This is because you can get around easier - climbing steep hills with ease - and don't sweat as much, making it a more viable option for the commute to work.
Often people avoid cycling to work as they are worried about arriving sweaty and do not have shower facilities available at the office.
We think our first models are the lightest in the world. They are light enough that you can cycle them normally, without the engine running. The range includes a road bike, city bike and mountain bike. The battery and engine are completely concealed within the bike's frame.
We designed them using existing technology such as Panasonic batteries, meaning we could get them out into the market fast.
They are currently on pre-order, priced between €2,000 and €3,000, and the first bicycles will start arriving with customers two months from now.
The bicycles are being showcased in bicycle shops for now, plus a couple of pop-up shops. We are also going to look for a couple of corporate partnerships. They are eligible for the Bike to Work taxback scheme.
We don't think setting up a dedicated store will be necessary.
We are planning to develop a lot more of the technology in-house for the next iteration.
You can do some much with electric bicycles because you have a decent battery.
We are working on an anti-theft function where the owner will be able to track their bike at all times.
The biggest challenge has been introducing the concept to a market that is not very familiar with it.
Irish people don't have much experience with electric bikes. But we also see that as a positive because we are one of the first to push this product here so we can capitalise on its growth."