Ignas Survila is reinventing micromobility. CEO of Unicorn Scooters, Ignas created electric kick scooters exclusively for sharing. Also a co-founder at Citybirds, the Lithuanian entrepreneur has been awarded for his functional and modern designs, such as Pigeon. Join us in this interview about micromobility, Unicorn Scooters, and the role of design in shaping the future of urban mobility.
1. How do you perceive the need for shared mobility and its role in shaping cities of the future?
“The need for shared mobility appeared some time ago when we realized we are spending way too much time commuting (standing in traffic, to be more exact) in our big metal boxes in narrow streets. Especially having in mind the short distances that are still too long to walk.
But thanks to the scooter-sharing boom in 2017 in the US, we finally have experienced what it’s like to navigate the city in a quicker and more sustainable way. Of course, we have to deal with a few problems now because this boom was unexpected. Still, I’m pretty confident we will never get back to the old school approach towards mobility. I believe, the need for shared mobility will definitely grow even more. The commuters and shared mobility providers will be those challenging municipalities to set regulations, as soon and as clearly as possible, making cities friendlier to micromobility vehicles than to cars.”
2. Can you elaborate on the concept of “micromobility”? What are the common user profiles and scenarios of micromobility?
“I’m a huge fan of the micromobility concept. So, I’d say it’s the future of mobility in cities, big time. Micromobility just makes sense from any point of view: scooters and bikes (and soon there will be even more types of vehicles) are easy to use, fun to ride (yes, that’s very important), widely affordable, fast enough to reach your destination, quicker than by foot, safe to ride because of limited speed, easy to park, and sustainable. Micromobility plays an extremely important role in reducing urban air pollution. That’s a fact.
Talking about the user profiles, I wouldn’t be so fast to define them. The best part of micromobility is that these vehicles can be used by anyone able to ride. One of the most interesting facts for me is that, according to statistics, women and older people find the electric scooter a more attractive transportation alternative than the bicycle. So, it’s safe to say that the bigger a variety offer of micromobility vehicles, the bigger adoption rate we will see.”
3. What inspired you to create Unicorn? Could you outline its competitive advantages?
“According to our research, made before creating Unicorn, most of the electric kick scooters in the scooter-sharing market were designed for personal use. These scooters not only looked like one (a standard scooter) but also had problems such as short lifespan, loads of unnecessary functions, lacking must-have safety features, etc. So, we recreated something that everyone already knows and designed an e-scooter exceptionally for sharing.
The outstanding design of Unicorn is the first thing you notice. Together with our amazing team, we rejected all the unnecessary parts and functions like folding mechanism, etc. in order to reduce additional maintenance costs and create a functional and smart design. The signature step distinguishes Unicorn from the others and also serves as a platform for carrying a grocery bag, cargo or even a kid. Everything in the Unicorn has a purpose.
Moreover, we have managed to create a better product, more efficient than any other in this market. Unicorn scooter has over two times the range (80 km), two times longer lifespan (5-6 months) and is, therefore, almost two times more profitable than potential competitors.”
4. How do you plan to distribute charging stations across the city? Did you consider compensating users to charge scooters on their own?
“Most probably we are going to start with launching pilot sharing platforms this year, in our hometown Vilnius (Lithuania), on our own or with partners. We are still working on it. But, considering the problems that service providers and cities around the world are facing when deploying dock-less scooter sharing systems, I believe that a combined system – dock-less and with docks – is the best solution at the moment. We haven’t considered the compensation system yet. Nevertheless, we are meeting different strategic partners and municipalities around the world and trying to figure it out.”
5. The rental and driving experience of Unicorn is integrated into the user’s smartphone. Despite the practicality, would it not be less attractive for some customers if this integration is indispensable?
“Unicorn app is very important because it will not only allow the riders to lock/unlock the scooter, to reserve a scooter, track their riding data, see the battery range, and communicate with other commuters. It will also help to identify the rider and make sure that he/she is of an appropriate age to ride an e-scooter.”
6. The whole idea of sharing electric vehicles is directly perceived as a sustainable practice. But how do you see the impact of mass production and littering after scaling the business? How does Unicorn tackle that?
“Yes, it’s a very good question. Actually, manufacturing is the main challenge for us. It’s extremely important to keep the whole manufacturing process the utmost sustainable. Therefore, choosing partners and manufacturers was one of the greatest obstacles for us. Even though manufacturing in China was much cheaper, we have chosen strong partners in Europe, playing an important role in helping us to reduce the impact as much as possible. But, of course, this is only one part of the process. There will be many more challenges that we will need to tackle.”
7. The Unicorn scooter has a very innovative design. Regarding production, how sustainable is its supply chain?
“Thank you for thinking that our design is innovative. Indeed, innovativeness is very important for us. But what we were aiming here was smart functional design as well. So, while designing the scooter, at the same time we were thinking about the production.
Therefore, Jevgenijus Piurko, our experienced engineer and co-founder, managed to create a Unicorn that consists just of a few main aluminum parts. This way the production is easier, cheaper and more sustainable.”
8. What about challenges, would you mind sharing some barriers Unicorn has still to overcome?
“We are in a quite early stage yet, so we are facing various challenges almost every day. Although, together with the other co-founder, we have around 5 years of experience in designing and manufacturing kick scooters from scratch. We’ve been managing the production of this type of vehicles in China, we went through the whole process by ourselves. Thus, we know the rules of this game and now we are just playing it in the best way we can.
I’d say that we have two main challenges right now: one of them is tooling and setting the manufacturing the right way as soon as possible, without compromising the quality and not forgetting our main value – sustainability; the other one is to have a nearly perfect shared scooter, that will be absolutely comfortable and easy to use for any rider.”
9. Coming back to your personal journey, what is your life’s mission and what helps you achieve it?
“As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of micromobility. I believe that now is the moment we can make a change to the ridiculous amount of urban pollution, traffic jams and the old-school approach towards mobility in cities. I want to be a part of these changes and contribute massively to them. At the same time, I believe that design has to play a huge role in this change. It is the societal task of a designer to create the future, but neither to beautify the presence nor to manipulate consumers. However, sometimes we see examples when design becomes a part of the problem rather than a solution. I truly believe that we can change this approach by speaking less and acting more towards a better future. Also, I believe we can create the first Lithuanian unicorn with Unicorn Scooters.”
10. Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Micromobility plays an extremely important role in reducing urban air pollution.
Cities need to become friendlier to micromobility than to cars.
Commuters and shared mobility service providers need to work together with municipalities to make this reality.
The Unicorn scooter was created to be shared. Its design is not only innovative but has a smart functional purpose.
A designer’s true mission is to create the future. Unicorn is an example of that, rethinking micromobility, and therefore tackling main urban mobility challenges.
It was a pleasure to interview Ignas and showcase this exciting project on Innovation Walk. Check out Unicorn’s video pitch below. You can help them win a place at the European Startup Prize for Mobility. Just give them a 👍 ,❤️ , 😆 or a 😮 here and spread the word! Voting ends on March 25th 2019.
We are truly excited to see this initiative create even more impact. If you want to become a member of the Unicorn family, you can further support them as an investor (starting from €10). Just contact here to pre-register for investment.
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