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We spoke to Adam Ridgway, the CEO & Founder of One Moto, about the DNA of his company, how you get from an idea to a £120 million-plus investment and what the founder’s lifestyle is.
One Moto is on a mission to decarbonize the last mile. Already present in UAE and UK, the rest of the world is next!
London – Dubai
You can read a summary of the interview below.
TH: It’s not often we get someone on the show so quickly post the funding rounds. Must’ve been a busy week.
AR: As we may. Yeah, it’s been. In fact, it’s been quite a busy few months. And just that just so I mentioned that Crikey has taken the best part of a year and an endless amount of conversations, but it’s a very, very exciting time.
TH: So, how did you end up in this position?
AR: I don’t know where to start, but I suppose where I looked at a problem and a potential solution, I was in a really fortunate position in 2016. I had a classic car that I wanted to get it converted to electric and had been in Dubai. I went to three garages, three said yes, three failed and I sat there actually downtrodden.
I walked out [of the garages] and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Dubai, but there are a wealth of delivery bikes. Around 92,000 are on the roads right now just in Dubai, impressive relative to the small city. I walked out there and I said, I wonder if anyone’s designed electric delivery bike.
And it was just one of those little moments. You know, when you’ve got an idea and then something else happens and you see more and more of it and it just keeps on niggling away until, if you’ve got that personality, you just go well, I need to find the answer to this.
So, it was just at a time there’s a company out here called Kalthoum and they had just announced that they were launching fuel delivery. And I just so I held my head and went, that’s ridiculous.
How can people be so lazy? That’s a terrible idea. It’s never going to work. And I was wrong, then I thought this brilliant.
I thought there has to be something in this. This is the potential we could be having everything delivered. We did research and ended up writing a white paper, which I’d never done before.
TH: So, how did the idea evolve?
AR: It sort of evolved into what would it take to create an electric delivery bike. I knew about motorbikes. I don’t come from an engineering background, but I knew a few engineers, so I just started using my network.
I just thought as every founder, you’ve got this great idea, but its only execution ever actually has any end result or anything to talk about, right?
So 2016, it took us to about 2017 and a half and then 18 months and we had the first vehicles on the road. They were delivered over here [Dubai]. And then I spent three months through the ridiculously hot summer to test these vehicles.
So, we produce the first few got them over here and just test them on the road. It was brutal. Awful actually, but it was incredible. And then 18 months after that, we’d gone through certification. Now we’re the first company in the country and the region to have launched an EV startup.
And we built something that was slightly more than what was needed because there was that fear of [EV] technology.
TH: So, how did you feel as a founder during this time?
I’ve run my other businesses and I thought I was turning 40. I just bought a house, and got married the year before, plus a kid that was on the way in a month’s time.
I thought, well, do I want to be doing the same thing for the next ten years, or do I want to do something that could potentially make a difference?
TH: How did the funding side develop?
We took a bold decision not to focus on sales. Let’s just build the market, get some test rights out there as soon as you can and really start enhancing, empowering, getting customers to start listening.
A drastic mistake in terms of financial gain, but it was exactly the right one to do then. The later 21 customers were a flip-flop in between. Do we want to lease them? We want to buy. Yes, we want to buy. No, we don’t. And so again, we just didn’t focus on sales. But is it more about building relationships?
In 2021 we did a successful crowdfunding raise and just over half a million dollars and that gave us an ISP of around 83 investors that have all started championing One Moto.
VCs don’t tend to invest in manufacturing. But really the narrative that was communicated was wrong because they shouldn’t have seen us like that because we’re in the ecosystem. Yes, we design and build vehicles, but we also have swappable batteries.
The IB fleet, the SAS software, the distribution model, the one care. We’ve got the entire ecosystem. We started speaking quite intently to really start decarbonizing.
Because of that, it’s easier to some extent, but it’s also harder as well. We started speaking to one company that led to X amount of conversations and then eventually Bears and Seagull were involved.
TH: I find it really impressive. it’s kind of a David and Goliath story, where you’re going to take on an established automotive industry of 100 years old.
There must have been some kind of doubts along the way, particularly early on when you were in terms of getting this off the ground.
AR: There was like, yeah, I wouldn’t say this now could come across as arrogant, which I’m not trying to portray.
But then coming from a business in the past where I’ve had some massive highs, and massive lows in terrible times.
How can we build this hyper modular EV company where we can’t get superseded by technology because we’ll just use the latest technology and embed it within our vehicles? Is it possible some people say no. Well, everything’s possible. You just got to try and find it.
Only of issue is if you try and force something. This is something I’ve learned. I always try to force something. It probably won’t work.
Is it worth more? Is there another way? Am I looking at this the right way? And, you know, taking on a country like the UAE, let’s say, in price, in the opportunities here, there’s with we’re first in the market. We had to write the legislation with the government. I’ve never written legislation up until that point, but now I know how to do it.
And we tell you you can copy and paste that into other markets. So it’s been taking a risk of being a first mover. It’s incredibly daunting.
TH: So when you see these guys and you know, particularly in large cities, let’s say London for one example, and there’s lots of guys whizzing around on delivery bikes, etc., how many of those are currently electric? As far as you’re aware.
AR: We’re not sure. We know certain companies, and I don’t think it’d be fair to name names and the amount that they accept.
What we’ve managed to do is create an environment where you can lease a vehicle leased on a big for £3 a day. If you want a helmet, you want insurance, you want gloves, you want other PPE, anything that you want can just be an incremental amount.
So for, say, less than, say, about £3 a day, you can be on the road delivering and some of the aggregators or the delivery platforms are paying sort of £3-6 per delivery. If times it’s tough or you’re a student, you just go to three credit days. I can afford that. That’s less than a cup of coffee.
TH: From your point of view, how much do you see yourself as a B2B versus a B2C organization today?
AR: Yeah, great question. We do sell vehicles and so those that the one for private use or even small businesses. But yeah, I’d say 90% of our business is focused on B2B at the moment.
TH: Which markets are you most interested in or perceived as a is as a strong, strong fit for the brand?
Last year we started looking at our footprint overseas.
How can we create a business that is modular? With an iteration that’s copied and pasted into other territories, and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve managed to open up six so far, and another 18 in conversation.
So yes, we’re in the UK, which has only recently been launched. Proof of concept, it works here, it can work anywhere else.
So where and UAE which is then allowing us to go into the DCC which includes Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman is another country. Then we’ve got Chile in Latin America. We’re also speaking to six other countries throughout Latin America, Mexico is one, and Argentina being another for micro-assembly plants as well.
We’ve signed Ethiopia as a distributor. Kenya’s in conversation. Angola, Nigeria. There’s again, and I think there are about 12 or 13 countries that we’re speaking to there.
TH: Going to be a target in those countries out in like when you talk about opening up those markets, who do you engage first when you’re in the expansion phase?
AR: We start off with distributors because they have the marketing knowledge, they’ve got the network and from that and offering it attractive margins, then they will know the dealership so they’re able to sell those vehicles.
There are some dealerships, but dealerships we even need to set up our own entity and then ourselves as a dealership. Yeah, but we’re more strategic. So finding distributors is key for our road map going.
TH: What about the DNA of the organization you’ve spoken about being?
AR: Yes, It’s a really lovely question. One I’ve never been asked before.
Everyone that we employ has a shared belief. So I and the guy who runs the UK, Mark, we’ve been friends for 25 years. He says he shares my personal values and the values of the company. And we weren’t looking at Steve. He’s our CFO.
We’re really selective in that team because you need to share the same values. It’s not about flogging something that yes, is better for the environment and you really need to believe it and you…
TH: Need to live it.
AR: As well and show that yes.
TH: What is the goal for you?
I’ve got a strategy I actually want to do at some point when we exit [I want] the majority of that percentage to be put into philanthropic arenas to actually help the planet.
So I’ve got a very personal journey that I want to go on.
TH: From a manufacturing point of view. How are you manufacturing the bikes? Where and how much of a challenging process has that been to get efficiently structured?
AR: It’s predominately built on relationships and really concentrated and focused on those relationships. So we’ve got a factory that produces exclusively for us in China at the moment where literally days away from signing the contract for a factory in the UAE, but we’ve signed one as well for Sri Lanka. They should be breaking ground in Q1 this year and Argentina starting compensation, as is the earliest stage.
As well as Mexico, Kenya, Angola, Uganda, Ethiopia. So there are all these conversations we’re having about having these assembly plants.
You’re also reducing any dependency on anyone in particular, and then you’re creating in-country value. So, we’re looking at these micro-plants that will produce between three and 10,000 a month.
TH: Phenomenal. Well, it’s a fantastic story today. Forward from here. What in terms of the investment? And then how are you looking to expand and grow? What’s the priority for you next?
AR: I believe the first automotive company in the world to achieve or positively impact 15 to 17 of the UN’s SDGs by the end of the year. I’d like to have achieved all 17 of them.
Yeah, we would like to have 20 cities launched or 20 countries launched by the end of this year with the two assembly plants producing around 160,000 vehicles by the end of next year.
Having 15,000 vehicles under our own lease and then it will be leased in amount to individuals as well as organizations and I suppose my personal goal for the UAE, which has been home for 15 years, is to transition the entire last mile Fleet Electric by 2025.
TH: Absolutely. It’s looking for the stars, isn’t it? So what about the competition?
AR: Yeah, this is difficult because in every territory we operate, you’ve got someone that goes well, this company offering it for $4,000 less. You know, you can’t possibly compare the two. So, yes, there is competition. Of course, there is, and it’s definitely about getting the brand out there so they can see the value of the aftersales.
TH: You’ve clearly gone through several iterations and it sounds as though you’ve got a really solid business model moving forward from the point of view of your culture in the organization.
But then your perspective is as CEO, what type of culture are you looking to foster internally within that, within the organization as you build?
AR: Yeah, it’s a very difficult one to get my head around because if you talk about culture is what do you want at home, What do you want in the office? And you need those to be different.
When it comes to a business, it’s really difficult because you’ve got so many cultural backgrounds, so many different drivers and triggers.
So, for us as a reasonably agile, small-ish team, then it’s about finding what everyone’s driver is and making sure that they achieve that. So if it is materialistic, then what do you need to do to achieve that? If it’s something more philanthropic, what do we need to get to do to achieve that?
Crikey, I’ve been in some of the worst places emotionally and mentally over the years. You know, I don’t think it’s uncommon, although we don’t necessarily talk about it as openly. It’s really, really dark at times. And if you’re spending whatever the percentage is, 30, 40%, if you’re working your life work in that you want to have fun.
So, I haven’t just employed friends. I’ve headhunted, and we’ve got a library of various different individuals across the world.
TH: What’s the what’s the end in mind? You know what, what sort of timescale and how will this look when it’s done in your mind at least?
I think it’ll be about four years, we’ll have either a trade sale, an IPO or a trade sale.
So we’ve got either a trade sale or a potential IPO which will have a discussion about the end of 24. Is it something we want to go ahead with? Yeah, and or again, potential trade sale once we go further on and then I do have another option which turns us into more of a co-operative, but I don’t know whether that’s going to be possible across legal jurisdictions and so on.
But that’s something I want to explore.
TH: Well, it’s going to be a fantastic experience. You’re getting to that, getting to that point. But I’m sure there’s a lot of fun to be had. Yeah, between then and now.
AR: Yeah, I think I hope so too. And hopefully, there won’t be as many tears. But as I said at the start, with experience, you still make mistakes, but you hope that with that wisdom, those mistakes aren’t as expensive as they once were. Not always financially, but emotionally as well.