Why Swytch Doesn’t Need Venture Capital Funding

The era of the pandemic it taught many of us that bikes are a great way to get around cities. Doubly so if they’re electric bikes, packed with batteries to help reduce the amount of sweat it takes to get anywhere. However, Swytch Technology, a startup that makes electric bike conversion kits, doesn’t target the average cyclist in the United States or Europe. Instead, the UK-based startup offers regular cyclists a way to turn their existing bike into something with a little more oomph.

Swytch’s conversion kit is one of the lightest and smallest on the market, about the same size as a large smartphone and weighing just 1.5 pounds. It recharges in an hour, provides 10 miles of range, and can be easily installed on bikes by anyone who “knows how to use an Allen key and has assembled an Ikea piece of furniture,” co-founder and CEO Oliver Montague told TechCrunch+.

Oh, and if you pre-order it’s only about $500.

Swytch was launched in 2017 through an Indiegogo campaign, during which time Montague learned about the benefits of crowdfunding when launching a new product.

Crowdfunding eventually gave way to crowdshopping, which is making customers pay a deposit for a kit to be delivered at a future date. This, Montague says, has helped Swytch scale quickly for a small company without large venture capital funds by eliminating the need to hold too much inventory. Instead, Swytch uses the money from the deposits to finance production almost on demand.

To date, Swytch has shipped more than 70,000 kits globally. There is a waiting list of more than 1.5 million customers who have registered interest in the upcoming release; Swytch recently had to shut down pre-orders because it’s out of stock through May and is busy delivering over 5,000 orders per month to customers today. Its next batch of stock will be available for delivery in June, with pre-orders reopening next month.

The company does not stand still. Swytch is moving into its next phase of growth, which could involve new product offerings and partnerships. So we sat down with Montague to discuss the pitfalls of VC funding, why having stocks on hand opens you up for risk, and how Swytch scaled so quickly without raising much capital.

(Editor’s Note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.)

Swytch has been able to scale fairly quickly without relying much or at all on venture capital funds. You say it’s because of your “collective purchase” model. Can you explain how it is different from crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is when lots of people get together and get deep discounts to support a new product to be delivered in the future. Maybe. And that is the important thing about crowdfunding: the big “maybe” at the end. Many crowdfunding projects never deliver anything. Or they deliver something, but it doesn’t work. Or it works, but there is no customer service, and the company closes a year later.

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