UBCO

The Kiwi ebike – just bolt on your extras
Improving on a Kiwi tradition.
Manufacturing

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Quick facts

  • Utility Electric bike manufacturer
  • Major shareholders are the Andrews Family and co-founders  Daryl Neal and Anthony Clyde
  • Turnover of $3.1 million
  • Set up in 2015
  • Based in Tauranga

In 1963 the world’s first purpose-built farm bike was made in New Plymouth, Taranaki. The Mountain Goat motorcycle wasn’t beautiful, it had a short wheelbase, solid disk wheels and didn’t go very fast but it was light for the time, had some grunt and was plenty tough.

It’s only right that New Zealand is continuing to lead the world with farm bike innovation. Still in start-up mode, Tauranga-based UBCO makes tech electric farm bikes with a simple Kiwi mindset.

UBCO’s utility bikes are definitely an improvement on that first farm bike, with two-wheel drive, a battery-powered motor, highly customisable systems and lightweight.

Chief executive Timothy Allan jumped into the business after seeing an electric motorbike prototype built by co-founders Darrel Neal and Anthony Clyde on display at Fieldays 2014. The bike jumped out to Allan straight away, “It’s the simplicity and obviousness of it, when you look at it – it goes well, yeah, of course.”

The company has grown to an annual revenue of $3.1 million after three years.

Global sales

UBCO formed in 2015 and took its first private investment the same year to get the 2x2 bike into production. Since then the bikes have been used by conservation workers on Catalina Island off California and adventurers as far off as in the Sahara Desert.

Neal and Clyde had been working with e-bikes for years before coming up with the concept for an electric ‘tool bike’ for use by the Department of Conservation but also for on the farm, hunting and adventure tourism.

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UBCO bike in use.

Clyde had previously developed the Smart Motion electric bicycle, developed bikes for NZ Post and ran a business importing e-bikes to New Zealand.

Originally from Wellington, industrial designer and co-founder Neal had previously started Lekkie, a company that sells a kit to convert standard bicycles to electric power, which he invented because he couldn’t cycle his two boys up the hill to their home.

UBCO opted for a hub-powered two-wheel drive system, rejecting the classic belt drivetrain motorcycle formula adopted by other electric bike makers. This makes the bike considerably lighter, quieter and smooth enough for a filmmaker to mount a camera on the back.

The company puts emphasis on customisability, and the company sells a range of its own accessories but the bike is designed so almost anything can be attached with basic nuts and bolts.

The 2018 model of the utility bike is road legal, targeting commuters alongside farmers and hunters.

Part of the company’s success was in recognising the growing importance of integrated technology, building an app to allow the customer to monitor the bike and easily add new features, including an upcoming traction control update, without having to take the bike into a dealer for service.

The company picked up a distributor with decent capital in the US and now sells over half its bikes in that market, another 15% in Australia and can’t keep up with demand, selling all the bikes before they’re made.

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UBCO chief executive and managing director Tim Allan.

The company’s first investors, the Andrews Family, invested after Jeff Andrews read an early article about the company that resonated with him. He saw the product as unique and related to the three founders.

The family first invested $500,000 in the company and have since invested another $500,000 since then, taking a 20% stake in UBCO.

Other investors have been the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, Snowball Nominees and Enterprise Angels.

UBCO won a Fieldays international innovation award in June 2018,  four years after first displaying its prototype at a Fieldays event.

Allan is also a director and founder of Bay of Plenty-based product development firm Locus Research, which has worked with a raft of New Zealand start-ups since 2002.

UBCO received an NZTE IGF grant for supporting market entry into Australia, Te Puni Kokiri grant funding to support capital raising and R&D Tax Loss cash-outs.

UBCO is now underway raising $5 m to drive entering the European market, product development and expanding the company’s offerings and marketing.

-Andrew Bevin

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