UrmO is a small and foldable self-balancing Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV), designed to cope with the so-called last mile and for short distances. With just one lift and within two seconds, UrmO transforms from a fully-featured vehicle to a handbag-sized format. The patented folding mechanism, in combination with its light weight, makes it perfectly suited for everyday life as a supplement to existing means of transportation.
ESA BIC Bavaria Manager Cornelia Gebath (CG) interviews Sebastian Signer (SS), Managing Director at UrmO.
CG: Please give us a sneak peek of your product and the team behind it.
SS: The UrmO is an urban electric vehicle in the form of a self-balancing scooter. We wanted to develop the electric vehicle with the best user experience in order to provide everyday usability. To guarantee that, the vehicle boasts two very unique features. Firstly, it only weighs 6.5 kg, which is almost half the weight of competitive vehicles. Secondly, we have developed a patent-pending folding mechanism. With one lift and within two seconds, UrmO transforms from a fully-featured vehicle to a handbag-sized format. This unique feature, in combination with its light weight, makes it perfect for urban transport and offers a supplement to existing means of transport. Thanks to these features, UrmO can be taken onto the train or put in the boot of a car and thus enables true multimodal mobility.
UrmO is the brainchild of our three founders. We are currently supported by seven students within our team, who research and develop certain special features and components. The majority of the team has a background in engineering and helps develop the vehicle.
CG: What has been your company’s biggest challenge so far?
SS: We have developed our vehicle from scratch over the last two and a half years. We have not yet raised external capital, but instead paid everything using our own money and therefore made a lot of sacrifices. We are now looking for an external investor for the industrialisation and the ramp-up of production. We wanted to already have the proof-of-market for investment rounds. This is why we have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. For us, this crowdfunding campaign is the first indicator of whether customers are willing to pay for our product and really use it in their everyday life. Preparing for these campaigns was a huge challenge as we did not have a big marketing budget. We really had to focus on finding the perfect strategy to reach out to our target audience.
CG: Can you explain the three main ingredients of your recipe for success?
SS: The three ingredients we rely on, and I think everybody needs, are hard work, focus and passion. Developing a whole new product and bringing it to market requires a lot of work and we were always facing a shortage in terms of headcount. That’s why we need to do a lot of the work by ourselves. There is generally no one but yourself and your (tiny) team to rely on. Additionally, it is important to focus on your idea and your vision. Don’t get lost in opportunities because you need to bring your product to market. Improving and adding features can be done afterwards. Last but not least, you have to have passion for your product and idea. You will work long nights and many weekends and will miss out on holidays. But working on what you love and truly believe in will not make you feel like you are missing out on anything.
CG: What do you expect from ESA BIC Bavaria and how do you think the initiative and its network will help you to kick-start your business case?
SS: We are developing a highly complex technical product and we require partners within the manufacturing industries. ESA BIC Bavaria owns such a great network with local medium-sized companies with a technical background. For us, it is important to be supported by renowned institutions, as potential partners will always evaluate our company and standing.
Of course, the financial support also helps with our development.
CG: What do you think to benefit from the DLR support?
SS: Our vehicle is solely steered based on sensor data, especially position control. This is our connection to the aerospace technology. Spacecraft and satellites are also steered using similar sensors and power electronic systems. That’s the area where we hope to receive technical support from DLR.
CG: Let’s reach for the stars – what is going to happen in UrmO’s future?
SS: We are successfully launching the production of our vehicle and we can see the UrmO in every major city in the world. We are also partnering with automotive OEMs to install our vehicle in the boots of their cars. This way, we will be able to achieve our mission of providing multi-modal mobility in urban areas.