Brammo’s Wismann on Start-ups and Customer Service

Brammo Lead Designer, Brian Wismann, recently responded to a multi-part question posed by a member of the elmoto.net community: What did it take to start out? What consideration was made around the product, design process and initiating manufacture? What funds were put into it?

Wismann: I’ve been pondering how to answer this without typing out the novel that is my back-up plan if this all goes pear-shaped.  I’ll try to keep this simple, yet also provide you with some of the information you’re looking for.

Good Idea – Most successful ventures start with a strong understanding of a customer need or problem and then make a convincing effort to solve that need. With the Enertia, we believed that consumers needed a more efficient, cost effective means of commuting and getting around town. We started out with a simple idea and then refined it as time went on.

Money – We started with very little capital and needed to find funding. After over a year of concerted effort and many, many presentations to investors in many, many places, we found a good fit. Brammo’s Series A round of venture financing was around $10M USD. We kept going during this period by any and all means necessary. It was quite a roller coaster.

Perserverance (and a great team) – We had many, many setbacks, but if this team is good at one thing, it’s rolling with the punches and learning to do better next time. Not having a group that was burdened with the “established” way of doing things helped here I think. Also… our CEO, Craig, is the most stubborn, never say die person I’ve ever met. He’s full of manic energy from sun-up to sun-down and he has single handedly infused much needed energy into the group to keep pushing on multiple occasions.

Some other factors: Great design (people have to WANT to buy your bike), Great engineering (it’s gotta WORK when they get it), Good supplier relationships (need all the parts), Good timing (hard to judge sometimes), Distribution (where are people going to buy it?), Marketing (how do people find out about it?), Service (what happens if it breaks?), and good ol’ fashioned luck doesn’t hurt either.

Ok… that was a very quick overview, but I hope it helps answer some of your questions.

Wismann followed up with this, after a user asked about whether service is performed on Brammos by the Geek Squad at Best Buy, or by Brammo technicians in the field.

Immediately, we have Brammo employed mobile “service technicians” in the major markets (Portland, SanFran, and LA) to provide support to Best Buy and to customers during the launch phase of the product. We realized early on that Best Buy and Geek Squad would require some more time and training to become fully up-to-speed on servicing the Enertia (and other electric vehicles). That said, they are still instrumental in scaling the store roll-out nationwide, as we will not be able to place a service tech in every single market. So… it’s a combined effort now that tapers off as Geek Squad take on more and more. We’ll always keep a staff of mobile techs though for additional support.  Another benefit is that our service techs also conduct “ride events” or provide similar marketing support when they’re not busy supporting customers or training Best Buy staff. (E.g., Seattle and Yakima).

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