A Kirkland-based startup is looking to blend the world of bicycles and electric bikes with a minimalistic approach. People are putting their money where their mouth is and the idea is proving popular.
Founded by Ben Tarassoli, Propella’s recent Indiegogo campaign was able to reach its fundraising goal of $40,000 in two weeks. So far, they have raised $45,487, 114 percent of their original goal.
One of the reasons for its success, Tarassoli said, is its combination of a 1960s light-weight speed bike with the benefits of an eBike’s electric battery.
The current design is intended to appeal to both casual bikers as well as eBike enthusiasts by allowing pedaling but also electric assistance on hills. On its own, the bike is capable of going 20 miles per hour using a 250-watt rear hub motor and a 36 Volt 6.6 Ah battery, yet the entire bike weighs less than 36 pounds.
“Our main force driving customer support is our design, our colorful minimal and basically good looking aesthetics,” he said.
He added that the comparatively affordable price, $599-799, adds to the appeal.
“We’re proud to reach that goal really without any additional assistance from a huge marketing or PR firm,” he said.
A long-time bike enthusiast himself, Tarassoli said he came up with the idea while looking for ways to improve upon what he saw as qualities lacking in current eBikes.
“I never in my research found a brand that met my requirements; affordable, good design and light weight,” he said. “I had to really start looking outside the box in my garage, following the minimalist approach.”
Whereas most eBikes have heavier batteries and consequently are themselves heavy to where some feel like mopeds more than bikes, Tarassoli said he envisioned an eBike that also offered the lightweight feel of minimalistic bikes that lack features found in other models.
“It’s not a dramatic two horse power engine on it,” he said. “We want to encourage pedaling assist.”
Another thing Tarrassoli tried to avoid was selling a kit for people to put into current bikes.
“Being a huge fan of industrial design, basically the approach that Apple uses, I wanted to create a whole package experience,” he said. “I’m asked if I have kits. No, I wanted to create that whole product that is somewhere between bike and eBike, really bridging the gap between the two. In order to do that I had to pick the sweet spot in battery capacity. If you go above that you’re adding cost and weight, which really redefines the electric bicycle. That stuff (electric bike kits) is already in the market on eBay.”
Although he plans to offer a mountain eBike in the future, he said the main focus is on getting the lightweight model out.
“We definitely want to keep the minimalism as the DNA of the company, of the brand,” he said. “But we don’t want this to be an obstacle. If we step into another eBike model that requires a large amount of power, yes we will consider that, but for commuters it makes sense to have a minimalism approach to electric bikes.”
Being located in the Puget Sound region, home to a strong bicycle culture and near the Cascades, will also help create awareness for the brand, though he points out the customers don’t need to be cyclists.
“We have a lot of hills in this region. We have a lot of educated, open minded people willing to learn more bout new products and new technology. As far as Kirkland, that’s where the garage so to speak started.”
One of the things he stresses with Propella is that although the focus is on minimalism, that has no impact on the quality.
“We’re eliminating the unnecessary,” he said. “We’re not going with low quality parts. We’re using standard high quality parts but getting rid of extra fancy features.”
For more information, got to propellabikes.com.