Published on Arabian Blue Ocean on February 3, 2018
If there is a competitive difference that Solva can make for your receiving organic salad delivery, is to contribute to a better air quality with electric motorbikes. “We want that when you receive the delivery of your organic food, you know that your salad did not reach your home generating CO2 gases,” says Yousif Al-Abd, co-founder of Solva, the startup born at Sheraa incubator and developing now at Catalyst, the Masdar-BP accelerator in Abu Dhabi. Solva´s mission seeks to reduce gas pollution by replacing piston bikes by electric bikes and sharing logistics between delivery companies. That would reduce the number of bikes on the streets and meeting the full demand.
“We want to contribute to the sustainability visions that the country is working on. We look at the transport sector because it contributes to the 7 percent of UAE GDP but at the same time, it contributes to the 74% of the CO2 emissions. So we broke it down and we noticed that the bike sector is not served at all. There are 55,000 bikes only in Dubai, emitting CO2 on daily basis,” Mr Al-Abd explains. “We started by thinking how we can disrupt and replace these bikes by electric bikes. Later on, we evolved the idea [with] the concept of sharing logistics, reducing the number of bikes on the street while actually meeting the full demand, using all the big data analysis and blockchain to make sure we optimize the sector itself. This reduces the life cycle cost and life cycle emission. We are trying to use the data to have smarter logistics while embedding electric vehicles,” he explains. Solva team is composed by graduates of Masdar Institute: “We come from this environment that wants to change the world, it has been our dream from the beginning,” he proclaims proudly.
The company is running a pilot stage and partnered with nine companies from the food industry and e-commerce industry and gets data every five minutes from all the data loggers installed in their bikes. The first Solva bikes imported from China already arrived. Solva amended the technology by adding a cooling system to work in a 50 C degrees environment. The startup plans to grow a 2% on weekly basis to a targeted 4,800 bikes by the end of 2019: “This is less than 10% of the Dubai market only. We really think this is very doable.” They expect to design their own bikes at Khalifa University facilities, and students from that institution, Masdar, UAE University, and NYU create their in-house, UAE based technology. “In April we start recruiting. Once we are sure, we can start manufacturing, ideally is Q2 2019,” he states.
Government stakeholders are already aware of their idea. “We have held meetings with ADWEA, RTA, Ministry of Climate Change, Masdar, Masdar City, SMA. We have meetings with representatives of Expo 2020 who are running a fund that give $100,000 for every startup, and we are pitching for it in April. Based on Masdar evaluation, we are at AED 10 million valuation, which is even pre-seed stage,” says Mr Al-Abd, and adds that they are considering a cryptocurrency ICO at a later stage to finance Solva.
“We have a movement, the tag #solvacleandelivery. The next time you have a food delivery coming on a bike with piston, take a picture and tag us because we don’t accept anymore a bike that delivers food with a piston engine producing CO2. It´s more than just a bike, it´s a movement”
Electric bikes will require batteries and charging stations. Solva´s solution is a station with two options: a charging pole in which any electric vehicle may connect, as well as being a swap batteries point. Customers can add their data to the smart contract based on blockchain and get their battery exchange on the spot. “If you own one of our bikes you can swap your ID[card] and get a battery, and we charge you on a cloud based system for the difference between the two batteries,” Mr Al-Abd illustrates.
Solva collects data about the delivery services and traffic movements and will move into the concept of sharing economy, so food deliveries and ecommerce may use the same bike at different times: “We are going to enable the sharing economy while retaining bike ownership. We´ll start moving the whole overall logistics to the smart data driven sharing economy concept.”
Mr Al-Abd presented Solva at the Young Forum Energy Leaders during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018 to a packed auditorium of Emirati students eager to join him: “I would say it´s a shift, people are changing and not looking for 8.00 h. to 17.00h. jobs as in the old days.”
Their planning will move from serving other businesses to serving also private customers. “We are only B2B (business to business). Ideally, we will integrate and go B2C (business to customer)”, he says. Solva´s next market will be in the GCC, in which they hope to create jobs: “You can come into that platform, have your own bike and be in the logistic industry. Imagine a unified application and you can order from wherever and whoever picks up the bike, will be able to deliver to that location. It´s an optimized platform, this is the future.”
Regarding other opportunities, Mr Al-Abd suggests to purchase Solva bikes: “If you go to our website and buy a bike, we will rent it for you, we´ll operate it for you and give you your return on the investment. A bike can be shared by ten people and make return on investment.”
The team has also prepared the battery disposal stage. “Our supplier has EU certificates for quality assurance and disposing batteries. The deal is that every container that can be filled with batteries is going to be shift back to be taken care by the supplier according to all the regulations, so we are not going to dispose batteries in the UAE,” Mr Al-Abd mentions.
Solva is his third startup. So far he learnt to fail and not to be stubborn: “When you come up with one idea you think it´s the right thing, but with the market you have to be opened enough to change. And now, I am in the right place, with the right team, with the vision, investors, and people listening to us, just because I failed before”.
“The mentality of the majlis in the new generation is actually to share knowledge, talk about failure, and work on things together versus the old majlis, sometimes judgmental, that made you worried to share. It´s a new generation. The majlis evolved. A new majlis. Go to The Hub in Emirates Towers, is full of young Emiratis, they are making a difference”, he sentences.