Vietnamese green transportation startup Dat Bike has secured $2.6 million in a pre-Series A round of funding led by Singapore-based Jungle Ventures. The round was also participated in by Wavemaker Partners, Hustle Fund, and iSeed Ventures. The electronic motorbike startup aims to become the first fully home-grown, market leader in the rapid greenification of the $25 billion two-wheel industry in Southeast Asia.

In a statement, Amit Anand, Founding Partner of Jungle Ventures said: “This investment into Dat Bike marks our first investment in the mobility sector which is rapidly getting transformed by technology. The $25 billion two-wheeler industry in Southeast Asia, in particular, is ripe for reaping the benefits of new developments in electric vehicles and automation. We believe that Dat Bike will lead this charge and create a new benchmark not just in the region but potentially globally for what the next generation of 2-wheeler electric vehicles will look and perform like.”

The two-wheel transportation industry in Southeast Asia is currently dominated by traditional gasoline motorbikes. Over 80 per cent of households across Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam own two-wheeler motorcycles. That’s roughly 250 million gasoline bikes. Though a number of consumers are willing to migrate to the greener choice, some are still apprehensive to make the move mainly due to the poor performance of current generation imported electric motorbikes compared to its traditional gas counterpart. More often than not, the current electric models are usually low-powered and have a short range.

Dat Bike aims to bridge the gap and help consumers make it easier to move to the more environmentally-friendly choice with its flagship model, the Weaver. Dat Bike claims that it is the first and only electric motorbike in the Vietnam market that can rival gas bikes in both power and range. The startup’s flagship model has a 5,000-Watt motor that gives it enough power to go from 0 to 50 Kph in 3 seconds, three times faster than most traditional motorbikes. It also offers the fastest charging speed in the industry with just less than 3 hours of charging time.

“We want to transform the 250 million gasoline bikes in Southeast Asia to electric vehicles. We believe that if given a choice, everyone would pick electric over gas. It is just that the current electric motorbikes in the market lag behind in power and range, making it difficult for people to make the switch. The fresh funds will allow us to continue to innovate and create the most compelling electric motorbikes for Southeast Asia and the world,” Son Nguyen, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dat Bike, told TechNode Global.

Dat Bike was established in 2019 by Son Nguyen who brought the company over to Shark Tank Vietnam. Since then, the startup has grown from building one bike per week to shipping out hundreds of units per month as of today. Last December, Dat Bike launched its physical store in Ho Chi Minh City. The company is currently growing 35 percent month-on-month. The startup has also been recognized by the Vietnam Ministry of Transportation as the first domestically made electric motorbike, and the only one that can rival its traditional gas counterpart.

Son added, “There are three big motorcycle markets in the world: China, India, and Southeast Asia. While both China and India already have dominant local bike manufacturers, Southeast Asia has no local motorcycle brand and the market is dominated by Japanese players. We want to change that, to become the motorcycle company of Southeast Asia. And electric is our way.”

Son Nguyen, Founder and CEO of Dat Bike
Son Nguyen, Founder and CEO of Dat Bike

In a TechNode Global Q&A, Dat Bike Founder and CEO Son Nguyen shared the company’s vision for the region’s transport sector.

What are the 3 key challenges that Dat Bike is addressing?

1. Consumer understanding of electric motorbikes

People in Vietnam still believe that electric motorbikes are cheap, weak, and not the fastest. Most adults in Vietnam still think electric bikes are to replace pedal bicycles meant for children and not as an alternative to gasoline bikes that they are using every day.

We are determined to change that, where consumers see Dat Bike as an equal replacement to gas bikes. Dat Bike is the first and only electric motorbike in the Vietnam market that can rival gas bikes in power and range so that people can switch from gas to electric, without making compromises with a 5000W motor that can help accelerate from 0 to 50km/ h in just 3 seconds.

2. Local for locals

Most electric bikes in Vietnam are sourced from China. Dat Bike is fully built and catered to the Vietnamese market, and that includes a brake mechanism that is also tailored to the traffic situation in the country. We believe that specifications such as power and range, or even physical sizes vary from market to market even within Southeast Asia itself.

As of now, only 3 percent of the population are using e-bikes. For example, foreign motorbikes run max speed at 50 Kph with a 1,000-Watt motor, and one might not be able to have a pillion rider. Our bikes can reach 100 Kph with a 5,000-Watt motor. And of course, it is designed to carry two adults. This is important because, in Southeast Asia, you often see more than one rider on a bike.

3. Domestic supply chain

There is no existing supply chain for electric motorbikes in Vietnam. Parts that are specific to electric motorbikes such as the motor, battery pack, or speed controller are mostly imported. At Dat Bike, we design the bikes from scratch and develop and build the parts in-house and source locally.

By working closely with our local supply chain, we hope to streamline our logistics and work on supply efficiencies, especially when we do not need to store many parts as most of our suppliers are domestic.

Why focus on e-bikes instead of electric cars or trucks? Is this something specific to Southeast Asia or to Vietnam?

Over 80 percent of households in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam own two-wheeler motorcycles, some 250 million gasoline bikes–the most commonly used mode of transport for Vietnam and some of Southeast Asia.

What is the importance of addressing quick charging times and “range anxiety” in electric bikes in the Vietnam market?

Most electric motorbikes here still use outdated lead-acid batteries, which need 8-12 hours to charge. Dat bike offers the fastest charging in the market at just under 3 hours for a full charge. This takes you for 100Km which is enough for everyday usage.

How is Dat Bike addressing the market’s needs uniquely?

At Dat Bike, our electric motorbike is the first and only electric motorbike in the Vietnam market that can rival gas bikes in power and range so that people can switch from gas to electric, without making compromises with a 5000W motor that can help accelerate from 0 to 50Kp h in just 3 seconds. Our price is also competitive to gas bikes at US$1,600 after taxes, which is similar to the price of most popular bikes in Vietnam. We are also the first electric motorbikes that have originated from Vietnam, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

What is the impact that electric bikes and the EV industry on sustainability across industries?

If we can convert everyone to electric personal mobility, the next target would be the transportation ecosystem as a whole. Transportation is the backbone of economic development in the region. It accounts for 20 percent of the GDP of Vietnam and everything else depends on it. So electric transportation will be huge for the sustainable development of the region.

Are you also looking to expand across other markets in the region?

We definitely want to become the motorcycle company of Southeast Asia. There are 3 big motorcycle markets in the world: China, India, and Southeast Asia. While China and India both have dominant local players, Southeast Asia as a market is still led largely by Japanese companies. We want to change that.

We believe high performance, but affordable, electric motorbike is the way to go. To do that, we will focus on product and engineering innovations to build a sustainable and economically viable supply chain for Southeast Asia. We should achieve that in the next 2-3 years, which is when we will be able to start planning our expansion. Regional investors like Jungle Ventures as our partners could help tremendously with that.