An Engineer and His Electric Dream

Engineer Witono Halim shared with me his decade long journey building electric cars, motorcycles and e-scooters over coffee.

The 3linepitch:

  • The world’s first foldable cargo e-scooter with a swappable battery pack.

  • Orders received from global markets for first production run.

  • Founded by an engineer with experience building electric cars, motorcycles and scooters.

When he was 10 years old, Witono Halim read about sustainability and renewable energy. He became quite passionate about climate change and vowed not to buy a car until he had succeeded in building his own electric car.

In 2009, Witono became part of a team in the National University of Singapore (NUS) that built an ECO city car. Over the next decade he would go on to be a part of teams that have built a prototype electric taxi, electric motorcycles, and electric scooters.

In 2016 he finally decided to go on his own, and founded MIMO Motor to focus on electric scooters. And hence the revolutionary MIMO C1 was born — the world’s first foldable cargo e-scooter.

Transformer

The MIMO C1 is a cargo e-scooter that transforms neatly into a push trolley in three seconds. This allows the user to reduce the profile of his ride plus cargo immediately and switch over to pushing it over short distances or indoors when the need arises.

The MIMO C1 also has a shorter length and smaller turning radius compared to a bicycle fitted with cargo racks. The rider can carry bulkier and heavier loads in a much safer manner due to the positioning of a solid, metal rack in front of the e-scooter.

Weighing just 19kg with a top speed of 25km/h and a range of 15–25km, the MIMO C1 is powered by a swappable battery pack. This makes it ideal for use within an urban area by short distance couriers.

Springboard

Instead of raising venture capital right away, Witono decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to promote the MIMO C1 and fund the first production run.

To his surprise, the release of a video showing his cargo e-scooter in action brought several expressions of interest from overseas markets. This has resulted in enough orders for him to meet the minimum order quantity even if the crowdfunding goal isn’t met.

But he’s not resting on his laurels and is already thinking three steps ahead.

He recognizes that in order for his products to be competitive in terms of both cost and quality, he needs to move closer to the supply chain and expand aggressively into global markets. Future models and designs are also on the drawing board.

Prior to setting up MIMO, he had already spent more than a year in China working directly with OEM factories. He intends to travel there again once the pandemic travel restrictions are eased.

Big dreams in a small country

Although Witono hails from the small, highly developed nation of Singapore that has, for many years, encouraged technological innovation and funded startups, the journey hasn’t been easy. Singapore is, after all, a small island of just 5.7 million people with limited manufacturing activity.

“More than anything, we hope to promote green transport at home (in Singapore) and are looking forward to more developments in the local transport infrastructure for micro-mobility devices. All we can hope for now is the support for the Singaporean brand to go international,” Witono said.

Playing in a field that has entrenched global brands as well as high profile unicorn startups as competitors, Witono has this advice for aspiring founders.

“If you want to design something really innovative, you need to strike a balance between ‘listening to your customers’ and ‘going ahead to do it’ even though some people tell you you’re crazy.”

— Witono Halim, Founder of MIMO Motor and designer of the world’s first foldable cargo e-scooter

Undaunted by the challenges he has had to face in the last decade, he is pushing on. He has recently received interest from a Japanese accelerator and is looking to set up a partnership there in the near future.

Singapore is likely to remain his base and corporate headquarters. But from here on, the world is his oyster.