founder

Founder Profile: Emil Nnani of Boaz Bikes

Introduction

Electric scooters have been surging in popularity. With their ability to pass by congested city traffic, affordability, and eco-friendliness, there’s a lot to like. However, injuries from electric scooter accidents have also drastically increased in recent years, growing by 222% between 2014 and 2018.

Boaz Bikes is offering rental electric scooters that are specially designed to help riders stay safe while enjoying all the advantages of micro mobility. With a strong emphasis on community, the company also offers its services in underserved areas within cities. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Emil Nnani to learn more about his advice to fellow founders and the team’s determination to reach success.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and Boaz Bikes?

Emil Nnani

I set out to really solve a problem. After seeing a gruesome scooter accident in early 2018, I got to researching. I was blown away by how many stories were online about people getting hurt on scooters. That was my “aha” moment. I knew that I could build a safer model, and I also knew the scooter phase would shift to sit-down scooters, so I put $250,000 of my own cash into building the first prototype and mobile app. To me, it was a no-brainer investment and venture.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Emil Nnani

The team is large, but my C-suite consists of Christiana Winfrey, my co-founder and COO; Cory Smith, our CFO; Timothy Holmgren, our CTO; Shauna Armitage, our CMO; and Rofeal Daniels, our vice president of operations. Back in 2018, I had no more cash to invest, so I put a job post online offering equity and a salary. Cory and Christiana were the first to join, and in the interview, I explained where I was in the process and that, within three to six months, we will get funded if they agreed to help me and that’s when salaries would start. It didn’t go as planned – salaries didn’t start until 2020 – but they loved Boaz so much they couldn’t walk away.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How is Boaz Bikes transforming the electric scooter industry?

Emil Nnani

We’re doing it one city at a time. By focusing on safety and equity, we’ve been able to identify an entirely new market that was originally overlooked. People between the ages of 31 to 55 would never step foot on one of our competitors’ stand-up, unsafe vehicles. In the places where our competitors were not able to operate (due to theft and greed), we are the only providers, thereby building brand loyalty and what we like to call “a monopoly in the equity zones.” 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Emil Nnani

Bird, Lime, and Spin are our top competitors. All are stand-up scooters focused on turning profit. We set out to actually solve a real problem, and we’ve found profit in doing so. We’ve developed our patent-pending “Falcon Iris” technology that allows us to launch into any market and be profitable in less than 60 days. The Iris algorithm is updated in real time and tells us exactly where to deploy bikes to gain maximum ride exposure based on weather conditions, users location, events within the city, and more. While our competitors have to deploy twice as many vehicles within the city to cover a large footprint, we are able to deploy less and gain more market share by shifting vehicles throughout the day to generate more revenue. Our team is innovative, and with less money, we’ve accomplished more. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Emil Nnani

More product, We currently have a wait list for our mobility-as-a-service platform of people wanting to deploy Boaz in their city. We’ll build out the team more, send our Model 3 into production this summer, secure more markets, and test new pilot programs to continue to stay ahead of the competition. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Emil Nnani

I don’t quit. If I can’t get through the front door, I’ll go through a window, and if I can’t get through a window, I’ll come back and buy the building. My team and I are problem solvers, and nothing that’s thrown at us will be able to beat us. We are a resourceful and an extremely witty bunch! We lead from the ground up and not from the board room. I believe we will be the number-one scooter provider in the US in due time because we are already thinking and working on the next phase for the micro mobility sector.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Emil Nnani

My goal is to offer a real solution to first- and last-mile transportation problems here in America and solve the equity issues we currently see in markets across the country. We are doing that now! My next goal is to make this company a unicorn and bring a massive return back to my investors. As a crowdfunded company, to make a big exit either through acquisition or initial public offering (IPO) within the next couple of years will be a big win for the culture. Though I plan to stay on with Boaz to continue solving these problems moving forward, I intend to see real acquisition offers soon and/or start IPO talks.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As a minority and underrepresented founder, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to other minority founders?

Emil Nnani

Funding has been the biggest challenge. Being one of the first operators in the US in 2018 and not being able to get funded through private venture capitalists (VCs) has been a big setback. Though I love the crowdfunding approach now because so many ordinary people get to reap the benefit of a successful exit in the future, it would have been a lot easier and we would have gone a lot further with VC help early on. My advice to other minority founders would simply be to keep grinding. You’ll have to work 10 times harder than the average person to be noticed, and you’ll need to work 10 times harder than that if you want to see success. It will not be easy, and you’ll think about giving up so many times, but hang in there because there are so many more people coming behind you that are going to need to walk through the doors you opened. 

We look forward to seeing where Emil and his team take the company. Boaz Bikes is currently raising on StartEngine.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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