What We Have That They Don't!
Announcing key additions to Team ION Mobility as we come out of stealth.
An ex-colleague of mine sent me this video snippet a few nights ago; it reminded him of me and what Joel and I are doing at ION Mobility. I’d never heard of the movie until he mentioned it, and knew it would form the beginning of this update the moment I finished watching it.
Film Imitates Life
The clip is a poignant snippet from the 2011 movie The Dilemma, which was a box-office flop and had a generally forgettable plot. I encourage you to take two and a half minutes to watch the clip, but if you don’t have time, skip on over to the last twenty seconds for the punch line.
In trying to convince Chrysler to fund their plans for an “electronic motor” upgrade to their Dodge Challenger and Charger lines that brings all the benefits of electric without losing the “rock-and-roll-ness and sexiness”, Vince Vaughn (playing Ronny) retorts to a senior executive that his best buddy and business partner Nick Brannen (played by Kevin James) is the genius auto design engineer that Chrysler does not have.
Joel and I have been asked countless times by investors why we think we can build ION Mobility into Southeast Asia’s top all-electric mobility startup in Southeast Asia that designs, builds and supports next-generation motorcycles. We’ve hustled the company to this point since our founding in 2019 and have pretty much planned out the rest of this year, but we’re going to need ION Mobility to be more than just Joel plus James.
To that end, and with the same gumption that Ronny endorsed Nick in the movie, I’m proud to announce four additions to our team:
Xianyi Wu as our Chief Design Officer;
Chris Riether as our Chief Vehicle Officer;
Dinesvara Airlangga as our Director (Indonesia); and
Ravindra Airlangga as our Advisor (Indonesia).
Xianyi Wu - Chief Design Officer
I’ve known Xianyi since our college days at Carnegie Mellon circa ‘02. He was studying mechanical engineering and product design while I was in the electrical and computer engineering course. We later went to Stanford for our Masters together. That’s where our paths diverged; Xianyi went on from the d.school to start d.light as one of five founders; you can read more about his d.light story in an old interview or watch his TEDx Talk.
We reconnected in Singapore and Hong Kong and have worked together in two companies since ‘14. I’ve always respected Xianyi for his customer centricity, rigorous design process, and his approach of combining qualitative and quantitative data to inform the design approach. He is a unique cross between engineering, industrial design, and user experience, and has ample experience across hardware and software products. Xianyi has lived and worked in Shenzhen for 7 years, which also gives him perspectives in supply chain and production. Xianyi will be leading our overall user experience journey, the industrial design and digital experience of our products, as well as our branding. I’m delighted to be working on our third company together, and can’t wait to see him leave his mark as a co-founder of ION Mobility.
Xianyi is Singaporean and obviously speaks English, while his Cantonese is much more fluent than his Chinese 😅. He pens a personal message as follows:
In all my years of travels to Africa, India, and all over South-East Asia during my time at d.light and the other startups i've been a part of, the one thing that has stood out in our battle against the emission of greenhouse gases is that most people in these parts of the world don't have affordable, viable alternatives to the pollutive status quo. At d.light, we have provided clean solar energy for over 100 million people who do not have access to reliable electricity. Millions of households no longer have to burn kerosene for their children to study at night, allowing the adults to extend their productive hours into the early mornings and late evenings.
In ION we have an opportunity to tackle one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in any country - the transportation sector. As it was with d.light, there just aren't any viable alternatives for our users to choose clean, sustainable modes of transportation.
At ION, we are designing an overall product and brand experience of owning, driving and charging an ION electric motorcycle brings joy to our users, and lasting satisfaction that they are doing their personal part to solve their polluted city skies. More than that, we are even designing the financial journey for our customers such that it would actually make more financial sense to own an ION motorcycle over a gasoline one in the long run.
We aim to design a delightful product, a seamless ownership experience, addressing a clear and present need for clean air that every citizen faces today, so as to give our customers a compelling alternative to choose electric motorcycles and to influence the course of Indonesia's sustainable future.
- Xianyi Wu
Chris Lee Riether - Chief Vehicle Officer
Chris is new to me, but not new to my co-founder Joel. They’ve known each other over the years that Joel’s been traipsing across China’s EV supply chain. Prior to joining us, Chris was co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Evoke Motorcycles, a Beijing-based manufacturer of smart electric motorcycles founded in 2014. He’s an EV-and-motorcycle nut meets self-taught engineer with extensive experience in vehicle and powertrain development, as well as supply chain and supplier relations. Having lived in China for over 20 years, Chris has had front-row seats as China grew into the EV capital of the world, in addition to being in the thick of things as he led the development of Evoke’s first and subsequent generations of motorcycle platform, power train and battery systems from prototype to certification, production, launch and after sales. Chris will lead our vehicle technology platform, especially in fields of electrical, embedded and design-for-manufacturability. Joel and I are really excited to welcome Chris onboard and believe his experience, insights and relationships will be invaluable to the team in the months and years to come.
“Back in 2019, I was riding pillion with Chris on his Urban Classic through Beijing traffic, and it made me realise how good a motorcycle rider he is, and the importance of really grokking what you’re making.”
- Joel Chang, when asked to share an anecdote on Chris
Chris is American and graduated with a Bachelors in Chinese Literature from Harbin Engineering University, and a Masters in Public Administration from Beijing Normal University. I think his command of Chinese probably beat Joel’s 😱. Chris sends us his thoughts from Guangzhou as follows:
As a motorcycle enthusiast, engineer and lifelong tinkerer, I have long been fascinated by how motorcycles can be made better and more exciting. One thing I have noticed is how little Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) motorcycles have changed over the past decades. While incremental improvements have been made to ICE vehicles to improve performance, efficiency and safety, they are in many ways not that different from when Soichiro Honda debuted his first Honda Dream motorcycles in the 1950s. Engineers have incrementally increased power, engine size and handling but exponential change and improvement of ICE motorcycles has alluded us. As such, today’s motorcycles are still beset by problems of pollution, difficulty to control, safety and user experience.
Over the past years, I have ridden and built my fair share of EV vehicles from one to four wheels. What I’ve noticed is that when electric vehicles are done right, they allow you to focus on the thrill of the ride and not have to worry about the details of controlling the vehicle. This allows people to ride safer, enjoy their trips more and be more mindful of themselves and their surroundings. I strongly believe that properly designed electric vehicles with smart control and intuitive feedback can be more exciting, enjoyable and safer to use than ICE vehicles at any equivalent engine capacity.
Living in China, I have seen the revolution that electric vehicles have brought to vehicle design, enabling huge improvements in safety, reliability and quality of life for their riders and communities. This revolution is only at its infancy. As a vehicle and systems designer, I am very excited to see how motorcycles and motorcycle riding can improve in the next cycle of EV revolution.
ION Mobility is determined to lead this revolution in Southeast Asia. We are focused on bringing to market EV motorcycles that are not only reliable and exciting but are also affordable for a wider segment of people. This is a large challenge with numerous difficulties but as a rider, vehicle creator and blue-sky enthusiast, I am glad to be onboard for the ride.
- Chris Lee Riether
Dinesvara Airlangga - Director (Indonesia)
Dines and Ravi were fortuitously introduced to me by a common friend a few months ago.
Dines is involved in an EV bus project in Jakarta as a co-founder of Skywell Indonesia, and concurrently advisor to Akulaku. He helps his elder brother Ravi at Jakarta Prima Cranes. He joins us as co-founder and Director of Indonesia, and will support me in our Indonesia business development and lead on government relations. He’s a smart chap that knows how to get around and about. I look forward to hunting and farming on deals together with Dines in Indonesia in a post-COVID-19 world.
Dines is Indonesian and graduated with a Bachelors in Finance from University of Washington, and a Masters in International Relations from Columbia University.
Dines penned a personal message as follows:
A couple of weeks ago, during the early days of social distancing, I had taken my weekly trip to Bogor to oversee our workshop for mining machineries. On my way there I noticed that roads were emptier than usual, and a trip that would have usually taken me an hour lasted only thirty minutes. People were starting to work from home, and it had left the streets of Jakarta void of the usual orchestra of motorcycles, cars, and buses that we have come to know and love. However, what struck me was not the empty streets of Jakarta, but rather the clear blue skies that have long been hidden away by unrelenting pollution caused by economic, industrial, and vehicular activity. The visibility was so clear that day that I was able to see the mountains towering Bogor on the horizon, a rare sight that reminded me that I do not have to leave Jakarta to enjoy the beauty of my country. Now imagine if the same clear blue skies can be achieved in the absence of a global pandemic. Cue the EV industry.
I developed a personal interest in the EV space in 2018, when I heard about Transjakarta - Jakarta’s very own bus rapid transit system - planning to replacing its existing fleet of buses with electric ones. The local government had taken notice of the city’s declining air quality and was keen on making changes. Coincidentally it was around that time where I had been connected to the founder of Skywell Corporation, a leading manufacturer of Electric Buses based in Nanjing, China. They had flown to Jakarta to discuss a partnership with us and pursue the Transjakarta initiative, which is currently in the trial phase as of today. Ever since then, I developed a strong interest in the EV space and had sought to find ways to educate the market not only from the public sector, but also from the private sector as well, which led me to ION Mobility.
I had met Joel and James via my brother, and after a couple of hours into our initial conversation I was pleasantly surprised at their breadth and depth of vision, ambition, and technical knowledge on the EV space. The combination of Joel’s experience in BMW and James’ experience in the Indonesian fintech space provided me with comfort knowing that I will work with a founding team that not only has a clear plan, but have developed a strong product line and intimately know what they are doing. I had a gut feeling that ION Mobility will have more than a fighting chance in the Indonesian market.
Around six million new conventional motorcycles are purchased every year in Indonesia; converting even just a fraction of those buyers into EV motorcycles would generate enough of a positive impact to our pollution problem. We aim to educate the market, spread awareness of the benefits of owning an EV motorcycle in the long-run, and eventually become the e-motorcycle of choice in Indonesia. I look forward to becoming a part of team ION Mobility, and to a future where everyone can enjoy blue skies during their daily commute.
- Dinesvara Airlangga
Ravindra Airlangga - Advisor (Indonesia)
Ravi is Dines’ elder brother and graduated with a Bachelors in Economics from University of San Francisco, and a Masters in Biotechnology from John Hopkins University. He spends his day with Jakarta Prima Cranes while serving as a scientific advisor to Nucleus Pharma and advisor to Shopee Indonesia. Ravi joins us as Advisor (Indonesia) with a focus on government relations.
Alongside Xianyi, Chris and the rest of Team ION Mobility, Joel and I are humbled by both Airlangga brothers’ belief in our company. We’re committed to investing into the EV industry in Indonesia for the long-term and creating impact with our products and services for all.