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VCs have backed a trendy Dutch e-bike start-up as demand accelerates

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VanMoof cofounder Taco Carlier riding one of the company’s e-bikes.

VanMoof

LONDON – As the pandemic forces people to rethink how they get from A to B, venture capitalists are looking to capitalize on companies offering new forms of transport.

VCs from Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital and Balderton Capital announced Wednesday that they had backed Dutch e-bike VanMoof with $40 million, just a few months after the company raised $13.5 million from tech investors.

Amsterdam-headquartered VanMoof, which has raised $73 million in total, said it will use the Series B funding to the further capitalize on a worldwide e-bike boom that has been fuelled by the coronavirus.

“E-bike adoption was an inevitable global shift that was already taking place for many years now but Covid-19 put an absolute turbo on it to the point that we’re approaching a critical mass to transform cities for the better,” said Ties Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof in a statement.

The company said its revenues have grown 10 times in the last 24 months to hit $100 million and the U.S. is now its third fastest growth market. During the worldwide lockdown, revenues climbed 220%, VanMoof said.

Colin Hanna, principal at Balderton, said the firm’s “control over design and production” was a key advantage that allowed the company to “react nimbly and effectively to the crisis.”

The new funding will help meet increased demand and reduce delivery times, VanMoof said. Some of it will also be used to set up a global e-bike repair service and software that works in conjunction with the company’s e-bikes.

Vast market

Accountancy firm Deloitte estimates that over 130 million e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023 and VanMoof isn’t the only e-bike start-up catching the eye of VCs.

In June, Brussels-based Cowboy announced a 23 million euro ($27 million) series B funding round led by Exor Seeds, the early stage investment arm of Exor, which is the controlling shareholder of Ferrari.

The company’s e-bikes, which cost 2,290 euros, are linked to an app that is used to unlock the bike and give real-time information on speed, battery life and directions.

Elsewhere, Dance, set up by the founders of music streaming service SoundCloud, said in June that it has raised 4.4 million euros ($5.1 million) from a consortium of investors led by VC firm BlueYard, which is also based in Berlin.

Unlike other start-ups, Dance doesn’t want to sell e-bikes, which can cost well in excess of $2,000.

Instead, it has launched a 59 euro per month subscription service that gives customers access to an e-bike within 24 hours of them signing up via the company’s app. Dance says it will also take care of the e-bike and replace it for free immediately if it gets lost or stolen.

 

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Trump says ‘not prepared to sign off’ for Oracle-TikTok deal

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President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he was not ready to approve a proposal from Chinese company ByteDance that would make Oracle a technology provider for ByteDance’s popular video-sharing app TikTok. ByteDance submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department over the weekend and is awaiting a response.

It must be “100% as far as national security is concerned,” said Trump, adding that he would have to see the deal first before signing off on it. He said he would receive a report on Thursday morning. 

Trump’s stance adds complexity to a possible arrangement that could resolve a political disagreement between the U.S. and China, after Trump had taken steps to ban the app or have its U.S. operations transferred to a U.S. company.

President Trump said the U.S. government had been looking into the possibility of accepting a payment as part of a transaction.

“Amazingly I find that you’re not allowed to do that,” Trump said, referring to the idea of receiving “key money” for broker a deal, which he first proposed last month. “I said, ‘What kind of a thing is this?’ If they’re willing to make big payments to the government, they’re not allowed because there’s no way of doing that from a — there’s no legal path to do that.” 

He said that lawyers had told him as much.

“How foolish can we be?” Trump said on Wednesday. “So we’re looking into that right now.”

Trump also objected to the idea that ByteDance would retain a majority stake in TikTok’s U.S. operations, while Oracle could gain a minority stake, as Bloomberg has reported.

“Well, we’re looking into that,” he said. “From the standpoint of ByteDance we don’t like that. I mean, just conceptually I can tell you I don’t like that. That has not been told to me yet.”

Oracle offers cloud infrastructure that TikTok could use for data storage and hosting in the U.S. Microsoft, a larger cloud provider, had pursued an acquisition of TikTok’s assets in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand but on Sunday said that ByteDance had chosen not to move forward with a sale. 

WATCH: Oracle-TikTok deal has to be 100% as far as national security is concerned: Trump

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Trump says U.S. could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine in October, contradicting CDC’s timeline

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President Donald Trump said the U.S. government could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October, a much more optimistic estimate than from his own health officials. 

“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know and I think much closer than I think most people want to say,” Trump said during a White House press briefing Wednesday. “We think we can start some time in October. So as soon as it’s announced we’ll be able to start. That will be from mid-October on. It may be a little bit later than that.”

He said the U.S. has manufactured all of the necessary supplies and health officials will be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year.  The vaccine could be distributed starting in October or November, but he said “I don’t think it’s going to be too much later than that.”

Trump’s remark come as infectious disease experts and scientists in recent weeks have said they have concerns that the White House may be pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s been adequately tested. There are currently no approved vaccines and at least three drugmakers expect to know if their potential vaccines work by the end of the year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said it’s “conceivable” but unlikely the U.S. will have a safe and effective vaccine by October. 

Whichever vaccine is authorized by the FDA, it will likely be in short supply once it’s cleared for public distribution, medical experts warn. The vaccine will likely require two doses at varying intervals, and states still face logistical challenges such as setting up distribution sites and acquiring enough needles, syringes and bottles needed for immunizations.

Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 free to all Americans. In the plan, the CDC said it anticipates a coronavirus vaccine will initially be granted an emergency use authorization before a full formal approval.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers at a Senate hearing he expects vaccinations to begin in November or December, but in limited quantities with those most in need getting the first doses, such as health-care workers. He said it will take about “six to nine months” to get the entire American public vaccinated.

Trump said Redfield was mistaken when he said the vaccine wouldn’t be widely available to the general public until next summer or early fall.

“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information and I called him and he didn’t tell me that and I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly,” Trump said. “We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced and it could be announced in October, it could be announced a little bit after October but once we go we’re ready.”

Trump said he got the “impression” Redfield “didn’t realize” what he said. 

“I didn’t see him say it, but if that’s what he said then it’s a mistake because … we’re ready to distribute immediately to a vast section of our country and then beyond because we want to help other countries also but we’re ready to distribute immediately,” Trump said.

The CDC did not immediately respond to request for comment on Trump’s remark. 

Trump also said he thinks drugmakers are having “tremendous success” with vaccines. 

“The results will be early and strong. The safety has to be 100% and we’re going to insist on that and the companies are going to insist on that as well,” he said.

When larger quantities of vaccine become available, the CDC said, there will be two simultaneous objectives: to provide widespread access to vaccination and to ensure high uptake in target populations, particularly those who are at high risk of death or complications from Covid-19.

“The CDC’s goal is to have enough Covid-19 vaccine for all in the United States who wish to be vaccinated,” Redfield said.

Even if a vaccine is ready to be distributed by the end of the year, numerous polls now suggest Americans would be hesitant to get one.

Just 42% of Americans say they would want a vaccine, according to a poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released this month, short the 60% to 80% of the population epidemiologists say is needed to achieve so-called herd immunity and suppress the virus.

CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.

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