By Yasmin El-Beih
Today, more than 180,000 users in Egypt have replaced their short-distance car, cab or ride-hailing trip with an electric scooter or electric bike at least once, thanks to Rabbit Mobility, a clean-tech startup with the ambition to revolutionize how we take short-distance trips while bettering the planet in the process.
Co-founders Kamal ElSoueni ’13 and Mohamed Mansoury ’14 came up with the idea in 2019 after working for a couple of years in global management consulting firms based in Dubai and London, respectively. Returning to Egypt for vacation, they both noticed an increasing reliance on cars, even for short-distance trips.
“When you’re traveling a lot and you come back home, you really feel the difference,” ElSoueni described. “We started to notice a grayish black cloud forming over the city, which we had never noticed when we lived in Egypt, and we were always complaining about traffic. In 2018, while visiting the United States, I came across a massive electric scooter company, and that’s when we started thinking about applying similar solutions in Egypt.”
ElSoueni and Mansoury held focus groups through their own networks to tackle transportation-related inquiries that might aid their blossoming business idea. They found that regular cycling wasn’t highly popular given the hot weather for much of the calendar year in Egypt, making it an uncomfortable option for commuters. “I myself used to cycle to AUC for a semester or two as a student, but I always had to shower once arriving to campus before heading to class, so I was able to relate to the feedback we got from the focus groups,” said ElSoueni. “We thought that if we removed the element of effort, it would make life easier. We also learned through some of the ride-hailing apps operating in Egypt that around 50% of the trips are for a distance less than 3 kilometers, while 70% are for a trip that is less than 8 kilometers.”
The data posed a tremendous opportunity for a business idea — and for the environment. By mid-2019, ElSoueni and Mansoury had both quit their management consulting jobs to make Rabbit a reality.
“By replacing car rides with electric scooters or electric bikes, you’re relying on electricity instead of fossil fuels,” Mansoury said. “From this simple shift, you save a lot of carbon dioxide emissions. We estimate that we’ve saved more than 50,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions just this year.”
Although their fast-growing userbase is mostly comprised of riders under 40 years of age, a reflection of the growing youth population in Egypt, up to 10% of their customers are over 45.
User segments also differ in every governorate or city where Rabbit operates. In Tanta, they found that nurses at the public hospital were taking a couple of rides every day between 1 and 2 pm. Through making a few feedback calls, the Rabbit team realized that the nurses were not only using Rabbit bikes and scooters for their daily commutes, they were also going back home for lunch using the eco-friendly vehicles, as they found them safer, faster and more cost-effective than taking a taxi.
Besides a relentless vision to become the go-to solution for any trip under
8 kilometers, be it commutes, first-mile/last-mile or delivery services, Rabbit has other audacious goals on the horizon.
“For us to achieve this vision, it’s going to require a lot of expansion into many locations, as well as development to our tech,” said Mansoury. “Right now, we only have electric scooters and electric bikes, but our short-term plan is to also introduce electric mopeds. We’ve already brought in our first prototypes and are working on this.”
The co-founders have shortlisted potential countries for expansion, with urban issues and infrastructure similar to Egypt. Rwanda, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are new markets Rabbit has set its eyes on. In many of these locations, Rabbit has already begun securing international partners to support their process.
Mansoury and ElSoueni credit the milestones they have achieved to their supporters and mentors, a tight-knit community of fellow startup founders. From Ayman Ismail ’85, ’87, associate professor in the Department of Management and AUC Venture Lab founding director, to former AUC President Lisa Anderson, there are many who have assisted in their journey, along with the networks, resources, global experts, advisers, research papers and reports at their disposal — much of which came through their access as former management consultants.
They also have a third co-founder, Bassem Magued, whom they call a “borderline genius.” Magued helped in restructuring Rabbit as it took off and in nailing the app’s geographic accuracy.
“We see a lot happening, with the potential for much more, not only in clean transportation but also clean tech across the Middle East and North Africa,” asserted ElSoueni.