VanMoof — the Amsterdam-based e-bike maker that once bragged about being the “most funded e-bike company in the world” — has turned to the Dutch courts for legal protection in order to give the company time to pay its bills. The company is exploring all possible routes out of its debt, including a possible sale, according to a source familiar with the matter. All options are on the table as the company looks for a path to survival.
The company is also temporarily closing its brand stores. Amid rumors of trouble, angry customers descended on VanMoof’s flagship Amsterdam store and service center (and former global HQ) on Wednesday to claim their bikes that had been brought in for service weeks ago. The closures are meant to safeguard VanMoof employees.
The so-called preliminary “surseance van betaling” (which translates to “suspension of payment”) that VanMoof has entered is typically granted for a period of up to 18 months and — importantly — is designed to help companies avoid bankruptcy. However, it’s also often the first step toward bankruptcy proceedings. Under Dutch law, creditors cannot claim their debts during the suspension of payment period, which ends once all creditors are paid, a final agreement with creditors is reached (private or judicial), or when the company is declared bankrupt.
According to a well-placed source, brothers and co-founders Ties and Taco Carlier will still run the company, with Taco continuing to act as CEO. However, the day-to-day leadership team will be joined by a court-appointed administrator with veto power over any decisions to spend money. The administrator is assigned to advise the Carliers and to help negotiate with creditors and administer assets.
Staff was alerted to the news via a companywide email sent today. For them, it’s business as usual during the payment deferral period, The Verge has learned.
Gillian Tans, the former CEO of Booking.com who joined VanMoof in 2022 in the role of President to “lead and oversee the company’s management team,” according to a now archived announcement, left the company in May 2023, as previously reported by Dutch-language publication Het Financieele Dagblad, or FD and confirmed by sources speaking to The Verge. Her appointment just a year earlier was meant to usher in VanMoof’s “next phase of global growth” with Ties focusing on product innovation and Taco focusing on global business strategy.
Up until Monday, VanMoof had been in talks with external parties to avoid the suspension of payment proceedings. It was on that same day that TechCrunch reported on VanMoof’s mounting financial troubles and its unexpected pause on all e-bike sales — including the SA5 and new SX4 series. (It’s unclear when sales will resume.) The company was forced to raise money from its existing investors early this year, and last week, VanMoof reportedly missed an interest payment on loans from retail investors, according to FD.
News of VanMoof’s mounting troubles without an official response from the company has resulted in predictions of doom all week. Members of the popular VanMoofing Facebook group fretted over headlines and urged each other to take protective action like exporting their Bluetooth encryption keys. “If VanMoof becomes unable to cover its server costs, these keys might be lost forever, leaving countless bikes as electronic waste with no means of retrieval,” reasoned one posting from a top contributor.
Back in 2016, at the launch of VanMoof’s first e-bike, Ties Carlier told The Verge, “My brother and me, we really believe in building [the business] up slowly.” But in the last few years, that changed to a growth-at-all-cost approach, fueled by multiple funding rounds netting over $200 million from investors. But those same investors are no longer willing to fund profitless futures indefinitely in the face of rising interest rates and a bleak economic outlook. That’s bad news for VanMoof, which reportedly sells its e-bikes at a loss due to quality issues that require costly warranty repairs. The company has reportedly posted losses of about €78 million over each of the last two years.
The days of startups grabbing market share and worrying about profits later are over, not just for VanMoof but also for other e-bike darlings like Rad Power, which just pulled out of Europe in a bid to reduce costs. While brothers Ties and Taco might still be in charge of VanMoof, the company’s investors are now in the driver’s seat, and they want to get paid.