EV conversion startup Opibus raises $7.5M to start bus and motorcycle mass production

Opibus, the first company in Kenya to commercially future-proof diesel and gasoline vehicles by converting them to electric, is set to embark on an ambitious plan to mass produce electric buses and motorcycles after unlocking $7.5 million in pre series A round.

The Swedish-Kenyan company raised $5 million in equity and $2.5 million in grants in a round led by Silicon Valley fund At One Ventures,  backed by Factor[e] Ventures and pan-African VC firm Ambo Ventures. The round is the company’s first major fundraise, having previously raised capital from angel investors.

Opibus told TechCrunch that it is looking to deliver its first electric bus by the first quarter of next year.

“We are proud to be backed by globally recognized investors providing a balance between deep-tech and emerging market expertise. We have together reached a clear strategic and visionary alignment, with the conviction that mass manufacturing of electric mobility solutions in Africa will not only make the products more accessible and affordable, but also lead to one of the largest industrialization and welfare transitions of the region in modern time,” said Opibus’ CEO and co-founder, Filip Gardler.

Founded in 2017 by Gardler, Filip Lövström and Mikael Gånge, Opibus has over the years specialized in auto conversions, and is now moving to full electric vehicle manufacturing, starting with motorcycles and public commercial vehicles, all while developing charging and energy solutions.  

“The targets and objectives we’ve set for Opibus might seem bold, however it is a mission that has become more important than ever. We have a responsibility to the coming generations and the earth [as a] whole,” said Gardler. 

Already, the company has started taking pre-orders of its electric motorcycles, while confirming to TechCrunch that the demand is promising. Opibus bikes will start at $1,300 depending on several features including battery capacity. The company said the competitive advantage of its product includes declining operational costs of up to 60% lower that of fossil fuel alternatives.

Going forward, the company plans to move to a bigger plant as it prepares to increase its production to serve the entire African continent.

“We are about giving vehicles a second life but for motorcycles we see that we won’t be able to scale fast enough if we’re converting motorcycles. And since we want to design a product that’s better than what is already in the market, we are building our bikes from the ground up – by designing and manufacturing them in-house,” Opibus’ chief strategy and marketing officer Albin Wilson told TechCrunch.

In addition to Kenya, the company’s other clients are spread out in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. 

A switch to electric power offers countries in sub-Saharan Africa a range of gains including a reduced cost of transport and lower carbon emissions. Countries like South Africa, Mauritius and Rwanda are already ahead of the game. South Africa has drafted a roadmap for the increased production and adoption of fully electric vehicles, while Rwanda rolled-out incentives that will make it less costly to buy and operate them.

“The electric mobility space in Africa represents a huge opportunity; not only to provide a better service at a lower cost to customers, but also to reduce carbon emissions and avoid deadly exposure to particulate pollution on a local level,” said Factor[e] Ventures managing partner, Morgan DeFoort.

Reports show that electric mobility in Africa is nascent but opportunities remain vast, especially if the infrastructure to support its adoption is built. Challenges facing the industry include the initial high cost of electric vehicles, a lack of charging infrastructure, low grid power connectivity, taxation and low level of awareness about EVs.

With inadequate infrastructure being among the biggest setbacks in EV adoption, Opibus has started installing communal charging infrastructure to serve public transport providers. The company plans to install the charging hubs in major towns near the country’s capital city, Nairobi, as it builds out a network that will sustain the mass transport electric buses planned for launch next year. Opibus also plans to forge partnerships with mini grid companies to ensure that its motorcycle customers in rural areas have access to charging points.

The company sees great potential for electric vehicles on the continent as the price of items like the solar batteries reduce significantly. It has so far converted 170 vehicles to serve different clientele including mining companies and tour firms. Its SUV conversions reach a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour, and an off-road driving range of just over 60 mph. 

 For its conversions, Opibus replaces diesel and gasoline engines with electric motors and controllers, served by battery packs that are fitted with minimal modifications on the chassis.

The secret of content marketing: Avoid high bounce rates

Advice on content marketing always talks about getting people to your blog.

But, what about once they’re there — how do you get them to then buy from you?

That’s the conversion half of content marketing, and that’s what I’ll cover: converting your readers into paying customers.

First, they read. Then, they buy.

When visitors arrive on your blog, three things should happen:

  1. First, they must start reading — instead of bouncing.
  2. Next, keep should keep reading until at least halfway through.
  3. Finally, they should be enticed to read more or convert: sign up, subscribe, purchase, etc.

Demand Curve’s data shows that when readers complete this full chain of events — as opposed to skipping step #2 — they’re more likely to ultimately buy from you.

Why? People trust your brand more after they’ve consumed your content and deemed you to be high quality and authoritative.

We’ve optimized tens of millions of blog impressions, and we have three novel insights to share in this post. Each will hopefully help compel readers to stick around and buy.

Let’s conquer high bounce rates — the bane of content marketers.

Entice visitors to start reading

First, some obvious advice: Getting visitors to read begins with having a strong intro.

A good intro buys goodwill with readers so they keep reading — and tolerate your boring parts.

There are three components to a good intro:

  1. Have a hook. Read about hooks here.
  2. Skip self-evident fluff. Read about succinctness here.
  3. Tease your subtopics to reassure visitors they landed in the right place.

The web’s biggest blogs include tables of contents at the top of their posts to reassure readers. It not only benefits SEO, it also improves read-through rates.

GettyImages 913560720

Image via Getty Images / z_wei

Keep them reading once they’ve started

Once visitors begin reading, you have three tactics to retain them:

  1. Drop-off optimization.
  2. A/B testing.
  3. Exit rate analysis.

This is how we’ll improve our read-through and conversion rates.

Drop-off optimization

Sometimes, when I write a post on Julian.com, I find few people actually finish reading it. They get halfway through then bounce.

I discover this by looking at my scroll-depth maps using Hotjar.com. These show me how far down a page an average reader gets. Then I pair that data with the average time spent on the page, which I get from Google Analytics.

Whenever I notice poor read completion rates, I spend ten minutes optimizing my content:

  1. I refer to the heatmaps to see which sections caused people to stop reading.
  2. Then I rewrite those offending sections to be more enticing.

This routinely achieves 1.5-2x boosts in read-through rates, which can lead to a similar boost in conversion.

You see, I never just publish a blog post then move on.

I treat my posts the same way I treat every other marketing asset: I measure and iterate.

For some reason, even professional content marketers publish their posts then simply move on. That’s crazy. Not spending 10 minutes optimizing can be the difference between people devouring your post or not being able to get halfway through.

Specifically, here’s the process for rewriting a post’s drop-off points to get readers to continue reading.

How to perform drop-off optimization

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Image via Julian Shapiro / Julian.com

First, record a scroll heatmap of your blog post. Any heatmap tool will do. I use Hotjar.com.

Next, whenever you see, say, 80% of readers getting midway into your post but only a fraction then make it to the end, you know you have a problem in the back half of your post: it’s verbose, uninsightful, or off-topic.

Your job is to find these drop-off points then rewrite the offending content using four techniques:

  • Brevity: Make the section more concise: Cut the filler and switch to a bullet list like the one you’re reading now. Or, delete the section altogether if it’s not interesting.
  • Inject insights: Perhaps your content is self-evident and boring. Rewrite it with novel and surprising thoughts.
  • Make headlines enticing: Make the next section’s headline more enticing. Perhaps readers bounce because they see that the next section’s title is boring or irrelevant. For example, instead of titling your next section “Wrapping up,” re-write it into something more eyebrow-raising like, “What you still don’t know.”
  • Cliffhangers: End sections with a statement like “Everything I just told you is true, but there’s a big exception.” Then withhold the exception until the next section. Keep them reading.

Once you’ve ironed out drop-off points, perhaps 35% of your readers finish the post instead of 15%. This reliably works, and it’s the highest-leverage way to achieve conversion improvements on your posts.

This is so self-evident yet no one does it for some reason.

And we’re only just starting. There’s another, more effective technique for optimizing your content: A/B testing paragraphs. Whereas drop-off optimization irons out the kinks in your article, A/B testing is how you take your read-through rates to a new tier.

Before we begin, follow along

As we explore the tactics below, you’re welcome to visit two blogs that incorporate these techniques:

If you need a primer on SEO before continuing, see my other TechCrunch article on the topic here and this orientation here.

A/B testing content