Young start-ups such as Nüwiel are going to great entrepreneurial efforts at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg’s (TUHH) Startup Dock to come up with new solutions for long-standing problems. Founded by the engineers Natalia Tomiyama, Fahad Khan and Sandro Rabbiosi, the Nüwiel-team has designed an intelligent, electricity-run bicycle trailer to avoid traffic jams, noise and pollution. Natalia Tomiyama spoke to Hamburg News in an interview.
Hamburg News: Natalia, last week you came third in both the GründerGeist Business Plan contest in Hamburg and at the Food & City Challenge competition in Austin, Texas. Are the wins already impacting your business?
Natalia: Definitely. We are having a good run at the moment. During the contests, we focus mainly on expanding our network and try to sound out our market potential. At the Food & City Challenge, we secured many interested parties for our transport solutions although food deliveries are not our top, target market.
Hamburg News: During the next weeks, you will represent Nüwiel at the South by South West creative fair in Austin, Texas – your second entry. What kind of reception has Nüwiel met with on the U.S. market so far?
Natalia: We have to adjust our pitch to win over people in the United States. When we advertise a sustainable transport solution in Germany that reduces air pollution and noise, we meet with great interest. In the U.S., on the other hand, we meet with openness by presenting a practical solution for fighting traffic jams. We will definitely attract attention at South by South West simply because it’s easier to test and present our product rather than the many apps that are presented there.
Hamburg News: What does the name “Nüwiel” mean?
Natalia: “Nü” is Low German and means new. “Wiel” is the Dutch term for wheel.
Hamburg News: So has your name reinvented the bike?
Natalia: Yes, you could say so. Motorised load carriers already exist, but our intelligent technology is unique. The sensor that we have developed measures the distance between bicycle and trailer. If the route goes downhill, a signal is sent to the brakes via the control system. If the route goes uphill, a signal is sent to the engine. In that way, the trailer knows exactly when to speed up or to hit the brakes. The cyclist does not notice the weight of the trailer and travels safer.
Hamburg News: How did the idea for Nüwiel come about?
Natalia: Sandro hit on the idea while he was searching for an environment-friendly, alternative means of transport for taking his children around the city. However, our team found that developing a trailer for children takes far longer than developing a load carrier for delivering e.g. packages. So we delayed the development of a trailer for children. At the moment, we are just about to launch a pilot phase with four logistics clients who will test our light load carrier with a gross vehicle weight of 100 to 120kg. In five years at the latest, we wish to offer a totally independent transporter – provided the legal framework exists then.
Interview by Christin Apenbrink