Why this marketing veteran decided to launch an active mobility app

Kelvin Phang, founder of RIDEnjoy app. (PHOTO: RIDEnjoy)
Kelvin Phang, founder of RIDEnjoy app. (PHOTO: RIDEnjoy)

SINGAPORE — Did you know that the number of people who took up cycling in Singapore has doubled since 2015? According to the 2020 National Sports Participation Survey, cycling is now the third most popular sport in the country just behind walking and jogging. In previous years, swimming and badminton usually ranked higher than cycling.

While it’s evident that cycling is trending, it wasn’t just the recent boom that encouraged Kelvin Phang to create an active mobility app — it was his solution to make active mobility safer and more enjoyable for everyone so that it becomes the first choice for any commute. And the app isn’t just for cyclists, it can be useful for runners, walkers, and even skateboarders.

“With more people cycling on the roads and on the Park Connector Network (PCN), shared paths and pedestrian walkways, accidents and friction between road users are bound to happen. Many are also unfamiliar with Road Traffic Laws and the Active Mobility Act 2017,” he told Yahoo Finance Singapore in a recent interview. “Sadly, there has been an increase in fatalities among cyclists in recent years.”

His app, RIDEnjoy, launched in December 2021 and the beta version currently has slightly over 17,000 registered users. The app, which is free on mobile app stores, uses OneMap developed by the Singapore Land Authority for its detailed mapping, and pulls data from the Land Transport Authority for bike parking and Cycling Path Network information and NParks for its Park Connector Network.

But what really makes RIDEnjoy stand out are its social features — users can see real-time location of other users and view reports submitted by the RIDEnjoy community such as bike accidents, potholes, or wild dog and otter sightings. In addition, users can see bike-specific places of interest like bike shops, bike rentals, bike self-service kiosks, water coolers, and bike-friendly routes. It also has location-based services that allows users to enjoy real-world benefits at partner merchants.

“In case of emergency, users can hit the SOS button to alert 995 and other riders in the vicinity. The more reports and information the app receives from users, the more useful it becomes to everyone,” Phang explained. “We hope different active mobility users will look out for each other, and sharing information in real-time via the app is one way of making things better for all.”

Phang admitted that the road to RIDEnjoy would have been very different without the pandemic. To develop the app, he used his personal resources and tapped into the Sports Resilient Package’s Blended initiative for funding.

“Most start-up grants by different agencies are usually around S$50,000 and we were fortunate to receive slightly twice of that to build the app,” said the 50-year-old former triathlete.

Timing was crucial too. The cycling boom caused by the pandemic created teething problems for road users which encouraged him to launch and deliver a go-to-market campaign in under three months to help address some of these road safety concerns quickly.

The newly-minted techpreneur shared some of thoughts on his entrepreneurship journey.

You are a journalist-turned-marketeer-turned-techpreneur. How has it been like for you to enter the tech space at 50?

I aim to debunk the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Before I was awarded the grant to develop RIDEnjoy, I attended a 6-month part-time Business and Data Analytics course by Boston Consulting Group. I’m still learning new things about running a tech business and I often get schooled by someone much younger — it’s humbling yet exhilarating.

I founded my integrated marketing consultancy firm, Empower Asia, when I turned 40 and experiencing the up-down business cycles prepared me for start-up life at 50. But the start-up grind is not for everyone and it wasn’t a 996 lifestyle during the months leading to the launch, it was more like 157 (15 hours daily, seven days a week)!

How do you manage between being a family man and running two businesses?

While RIDEnjoy takes up 95% of my time, Empower continues to offer marketing services to clients thanks to my colleagues. Sadly, the pandemic meant I was away from my wife and children (who are based in Penang) for almost 19 months. While I miss seeing them, the “separation” meant I was able to focus on developing and launching RIDEnjoy. Thankfully the borders have reopened and I can now travel to visit them regularly.

Tell us more about the RIDEnjoy mascot

Our mascot is called Kobi, short for “yorokobi”, which is Japanese for “joy”. Instead of a dinosaur, it was initially supposed to be a cycling lion since we are a Singapore company. But locals love dinosaurs and the idea of a dinosaur riding a bicycle is funny given that they usually have big thigh muscles great for cycling, so we decided on dinosaurs. We call them Ridesaurs and we will be introducing more in future events.

What’s next for RIDEnjoy?

My co-founder Adrian Tan and I are now actively fundraising to scale up and launch the full version of the app later in the year. Expanding outside of Singapore is something we hope to achieve within a year. Besides online-offline retail, bikecations and urban tourism, we are also looking at services like bike financing, mobility insurance, virtual and in-person events.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Two books that really inspired me were “The Future is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives” by Peter Diamandis and “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change” by Marc Benioff. I still refer to highlighted pages and sections from both books for inspiration often.

When I need to perk myself up, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” are my go-to songs.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A mentor told me early in my career that I should always be asking the question “what did I learn today” at the end of each day. I’m a big believer in self-learning and I try to spend at least an hour reading every day before I sleep — from media articles to white papers, from tech to business, from entrepreneurship to leadership, the final hour of each day is my “invest in yourself” time.

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