Sumi Wang MD of eFOLDi
Sumi Wang, CEO of eFOLDi

Having entered the mobility sector less than four years ago with its lightweight folding mobility scooter, SunTech UK – trading as eFOLDi – has gone from strength to strength.

Numerous successful rounds of crowdfunding, the introduction of innovative new products, as well as noteworthy sales growth (£2.27m in sales over 2019), have all played their part in helping the company become an established player in the mobility arena.

Now, fresh off the back of securing a £2.5 million investment from venture capital firm Guinness Asset Management, eFOLDi’s CEO Sumi Wang discusses the next steps for the ambitious newcomer.

THIIS: This recent investment by Guinness Asset Management is a departure from the crowdfunding model you have favoured in the past – what motivated you to go the private equity route?

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Sumi: “We started with crowdfunding because as a new brand with innovative products, crowdfunding was a great way to test markets, engage customers and get valuable feedback.

“The model proved very successful and from it, we were approached by PwC who identified us as a fast growth UK business. From there, they offered to help us identify the right VC for the next stage of growth.

“I accepted their offer as I believe it’s the right time to take an institutional investor on board who can bring their expertise to help eFOLDi scale up and accelerate our international expansion.”

THIIS: Following the investment by Guinness Asset Management, is the company still controlled by yourself or was the investment for a controlling stake?

Sumi: I’m still the biggest shareholder of the business. Guinness owns around 12 per cent of the company and they have expressed their interest of follow up investment but will continue remain as a minority shareholder.

“The rest of the shares are owned by our supportive crowdfunding investors.”

THIIS: Will the involvement of Guinness Asset Management change eFOLDi’s ambitions and the way it operates?

Sumi: “Guinness decided to invest in eFOLDi as they believe in our vision and ambition and we decided to accept Guinness’ offer because they are on the same page as us and can help us achieve our goals sooner.

“If there were any changes, I think we are even more ambitious than pre-investment! On operations, we are putting more structures and procedures in place to assist a smooth transformation from a start-up to a growth phase. However, we are very cautious to make sure that these new procedures do not to change our eFOLDi culture or reduce efficiently.

“We are also in the process of enhancing our board and actually looking for a couple of knowledgable directors with a mobility background and experience so if anyone is passionate about what we do and interested in growing with us, please feel free to contact us about this role.”

THIIS: How will eFOLDi now look to invest your new £2.5 million cash injection?

Sumi: “We learned a valuable lesson last year that it is extremely difficult to estimate sales of new products and as a result, we ran out of stock four times during the peak seasons. Therefore, a big part of the investment will be used for maintaining a healthy stock level.

“eFOLDi wouldn’t have existed without innovation, which will remain key to our continued success so another significant portion of the investment will be used on product development.

“The rest will be used on sales & marketing and international expansion.”

THIIS: In the past, you hinted at plans of entering the US market – is this still on the cards?

Sumi: “Yes, we have set up our US entity and are currently in the process of initiating legal and tax compliances. Our aim is to start the US operation as soon as the pandemic comes to an end.”

THIIS: Does this also mean that the new eFOLDi Lite that the company unveiled last year will be coming to the market soon?

Sumi: “COVID-19 unavoidably delayed our market entry plan for the Lite, however, with the determination of our R&D team, we are producing the pre-production batch in the factory as we speak.

“With all being well, we will commence our first mass production run in July to be in the market by the end of August or September.”

THIIS: What impact has the coronavirus had on eFOLDi and its plans since the outbreak in the UK?

Sumi: “It has changed our sales and marketing plan completely with very few sales since the lockdown.

“It has also delayed our plans for the Lite launch and US entry; however, we have been using the quiet time proactively for generating effective procedures and plans so that we are ready to have an even better season once this is all over.”

THIIS: What actions has the company had to take to adapt to the situation?

Sumi: “Sadly, as there were not enough sales, we had to put some of our team members on furlough and put our production plans on hold.

“We have also sourced good quality PPE from our reliable suppliers and donated to local hospitals and elderly communities. I am very pleased that we can be of help during these difficult times.”

THIIS: What does the future hold for eFOLDi now?

Sumi: “We believe that the impact of COVID-19 is only temporary and business will return to normal and be even better than before.

“The fact that we successfully attracted and secured the investment from Guinness proves that what we are doing is right as it has been recognised by investors and by customers.

“We are all very excited about the innovative and exciting journey of eFOLDi and will continue to bring our customers freedom, friendship and fun!”

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