Interview with Van Nguyen of Tempo Bicycles

Van Nguyen is President and CEO of Tempo Bicycles, an innovator of human-powered personal mobility and an advocate of healthy and sustainable everyday living. Designed with the needs of commuters in mind, Tempo hybrid bikes let you travel farther and faster than conventional bikes while still providing health benefits of bicycling. Tempo hybrid bicycles enable more people to bike and help people to bike more often.

Recently Van was a keynote speaker at the Texas Trails and Active Transportation conference in Houston just prior to the 2016 E-Bike Expo as it stopped for the weekend in Houston as well.

MB: What is your favorite happy childhood memory of riding a bike?

Van Nguyen: I loved the freedom my bike gave me to ride around the neighborhood and visit friends, but my fondest memories are riding to school with my grandfather.

MB: What was your "aha" moment when you decided you needed to start not only your own bike company, but an electric bike company?

VN: Like a lot of people, I was fed up with traffic congestion and not having enough time to exercise and lead a healthier life. Then a friend told me about electric bicycles, which are widely popular in Europe. I realized that a lot of people like me don’t ride bikes because the distances we need to travel are too far or too hilly, but ebikes address those issues. As I looked into buying an ebike, I learned how confusing, complicated and frankly, unpleasant the buying process is for non-cyclists. That’s when I decided to start Tempo, an ebike company for non-cyclists.

MB: Your professional background is from the tech world. What skills from that demanding industry do you feel prepared you to create a successful e-bike start up?

VN: Trust me, these bikes are very high tech and a lot of my experience is directly relevant. Mostly though, it’s about knowing your customer and applying technology in ways to make their lives better and more enjoyable. For example, if I’m commuting to the office by bicycle, I still want to look my best when I arrive. When designing our bikes, we pay attention to details like the choice of practical pedals and seats, knowing that many of our women customers will be wearing heels and dresses. It really doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, knowing your customer is a critical component to being successful.

MB: You're a featured keynote speaker at the upcoming Texas Trails and Active Transit Summit in Houston Texas hosted by Bike Texas. What will your talk focus on?

VN: I’m excited and honored by the opportunity to address the Texas Trails and Active Transit Summit. My talk is about making cities more liveable, by integrating bicycles into the urban planning and transportation process. I’ll pay special attention to the challenges cities in the Western United States, like Houston, face because they were designed around the automobile and are now trying to find alternative forms of transportation to make city life more enjoyable. I’ll share some case studies of bicycle advocates’ success stories that might help audience members affect similar changes in their local communities.

MB: If you could wave a magic wand and be a keynote speaker at this year's Bicycle Leadership Conference in April or Interbike in September what are the three things that you'd like the bike industry leaders to approach differently in their marketing to women?

VN: It’s no secret that the bicycle industry is male dominated and historically, most buyers are also male. I believe women are under-served by the US bike industry because the focus has been primarily on men’s competitive cycling: road racing, mountain biking and triathlon. Ebikes appeal to a vastly different audience that includes women and seniors, who aren’t looking to ride the Tour de France. If I had to boil it down to three things, I’d say:

  • Pink is not a marketing strategy

  • Listen to your customer

  • Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone