CLIP Co-founders Somnath Ray and Clément de Alcala

CLIP is a clean mobility startup, building a portable e-motor device that can be easily attached to any bike to instantly upgrade it into an electric bike. CLIP was founded by Somnath Ray and Clement de Alcala in March 2018.

1. Why did you start CLIP? Do you remember the moment when you first thought of the idea?

Growing up in Delhi, India – I experienced air pollution and urban congestion at its worst – I often used to get to work literally hanging outside of buses. Later, working with the Smart Cities group at the MIT Media Lab i worked on some radical mobility solutions – academic, difficult to scale solutions, especially in developing countries like mine.

Fast-forward a few more years, living and working in Brooklyn I decided to take up bicycling, the 200-year-old mobility invention as my choice of daily commute and fully believing it the best personal instrument to combat climate change and urban congestion. Only to realize very quickly that effort is a real barrier to daily motivation and although committed bikers like me do it every day, we would love to use the occasional pedal-assist of an e-bike. So I researched e-bikes, they are very expensive, heavy, get stolen all the time and most importantly we love the bikes we already own – beautiful diverse designs and vintages – they reflect us and our personalities. So why couldn’t I somehow simply upgrade my own bike to an e-bike when I wanted to and then go back to using it like a regular bike at other times.

So I teamed up with Clement – (a friend, an avid bicyclist with a bonus superpower in sales and operations) to build this solution, the personal engine you could carry along with you to instantly upgrade any bike in the world to an e-bike, even shared bikes.

2. How do you see CLIP impacting how we live our lives?

Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race. ~ H.G. Wells
There are twice the number of bicycles in the world than there are cars and yet urban transportation emissions contribute up to 20% to the total greenhouse gas emissions.
Why aren’t all these bicycles being used as much?

Most trips made in large cities are under 10 miles. If CLIP can empower everyone to bike more, we will exponentially drive emissions down to help create safer and healthier cities.

3. How have New York and Newlab positively impacted the development of your business?

Every day we experience the wonderful congruity of working on a technology designed to upgrade a 200-year-old invention within a structure that is itself no less than 100 years old.

The Newlab is a brilliant community of peers and mentors with a wide range of expertise and limitless will to help. As entrepreneurs, we constantly face challenges that overcome our limits. From hardware prototyping to tax issues to marketing strategies, there is always someone who knows and will help. Importantly, we owe our very rapid progress on prototyping to our partnership with 10XBeta here. Being in the same space has been critical in communicating easily in navigating complex design issues and being able to accelerate each phase of our prototype development.

Outside of peer networks, having access to NewLab’s various strategic partners like the DOT and the Mayor’s Office of the CTO to get their feedback helps an early-stage startup like us immensely in planning future deployments.

4. What do you see as your responsibility to make technology ethical and accessible to all?

Urban mobility is a key and highly unstable variable in a city’s character and growth. It triggers a range of effects from the scale of an individual’s health, to the socio-economic collective and all the way to the planetary. Wrong choices in many parts of the world have led to polluted, socially segregated, and highly inequitable cities. It is our role as technologists to bring democratic and more equitable urban mobility choices to the world so cities can begin the transformation in the positive direction as an effect of individual/collective choices.

Social and environmental change is never the result of any single organization. Since the beginning of CLIP, we’re growing into an ecosystem of riders, activists, technical and impact-focused organizations to reinforce our mission. Today, among our various partners, we are proud supporters of “The League of American Bicyclists”, to advocate for a bicycle-friendly America and “Trees For The Future”, to offset carbon emissions by revitalizing impoverished lands by reforestation.

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