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June 28, 2017

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80% of the electric scooter market in 2 years: How did Gogoro do it?

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In the eyes of investors, he is a peerless genius, like a rhinoceros charging forward. In the eyes of "Gogoro fans," he's the Steve Jobs of Taiwan, and to his employees, he's the most anal boss. But Horace Luke sees himself without the labels -- he's just someone who's filled with passion and the desire to change the world.

Luke, CEO and founder of Gogoro, was an underdog invisible on the radar

two years ago. But now he is a main player in the industry. Not only had did he create the "heavyweight motorcycle" industry from nothing, he aims to ultimately turn Taiwan into a version of the fuel mecca that is the Middle East. He envisions transforming the global landscape of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, by cementing Taiwan's position as a heavyweight in the new energy supply sector.

There are few who actually believe in this dream. The person who trusts Luke the most is Ruentex Financial Group Chairman Samuel Yin.

"Mr. Yin says I'm just like a rhino," Luke said, taking out a sculpture of a rhino, gifted by Yin himself.

He put his fingers on his bald head to mimic rhinoceros horns, and said, "(The rhino) is just like me. It's bald and keeps charging on and on and on."

Horace Luke: No plans to depend on selling vehicles

"I never planned to rely solely on selling vehicles to make money, not now and not ever."

Despite Luke's statement, Gogoro's first financial annual report since going public showed that it made 60 percent of the 20,000 electric scooters sold in Taiwan. Gogoro's sales were much higher than other scooters in the market, for instance those by China Motor and Kymco's combined. Today, Gogoro holds almost 80 percent of the market share in Taiwan.

This May, Gogoro rolled out its new product: the Gogoro 2 series. Priced at NT$38,000, the new scooter is accessible not only to royalty but also the simple commoner. Preorder sales have been impressive. According to Business Today, Taipei City and New Taipei City's remaining 2,000-something slots for electric scooter subsidy applications were all filled two weeks after Gogoro opened preorders for its 2 series.

Horace Luke said "the first series targeted high-end consumers, giving the market a 'wow' factor and showing that battery-swapping models were feasible. As for the second series, it's about expanding the brand into the masses."

Choosing to do what others won't, begging on his knees to give birth to Gogoro

Horace Luke has always described himself as crazy. "Crazy" is what he was chasing after as he moved on from Microsoft and HTC.

"I moved to Taiwan with HTC in 2006. What I noticed at first that there were a lot of scooters and each scooter was dirty! Smelly! Noisy! I thought, scooters are a good place for problem solving, and I began to think about how to solve this. The problem became a passion of sorts."

However, no companies were willing to provide investment when Horace Luke presented to them the idea of creating an energy network for electric scooters.

"Did you know that my knees were bloodied? I was walking on my knees for a few years! Those companies, China Motor, Kymco, SYM, Aeon, I went to all of them!" Horace Luke hardened his heart and resolutely went forward with his idea, thinking that if the other companies were not willing, "I'd do this myself."

In a turn of events, Horace Luke was able to present his idea to Samuel Yin, who gave only one word: "OK."

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