Passion, pace, and patience. That’s what it takes to create a globally successful company, according to Stefan Ytterborn, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the e-motorcycle brand CAKE. But not only that: his detailed sense for the needs in the market, which are not only translated into a visionary design with a completely unique identity, but also into contemporary marketing to make them visible, distinguish Stefan Ytterborn and brought him the “Brand Manager of the Year” award of the ABC Awards in 2022.
An interview about sustainable concepts, silent off-road motorcycling and how electric motorbikes are used in the fight against wildlife poaching in South Africa.
Stefan, with CAKE, you have created a new brand for high-performance motorcycles with E-drive. What was your idea behind it?
It grew on me. I´m not a motorcycle kind of guy. Rather the opposite but when I jumped into an early electric off-road motorcycle, at ISPO back in 2014-something, it caught my eager: “Being able to silently explore the outback without polluting”. I was hooked, loved the riding and got several bikes from different brands, for pure fun and pleasure. That´s when the process starts, what can be done differently and better. Suddenly I was sucked up developing my first bikes and the deeper I got into it, the more tangible the way forward became. On par with the level of purpose I would be able to bring, sharing the passion for fossil free fun and eventually transportation vessels for various needs, I simply had to start a business.
What was important to you when developing the design? What did you want to do differently than others?
Well, our take is to optimize the character of the electric drivetrain and an early assumption was to build as light as possible and to simplify the vehicle in line with what the technology enabled. Building feathery chassis’ reducing the number of battery cells, vs what everyone else was doing simply swapping from combustion drivetrains with electric ones and therefore needing tons of battery cells, together with reducing the number of moving parts, somehow put us in a new category. That together with the fact that we initially had limited experience from motorcycling, with the associated dos and don’ts, we explored a route which is “more Patagonia than Kawasaki” and came up with a new typology.
“Too much crap, becoming garbage before we know and needing to buy new at high pace – that is the enemy.”
— Stefan Ytterborn
Sustainability is not only about the way something is produced but encompasses the entire lifecycle of a product – with CAKE you set completely new standards in this respect. What is your strategy for developing products?
Enhancing, purpose, innovation, performance, and physical quality, to extend lifecycles. The biggest challenge to sustainability and the environment is the general pace of consumption. Too much crap, becoming garbage before we know and needing to buy new at high pace is the enemy.
With your electric motorbikes, you want to make a contribution to an emission-free society. What kind of different concepts have you developed for this? Give us an insight into your product range and your activities.
Again it´s about durable products. The proof is in the pudding. We need to develop products and systems that withstand wear and tear, which is then being applied for different user groups. At first people raised eyebrows when entering the market through off-road performance motorcycles, which of course is a limited chunk of the market. But to support longevity and durability, we needed to understand and learn from bikes that would do double flips or jump 30 meters. That experience is later being implemented in all our models. Again, to extend life cycles. Aside from that it´s worth mentioning that the modular approach means that we can push different aspects for different kinds of use, like supporting with extreme battery capacity to run other electric tools. Building a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no need from the grid, throwing a rave party with the music run from the bikes, being able to carry fridges with vaccin or hot pizza in a hot box, all run from the battery of the bike.
You’ve even developed a model for rangers together with an anti-poaching initiative. How did this come about and what value do such projects have for you personally?
That´s very much catching a bird in flight. A friend of mine, Anton Ströberg, got to ride our bikes and was super thrilled about it, while sharing his passion for Africa and conservation. He told me about the poaching issues and that the rangers were using off-road combustion engine bikes. The issue though is that they are loud and let the poachers know when they are coming, long before arriving. And aside from that, gasoline needs to be trucked into the wild. All in all, not very sustainable. But with a CAKE bike being silent and potentially being solar power charged in the field, everything would actually be dealt with. Said and done, together with Goal Zero and the Southern African Wildlife College, we came up with a system which is now up and running.
Tomorrow’s mobility is largely defined by sustainability. We need responsible concepts to shape the world around us and how we move through it. How do you communicate your ideas to consumers?
Inspiration through innovation. Physically presenting the qualities and pursuits supporting life from matters of efficiency, smartness, practicality, and fun.
The pandemic in particular has demonstrated the instability of global supply chains: Market and supply shocks are challenging especially smaller, growing companies. What approach are you taking at CAKE to respond to such fluctuations?
Vertical integration, moving as much manufacturing and assembly as we can closer to our customers. It´s going to be the most painful and challenging aspect going forward.
“Let your heart lead your brain and not vice versa. Passion is the most vibrant source for fast learning.”
— Stefan Ytterborn
CAKE is not the first company you’ve successfully founded. Where do your innovative ideas come from and also the necessary spirit to implement these projects in a visionary way?
Let your heart lead your brain and not vice versa. Passion is the most vibrant source for fast learning and in-depth processing. When something catches you and the feeling of not being able to hold back, one also develops an intellectual space which is impossible achieve if a pragmatic analysis, is the starting point.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a founder to launch a globally successful company? And what drives you every day anew?
Passion, pace, and patience.
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