The most popular children’s bikes come from Klosterneuburg

, am

On peak days, up to 1,000 children’s bicycles are ordered from Woom, helped by customised IT solutions from Microsoft.

Just ten years have passed since the two fathers Marcus Ihlenfeld and Christian Bezdeka founded their company Woom in a garage in Vienna. The reason: The two had searched in vain for the ideal bike for their kids and began to design and fiddle around themselves. With their Woom bikes, they may have invented the perfect children’s bike, because by now up to 1,000 Woom bikes are sold on a good day. The IT system behind the international sales success was supplied by Microsoft. Woom now resides in Klosterneuburg, and Martin Bartmann, COO of Woom, and Hermann Erlach, General Manager of Microsoft Austria, explain the path to becoming a company with 100 million euros turnover.

In ten years from the foundation to a global company – what makes Woom’s children’s bicycles so unique that they are so sought after?
Martin Bartmann: The fact that we have gone from a garage to an international company and the largest pure children’s bicycle manufacturer in the world within ten years can be attributed to a few key points. The first is definitely the product, which was developed specifically for children right from the start and where emphasis was placed on the bike being really light. Our ‘Woom2’ is still the lightest children’s bike in its size class. In addition, the founders have managed to transfer the operational management of the company into managerial hands in the past three years and are now represented on the supervisory board. I am happy to be part of this history and to be able to develop it further. Also essential for us are our 250 employees – our so-called Woomsters – who not only live the product and the brand but are also wholeheartedly involved. We also want to provide our customers with the best possible service. We don’t just want to instil a love of cycling in children, we also want to make the world a little bit better. This mission statement is not just said lightly but can be felt throughout the company.

Why don’t you also produce bikes for adults?
Bartmann: I’d love to have a Woom bicycle, but we decided from the beginning that we would concentrate on children’s bicycles. That’s what we’re good at and we have positioned ourselves accordingly.

When did Microsoft join?
Bartmann: At the beginning of 2021, when we set course for 300,000 bicycles sold per year. It became clear that we would no longer be able to handle that number. That is an order of magnitude where it no longer works with tools like Excel and Word. And it was clear that we needed an ERP system (NB: Enterprise Resource Planning). This is where Microsoft came into play.

What were the challenges for Microsoft to work with a booming start-up?
Hermann Erlach: Microsoft has a very strong partner ecosystem to support emerging, innovative, young companies. Together with our partners, we also support smaller companies that have excellent business potential and are immensely important, especially for Austria. After all, Austria is a country of small and medium-sized enterprises. Especially for such SMEs, the speed of business development can accelerate rapidly, and we can digitally support and scale the pace of growth. We see a huge need for Austria’s SMEs to catch up, because many studies show that we are still massively lagging behind in the field of digitisation. This is especially true for small businesses and has a lot to do with how low access to technology is. You can also see in other countries: The higher the cloud adoption, the easier it is for small and medium-sized enterprises to grow and scale.

Was this a strategic decision for Microsoft to also take on smaller companies?
Erlach: I wouldn’t see it as a change in strategy because we try to serve all segments. Just because a company is still smaller on the growth path, it doesn’t need less support intensity, but probably even more. These companies are elementary for us in the cloud, usually grow much faster than the large companies and are therefore more dynamic. For us, showcase models like Woom are essential to demonstrate the potential in Austria, because only two percent of medium-sized companies say they are highly digitised. There is a need for Austria to catch up with other countries in Europe by between 20 and 25 percent.

You receive between 500 and 1,000 orders per day, 365 days a year. How is this volume logistically manageable?
Bartmann: It was soon clear to us that we needed an integrated system from order processing on the customer side to our assemblers and component manufacturers, but one that also leads into finance. This will bring transparency and stability to the company. We handle Woom’s planned growth only with an ERP system. That is why we have chosen a big solution for us. As far as physical components are concerned, the bicycle industry is a very international industry. Many components come from Asia but are designed and developed here in Klosterneuburg. Therefore, we have partner companies all over the world that produce the parts for us. Because of our size, we have started to diversify so that we have several partners at different locations to make the whole system more resilient as well.
Erlach: An exciting aspect that we observe is that digitisation and tools were largely designed to optimise the last screw, whether on the shop floor or at the ERP level. Covid has changed that to some extent, because you have to react much faster to changes in the supply chain and anticipate fluctuations in demand. We have redeveloped the data models in the Cloud Native over the past ten years, and our data centre infrastructure is also behind this. This now enables us to work in a data-driven way. With this, you can see early on in the system when something changes, and this data will trigger processes. It is becoming increasingly important to react with flexibility to changes in demand in the supply chain. Data-driven management is also becoming increasingly important. The classic ERP systems are more about the process and the transaction and not so much about the data-driven model.
Bartmann: This is also where we will take the next steps, namely to extract the orders from the data and use them in the direction of the assemblers. The delivery time from Asia is still two to three months, but our customers order online today and want to have the bike delivered the day after tomorrow. That’s why we need precisely this intelligence, which recognises in the system in good time which trends result from reading the data, whether the yellow or the purple wheel sells better, for example. The system can then implement this on the planning side and in our orders with the production partners.

How much support does AI provide here?
Bartmann: We’re not there yet, but that’s the next development step
Erlach: There are already a lot of approaches and processes that use AI. We work with our AI-based co-pilot approach so that a company does not need its own data scientist or a high level of AI expertise, because these processes are already automatically available in the tool. In the cloud, all Microsoft solutions are connected. In future, it will be possible to access the ERP directly from Teams.

Last year you exceeded the 100-million-euro turnover mark – was it a shock when you saw such figures?
Bartmann: I wouldn’t call it a shock, quite the opposite. We have designed the company for growth from the very beginning, and I am proud to be able to be part of the company in this phase. We are going further into internationalisation. We still have a very strong home base in Germany and Austria and have now entered the markets in France and Switzerland. You can already buy our bikes in 30 countries, but we want to increase the volume. We are also operating in the United States, and we want to grow even more strongly there. We want to grow at least faster than the competition.