Update: Niklas Laninge, a psychologist and founder of the education site Daily Bits Of, whom Cangoroo cites as one of its key early investors, assures Curbed SF that the company is not a prank.
Although Laninge acknowledges that it’s natural people will assume they’re being had, he says, “They have always delivered on the promises and the products they’ve created,” and predicts that pogo stick-related publicity will generate interest in Cangoroo’s future transit projects.
The alleged pogo stick rental company Cangoroo wants everybody to know that it’s not a prank. The Swedish startup claims that it will actually rent app-enabled pogo sticks—yes—in five cities around the world, including San Francisco.
The devices are meant to serve as a competitor to e-scooters, at a rate of 30 cents per minute. (A per-hop fee was presumably not practical.)
“Cangoroo and our pogo sticks offer a quicker alternative to walking, a more convenient alternative to having a bicycle, and a more environmentally friendly alternative to cars and e-scooters,” notes the company’s site.
Suffice to say, skepticism abounds. So much so that the first paragraph of Cangoroo’s press release, issued in May, states: “We feel the need to underline that Cangoroo is 100 percent real. Our choice of shared pogo sticks as our first product is a planned out strategy in order to stand out in today’s media landscape and build an engaging brand in the generic ‘last mile transportation’ category.”
When asked about its mission statement, a company spokesperson tells Curbed SF, “We can totally see that some people think it’s a joke as we intentionally branded Cangoroo the same way as existing e-scooter companies. However, we’re serious about our vision to try creating a brand in the micromobility category that stands out from the...generic ones. And that’s one of the reasons we chose pogo sticks as our first products.”
It’s important to note that the marketing came from ODD Company, an agency known for elaborate campaigns, such as grass slippers, that involve creating fictional products or staging stunts for an existing brand.
An app-based pogo stick rental company sounds like a pitch-perfect parody of Silicon Valley startup culture.
Cangoroo’s marketing materials are full of language that pranksters might present in deadpan style to lampoon tech hubris, including slogans like “those who don’t jump will never fly” and talk about “pushing boundaries and [sic] bring about change for people, communities, and the world we’re all sharing.”
If the company’s promotional YouTube video is not a joke about the aspirations of startup marketing, an actual parody could hardly do better:
Sites like Crunchbase list Cangoroo as founded in January of this year. So far, no LinkedIn users list Cangoroo as a place of employ—including CEO Adam Mikkelsen. But Mikkelsen tells Curbed SF that this is because the startup currently operates as part of his marketing company.
Despite skepticism, Mikkelsen maintains that Cangoroo is a real endeavor that he hopes to bring to San Francisco. He tells Curbed SF that the initial materials seem like a parody because they’re meant to be a takeoff on e-scooter marketing.
“All of the existing [scooter] competitors are super generic and they’re struggling with brand loyalty because they’re just different stickers on the [same] vehicles,” says Mikkelsen, claiming that pogo sticks are a tool to stand out from the crowd.
He also emphasizes that Cangoroo plans to expand to different kinds of vehicles in the future—but will not say what kind yet—raising the possibility that the pogo sticks are a seat-of-the-pants attempt at drawing attention to the company’s future endeavors.
“We’re very well aware that the end product isn’t for everyone,” he says, “but we definitely see a lot of people hanging out in Golden Gate Park park and saying, ‘Who can jump the furthest?’ Or if we launched in Alabama, we’d brand all of the sticks to be like, hey, let’s jump for free abortion rights.”
Cangoroo is courting potential investors and promises to launch first in Europe and then shortly overseas, including in SF, later this year.