Skip to content Skip to footer

He’s on a Roll!

Café con leche and Cappucino are not the same thing,” Manuel Pavesi remarks as I mistakenly order the former, confused as I still am about all the various sub-groups of coffee in the Spanish culture.

“Of course they are similar, but…” he winks, smiling as he takes a sip of the real stuff.

Well, he should know. He is Italian, proud member of a select group of quality-conscious people who have probably created more iconic brand names than any other nation.

And soon another iconic brand name, created by an Italian but 100% Mallorquin will enter the world stage: Whee!

The name is wonderfully apt; it is almost like an onomatopoeia. For isn’t “wheeeeeee!” the sound we make when we’re zipping down the road on something fun with wheels, for example a scooter? And it was indeed watching his children play that gave him the inspiration for the name.

Pavesi has everything set up for his new venture: Bringing shared electric kick scooters to Mallorca. Yes, shared. Like the ‘roll, park and leave’ bicycle share systems in many cities of the world, Whee will enable you to locate and unlock a nearby scooter with an app on your phone, ride it, and leave it anywhere within a certain perimeter. But unlike bicycles, scooters hardly take up any space and are much easier to get on and off.

“My wife is Maoorquin and I have always seen Mallorca as my second home. When I finally settled here permanently in Mallorca, I started brainstorming with myself. What to do?” Pavesi, a self-confessed ‘idea volcano’ says.

“I began by asking myself: What does Mallorca need? More tourists? More property agents? Not really! I would have to do something new. Although I think Mallorca is a kind of paradise, I noticed that its car traffic had worsened significantly over the last few years,” Pavesi recalls.

“Can you imagine, my wife told me that not too many years ago, she could just park her car outside the Ayuntamiento and leave it there. Now…” he says, indicating the bumper-to-bumper traffic outside the café window; poor mugs looking in vain for a parking space most likely.

“With a Whee scooter, you don’t have to worry about parking, pollution from exhaust fumes… or price! A mere 1 euro to unlock it and then 15 cents per minute – with a top speed deliberately limited to 20 km/h you can zoom through town along the bike lanes and past the traffic jams in 15 minutes.  And it’s green! We act green we think green… and our scooters are of course green. ”

Not a little disappointed that I won’t be able to try out a prototype today, I cheer up when Pavesi promises that I will be the first to wheeeee! down the Paseo Maritimo when the first batch arrives from overseas in a month or so.  

“We are ready! The only thing that’s missing now is the licence from City Hall, but if that takes longer than planned we also have a Plan B. Funnily enough it hasn’t been easy to find an insurance company to deal with the 3rd party insurance needed, simply because there’s no precedent for this kind of business. The insurance companies are especially wary, as the main cities in Spain are still struggling with how to regulate electric scooters, scooter sharing most of all. But – we’re getting there!”

And getting there fast, by the look of things. Only six months has passed since the first fledgling pieces of molten lava – ideas for how to set up a shared scooter system – came spewing out of the “idea volcano”…

Not that this is the energetic Italian’s first attempt at entrepreneurship. In the Italian Alps, he and his sister started a low-cost skiing service for young, budget-conscious British people. It started out with a few visitors a week, then quickly “became too big to manage”!

His brother is Italy’s official distributor of ski bikes, another mode of transport I have not only never tried, but never even heard of. It seems anything goes for the Pavesi family as long as it’s human-powered, and, by the sound of things, fun. So apart from alpine skiing, what kind of background does a whee boss have? Something to do with wheels?

“Ha ha, no, I’m a bit self-contradictory in that I’m actually trained as an industrial management engineer. Engineers are supposed to be these kind of rigid, live-inside-a-framework people, but I was both good at maths and physics and interested in people and human interaction at the same time. I started working as a physics professor and absolutely loved teaching. But then the corporate world beckoned and I started working as a sales executive for a multinational oil and gas company. At first I was skeptical – me, oil and gas? but my new boss tempted me with lots of travel to exciting destinations; meeting new people… “ he recalls, indicating that the salary perhaps wasn’t to be scoffed at either.

Ironically, it was exactly the travelling that made him quit after more than 15 years. At this point he was regional director of Asia Pacific and spending more time in the air than on the ground.

“I was flying more than a pilot! I realised I was missing out on my children’s life; on family life. At one point we were living in Perth and we all loved it – Australia is such a wonderful country. But even there, the family was suffering because of my constant travel. I came to realise that you can’t both be on constant call as a high-flying executive and have a good, stable family life. You have to make a choice.”

Turning down an offer to set up a new office in the Congo, Pavesi then started working in Switzerland to be closer to his family, who were by now living in Mallorca again.

“But the whole time, what I really wanted was to work for myself. So when I decided to move permanently to beautiful Mallorca, I thought, now is the time.”

Pavesi, who plans to start the sharing service with a few dozen scooters, thinks Mallorca is the perfect place for such a venture; small, manageable and very safe. The island is also less feet-dragging than other areas in terms of green thinking. For example, Mallorca has one of the highest amount of charging points for electric cars in Spain – betting on a green and sustainable future.

“The scooters will have a GPS system and an alarm installed. There will be someone monitoring them remotely, so if someone tries to steal one, we will know,” he explains.

“I think the island has room for an increasing amount of entrepreneurs who aren’t directly linked to the tourism or property industries. Times are changing! If you don’t innovate, you can’t survive.”

Cars, look out! A new set of wheels are coming to town. Weeeeee!

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment