It started as a simple idea: Have a bike? Rent it out, make a little money. But Spinlister didn't stop there. After starting operations in the summer of 2013, the Airbnb of action-sports equipment soon added a ski- and snowboard-sharing program, and not long after, surfing joined the fold as well.
With success around the world, Spinlister took its offerings a step further last week, announcing the introduction of a new bike-share model that may just change the way we ride in the city. Partnering with VanMoof, a Dutch bicycle company, Spinlister is launching a peer-to-peer bike share program that will allow users to pick a bike up off the street, ride it to any destination within the city, and lock it up, all for a small fee that is then paid to the original bike owner (think Car2Go, owned and operated by local car owners). No more stations. No more annoying, heavy bikes.
After the company launched a pilot program at SXSW earlier this month, GrindTV caught up with Spinlister CMO Andrew Batey to learn more about the program and what it means for urban bike enthusiasts worldwide.
What is this newest chapter in the Spinlister saga and why are you guys excited about it?
Outside of scaling our core peer-to-peer business, we've announced a new product offering utilizing our relationship with VanMoof to incorporate an on-demand, convenient, and cost-effective decentralized bike-share model. These bikes are sustainable, durable, high quality, and provide a micro-business opportunity for residents of each city instead of requiring significant government funds from taxes or private corporations. We believe our model will be the first profitable bike-share system in the world.
How did the VanMoof collab come about?
Originally we loved their brand and featured it in a number of our creative pieces (fliers, posters, etc.). One of their major dealers in New York City listed 80 bikes on Spinlister to utilize as another potential revenue stream. That same owner then connected us with the founders of VanMoof, as he thought our vision and core values were perfectly aligned. After multiple meetings, discussions, and working through probable scenarios, the decision to move forward as partners was made and pursued.
How is this different than the Spinlister of old?
To be clear here, we are not pivoting.…But we have determined a large percentage of our existing users would utilize a smart bike for long-term rentals (one to seven days) if given the option. By eliminating the back-and-forth communication requirements and making bikes conveniently located and available, we're able to increase our overall bike-rental request fulfillment.
It only made sense to take it one step further and fix the currently broken bike-share model. There will be no subscription fees. Spinlister will not own the bikes. They will be privately owned bikes, exclusively available through Spinlister, that collectively provide an added feature and benefit to our existing user base and their local communities. The core fundamentals of Spinlister will still apply.
How does this program differ from other bike-share programs already in major cities?
Our bikes are high-quality and technologically advanced bikes. They have an exclusive design and anti-theft wireless tracking. They come equipped with an onboard computer to display distance traveled and speed, along with a Bluetooth-enabled lock to facilitate easy and convenient rentals. The bikes come with a dynamo hub that powers the fully integrated front and rear lights (by Phillips), as well as a USB port that can (slowly) charge your cell phone.
Those are just a couple of the highlights from a product standpoint. The bikes are lighter weight than your normal bike-share options, and developed for a true bike enthusiast. The two most significant differences are the fact [that] they are decentralized and owned by the residents in every city. The bikes will operate in a "zone" similar to something you see with the Car2Go car-rental program. They can be locked, unlocked, rented, and returned anywhere in the zone. The bikes can be kept for one hour, one day, or even a week. These are bikes you can rent and keep for your entire trip to a city, or just grab to get across town.
Lastly, people that live in the city own the bikes. We are going to finance the users by giving them the bike upfront for free and allow them to pay the bicycle cost off through future rentals. Initially, rental revenue will be split 50/50, with 50 percent going to the bike owner and the other 50 percent going to pay off the bike. After the bikes have been paid off in full, the rental revenue share reverts back to the traditional Spinlister amount, with Spinlister taking a 17.5 percent fee from the lister (bike owner) on [each] transaction.
So how exactly does this new sharing project work?
There are no stations—rather, a large zone for the bikes to freely be used within a city. Yes, we'll do more testing to insure long-term sustainability, but it's believed we will go to market with a rental cost of $2 per hour, $20 per day, and $120 per week. Once we have economies of scale, the price will get cheaper. We aren't looking to make margins off the bikes, but rather provide them to users straight across at our cost. The bikes will be under $1,000, with a target price of $650 to $800 initially.
Which cities are you guys targeting to start? Are there plans for more cities?
We will test in Portland [Oregon] first. We've tested the hardware already and are confident it will hold up to the rigorous use and external conditions. A bike stolen during testing was easily recovered through wireless tracking. VanMoof has made high-quality bikes for years to support the Dutch market. That market requires bikes to be anti-theft, hold up in harsh climate conditions, and [be] durable for daily use. We're confident in the technology, but now we have to release them into a controlled environment to be 100 percent sure of our design and process before scaling to multiple major markets. Ultimately, we plan to expand to other major biking cities such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
Why do you think now is the time to launch this program? Why are people ready for something like this?
Bike share is recognized as relevant, needed, and desired. The current models cost cities too much to operate and put a stress on local residents or sponsors. Due to technology advances previously unrealized, and our existing platform connecting bike owners and renters, we're able to bridge that gap, simultaneously removing the barriers from cities while stimulating local economies through micro-entrepreneurs.
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