The sharing economy is booming and innovative start-ups from a wide range of industries are making the most of it.
From Airbnb helping people rent out spare rooms to Borroclub helping people borrow tools and household goods, companies of all shapes and sizes are benefiting.
One of the newest players to capitalise on this boom is Oxford startup Cycle.land, a peer-to-peer bike sharing community launched by Lithuanian entrepreneur Agne Milukaite. Its goal is simple, to connect people with bikes.
“Did you know that the majority of trips made in the UK (67%) are less than five miles? It takes on average 30 minutes to cycle that distance,” Agne told BQ.
“Our aim is to revolutionise how people get around. Our mission is to make bikes readily available and affordable to unlock the assets of unused bikes and make it very easy to hop on a bike to make that short journey via pedal bike.”
After receiving her masters in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford in 2013, Agne moved to Berkeley, California, where she worked for a Canadian home robotics company that was expanding into the US market.
It was during this time that she realised she wanted to start her own business. Inspired by companies such as Airbnb and the sharing economy, she moved back to Oxford to launch Cycle.land.
“The idea was born out of the fact that bicycles have always been an intrinsic part of my lifestyle: I grew up in a town in Lithuania where bikes were a means of social interaction and cultural exchange.
“Since then, I have lived in different cities in the USA and Europe, and had a bike in every one. So when I first started thinking about sharing economy and the success of Couchsurfing and AirBnB for living spaces, I thought, why not create something the same for bicycles?
“This, coupled with the idea that, as a society we might be in trouble if innovation is solely focused on cars, motivated me to create a company focused on bike sharing and supporting the sustainable future of urban mobility everywhere.
“After researching the market, now I would also add that shared mobility market is a very exciting space to be in. Not only does it have a huge valuation (excluding air travel, global mobility market is valued at US$5tn to US$6tn per year), it also has an exciting space for bikes.
“Short trips (30-minutes-by-bike-range) in urban areas are increasingly made on bikes. Cyclists will outnumber car drivers entering Central London in rush hour during the next few years. And that is a global trend.
“Bike sharing in all shapes and forms has been the fastest growing mode of transport globally over the past 10 years. The success of the Santander bikes in London is just one example.
“There are a lot of unused bikes that could generate income. We launched in Oxford and we estimate that each year in Oxford alone £25m are wasted with bikes standing unused.
“There is a strong demand for bike sharing. In just three months, we have established a liquid, fast growing bike sharing market in Oxford.”
When Agne moved back to the UK to launch Cycle.land she knew she would need to gain advice and support to help her bring the idea to market.
Luckily, Oxford is a hub of business and enterprise support and boasts a strong business community always willing to help budding entrepreneurs.
She added: “We are thankful to have received support from many different people and organisations. In terms of funding, Cycle.land secured support from Oxford University Innovation in March 2016.
“We launched after a two-month incubation. Since launching in Oxford, our vibrant bike sharing community has grown at a 100% rate month-by-month and has generated revenues of more than £20,000.
“We have also received strong backing from the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Saïd Business School. We were twice selected to be part of their Venture Idea Exploration Workshop where on both occasions we won awards for ‘Best Business Idea’.
“It was during the first workshop that I met our mentor Roy Azoulay who runs the Oxford University startup incubator. He was one of the first enthusiasts about the idea of peer-to-peer bicycle sharing, and through him we also met Andrea Alumni from Oxford University Innovation who has also become instrumental in our early success.
“Most recently, we had our first meeting at the Oxfam HQ and their team couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about partnering up with Cycle.land! They see the vision and what we are trying to achieve with Cycle.land and are super excited about taking part.
"It is great to have supporters at this early stage who invite us into their home and become enthusiasts immediately.”
The future certainly looks bright for Cycle.land. It is set to expand across the South of England later this year as well as in the Scottish capital.
Agne also has ambitious plans to grow the platform into the US and China. Imagine that! How many bicycles are there in Beijing again?!
She concluded: “Our vision is to become the global platform for shared bike mobility, connecting people with bikes anywhere in the world.
“Our roadmap is to expand to Cambridge, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh and East London later this year.
“Next year, we want to expand to the rest of the UK and then to Europe, the US and China!”
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