Buzzbike's on a mission to create a huge fleet of free bikes paid for by frame-based advertising. It's a curious combination of the burgeoning sharing economy, and the traditional ads we've seen on buses and taxies for decades.
Even better, their tech allows advertisers to target particular locations, and the bikes are built by Cooper (of Mini fame), so it's completely free for riders and looks really cool.
We spoke to co-founder Andrew Nunn about scaling the startup and their latest crowdfunding round.
1. What is your investment status?
We've raised £50,000 seed investment and are currently seeking to raise £350,000 via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Of the £350,000, approximately £179,000 has been pledged so far.
2. Describe your business in one paragraph; what’s its vision and what problem does it solve?
Buzzbike is launching a new city cycle scheme and with it a technology led, mobile enabled sponsorship platform.
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We'll launch this September with Braintree, which is owned by Paypal, and is the payments provider for most of the large tech companies including Airbnb and Uber.
Buzzbike has global ambitions, with serious interest from large brands to significantly expand the fleet in early 2017 and we're currently seeking investment to purchase more bikes and further evolve the technology platform.
3. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Tom Hares, Buzzbike CEO and co-founder, was struck by the increasing congestion and pollution in London and the opportunity for bikes to significantly help .
At the same time, he understood from his time leading one of the world's largest brands that marketing was going through a fundamental change with marketing directors under pressure to engage audiences in new and meaningful ways. He realised that bikes represented a significant gap in the outdoor advertising market, not just in London, but globally, so he founded Buzzbike.
4. What’s your addressable market?
Buzzbike targets the urban cyclist. Initially, this translates to cycling commuters, but longer terms include anyone that uses a bike in an urban environment. We also target the outdoor media market. Both markets are growing significantly.
The number of people cycling to work in inner London has more than doubled from 44,000 in 2001 to 106,000 by 2011. This growth is expected to continue, reaching 189,000 by 2020. Buzzbike is aiming to put 4,500 bikes on the roads in year three representing under 3% of the addressable market.
Having suffered a sharp decline during the financial crisis, the UK advertising market recovered with spending reaching almost £14.0bn in 2013. Advertising spend is forecast to continue growing to reach £16.6bn by 2016, supported by the continuing recovery in the UK economy. Buzzbike is able to tap into both the £1.0bn outdoor advertising market, as well as mobile advertising, which is expected to grow by 35% in 2016 to over £4.4bn.
5. What’s great about your team and do you have a mentor?
Buzzbike is led by my co-founder Tom Hares, an advertising veteran. Hares has over 12 years' experience in the advertising and media industry having been managing direct of Media Arts Lab London's European and Middle Eastern operations, including exclusively running Apple’s media and creative advertising account.
I was formerly a chartered accountant at KPMG, before moving into corporate strategy with the firm and have over nine years of experience advising businesses, particularly in financial services.
Our mentors include Mike Cooper, CEO of Cooper Car Company and Cooper Bikes, and Brendan Nelson, former global chairman of financial services at KPMG and non-executive director at BP and RBS.
6. What key challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
We have faced two key challenges: manufacturing a premium bike that is aesthetically pleasing, robust and within budget, but that could also take on brand sponsorship in a meaningful way; and developing our proprietary app and technology platform that uses beacons in a way that has never been done before.
7. How have you funded your startup and why did you choose this route?
Initially self-funded with the founders committing approximately £50,000 to the business.
Recently the business took on seed investment from the Cooper family, which also manufactures the Buzzbike).
8. How do you market your business and how successful has it been so far?
Buzzbike is a B2B company and has leveraged our CEO’s network to develop relationships with all the large media agencies in London. Our rider network has been developed through a large number of press articles as well as word of mouth.
9. What are your plans for the future?
Our vision is to build the world's largest urban cycling community. Whilst our immediate focus is a roll out across London, we are seeking to launch in selected cities globally, democratising bike access and acting as a catalyst for urban cycling around the world.
Our launch in London alone is expected to put 6,500 bikes on the road delivering a highly profitable and cash generating business. Once we are established in London, we will look to expand rapidly around the world and we are already in discussions with two iconic global brands about expanding our fleet.
10. If you started again, is there anything you would do differently?
We'd build prototypes and test early with our target audience; there's no replacement for real-life testing. Secondly, we'd target media agencies from the outset rather than trying to target the end client directly.
11. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are starting a business?
There're several points I want to mention:
- Meet and have conversations with as many people as you can – you never know where it might go
- Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Make sacrifices – it will all be worth it
- Always take a moment to step back and look at what you’ve achieved. It will be stressful, but you’ll love every minute
- Actively seek feedback from as many people as you can. It helps produce more clarity and insight
Watch Buzzbike's Crowdcube pitch video below.
About Christopher Goodfellow
Journalist and editor with nine years' experience covering small businesses and entrepreneurship (ChrisGoodfellow.net). Follow his personal twitter account @CPGoodfellow and his events business @Box2Media. He has written for a wide range of publications in the UK, Ireland and Canada, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Vice magazine.