There are few impressions worse than returning to the spot you locked up your motorcycle after a fun evening and insuring nothing. As a San Francisco cyclist, Ive had my stomach sink more than once at that deterring sight. Bikeep, a startup founded in Estonia, is looking to bring its connected locking tech to the Country to address the motorcycle theft epidemic.
This morning at San Franciscos 16 th St. Mission BART station, Bikeep built its highest profile U.S. deployment to date a row of locks, underground, inside the bustling station.
Kristjan Lind, CEO of Bikeep, told me that hes overseen the rollout of 1,000 smart-alecky locks throughout Europe and after thousands and thousands of employs , not a single bicycle has been stolen from one of his locks.
Bikeeps locks are activated with Clipper cards( the Bay Areas reloadable transit cards ). After a short sign on process, scanning a nearby QR code with your smartphone, Clipper cards become associated with the locks so that only you can access your property.
The sturdy metal locking mechanism fits around most bicycles. I tested my larger e-bike and was able to make it work, though I couldnt manage to get both my frame and wheel locked simultaneously. Another spectator tried to lock his mini foldable motorcycle and faced a similar situation.
To cater toward the growing e-bike community, Lind plans to equips some of his locks with chargers in the future. His squad is also working on a mobile app that could allow users to remotely unlock a motorcycle, if say a friend nearby wanted to borrow it.
Lind tells me that a motorcycle sharing community has developed in Europe whereby people give their bikes out for fund during the day when theyre not in use. Consolidating that process around a single digital marketplace matching and payments app could help get peer-to-peer bike sharing off the ground in the United States.
Other startups like Ofo and Mobike in China have made a business out of providing bikes on-demand in high volume metropolitan areas. U.S. efforts like New York Citys well known Citi motorcycle share program are considered success but theyre still fundamentally centralized systems that require the maintenance of big bicycle fleets.
Municipalities today can either buy Bikeeps locks upfront or pay for them on a month to month basis. According to Lind, most of his clients have opted to pay upfront.
With only a small amount of angel fund, the company has been able to bootstrap itself to traction though its going to need to diversify its revenue streams to attract institutional capital, a aim Lind is actively pursuing.
Once the mobile app is pushed out, Bikeep will be able to collect money on advance and longer term reservations. A commuter that exits the same BART station every day might pay for a permanent place to maintain his or her bike and a family taking a trip might want to reserve a few spaces in advance to ensure spots are available. Both of these services could demand additional money.
Beyond those short term aims, I could see Bikeep collecting a transactional fee on a hypothetical Uber/ Airbnb-style peer-to-peer bike sharing network. These service oriented revenue streams could help the company escape the recurring revenue impediments that handicap many hardware startups. That said, scaling lock deployment is no easy feat, but even if the company sped that process up, culture adoption is the real bottle neck.
Lind says that the U.S. reminds him a lot of Europe in its early days of embracing the cycling lifestyle. The Bay Area is home to one of the most active cycling communities, so fostering that by providing additional safety and security can only help to grow Bikeeps market opportunity.