Rob McPherson lived in Amsterdam for a while and, like any self-respecting resident of the Dutch city, he got everywhere via bike. When he moved back to the States he looked around at the city bikeshare programs being implemented and began to wonder if, maybe, it could all be done a little bit better.
The idea goes like this: Cities are spending a bunch of money to put in bikeshare infrastructure, like those special racks and the (extra heavy) bikes. But in most places, bikes and public parking racks already exist, so what if we could use existing hardware to create a bikeshare system?
McPherson teamed up with Justin Molineaux (CTO), and together they’re creating Baas Bikes. The 1776-based startup is sort of like the Car2Go of bikeshare, but also with the aspiration that individuals can rent out their own bikes on the service to make a little extra cash. That’s still to come, though.
For now, the company has a stable of about 50 bikes outfitted with special Bluetooth-enabled locks they can deploy in an area. Users with the Baas Bikes app can find a bike near them, unlock via the app and ride. No need to find space in a special rack when they’re done — riders can simply use the app to lock the bike to a regular bike rack. Pricing is by the hour.
The Baas team is targeting college campuses to start, with the idea that the model could also be used in other self-contained communities like summer camps or corporate campuses. This kind of environment is helpful with the self-regulation of bike location because people are constantly going to and from a central location, but McPherson and Molineaux think it could help the business model in other ways, too.
“The whole thing could potentially be student-run,” Molineaux said. “Bike maintenance could be a student job.” Baas also wants to focus on word-of-mouth, student-led marketing efforts.
Thus far Baas Bikes has done two short tests — one at Miami over the winter and the other at the University of Maryland. Over this time the team has changed the design of the lock at least once and learned how to improve weatherproofing. It’s a work in progress, but so far so good.
Another benefit to building a bikeshare without (much) new infrastructure? “We can iterate more easily,” McPherson said.
But, Technical.ly wanted to know, why wouldn’t a college student just buy their own, cheap, bike? While that will always remain an option, McPherson and Molineaux are hoping to pair convenience with cool to capture the market. With a Baas Bike, they argue, you can ride around on a great-looking bike without any of the responsibility or maintenance that goes into actually owning your own bike.