After fleeing UMD, Baas Bikes assesses what's next - Technical.ly DC

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May 13, 2016 9:42 am

After fleeing UMD, Baas Bikes assesses what’s next

The bikeshare startup was in conflict with another outfit in College Park. It didn't work out, here's how Baas is dealing with it.

A Baas Bikes bike.

(Courtesy photo)

Remember Baas Bikes? Yes, the 1776-based startup that thinks bikeshare can be made more efficient using existing infrastructure with a little technology sprinkled in.

Well, less than a month after launching a second concept-and-product trial run at the University of Maryland, the company is back to the drawing board. On May 2, Rob McPherson and Justin Molineaux officially collected their 50 bikes and retreated from campus.

The issue? Well, technically, Baas Bikes didn’t have permission to be there. It all came to a head because College Park just rolled out its own bikeshare program — mBike. Along with this new bikeshare comes a new noncompete clause, one Molineaux said the Maryland Department of Transportation found Baas to be in conflict with.

Molineaux admits that Baas did not have a vendor agreement with the university. But he refuted the claim that this was a strategic move. A recent DC Inno article suggested that the company was operating under the “philosophy of forgiveness being easier to ask for than permission,” a la Uber, but Molineaux offered another narrative.

The Baas team spent “quite a bit of time” trying to figure out what vendor agreement would be necessary in their case, he said. As he wrote in an email to Technical.ly:

On UMD’s websites, we found plenty of information about how to bid on contracts for which the University is seeking a vendor (i.e. janitorial services, video production services, parking garage repairs, etc), but nothing about credentials required for companies like ours, that provide their services directly to students, at no cost to the University.

Molineaux claims the company offered to apply for a vendor agreement as soon as it became obvious that they needed one, but “never received a response.”

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Be that as it may, the reality is that the young company will need to approach their next rollout differently. So what did Molineaux and McPherson learn from their weeks at UMD? And what happens now?

What’s next?

Despite the fact Baas Bikes would have loved to keep operating at UMD, Molineaux told Technical.ly that even a couple short weeks were great for proof of concept and data collection. The service saw healthy signup of over 300 people and, critically, discovered that 85 percent of signups heard about the service through word-of-mouth. For Molineaux, this means the company’s concept of student-run advertising efforts could become a reality.

As for what’s next, Molineaux told Technical.ly that Baas Bikes is in conversation with some area universities. They don’t plan to relaunch until mid- to late-July, though, as college campuses are currently wrapping up their spring semesters and will be less busy over the coming months.

The data the company collected during its weeks at UMD also help as a selling point to new campuses — “it’s much easier to show a university that our system can and does work, and should be given real consideration,” Molineaux wrote.

Oh, and what are they doing with the bikes? Molineaux told Technical.ly the startup has been renting out a couple storage containers in Reston for a while now. Apparently the storage facility is an “interesting” place — it’s home to a few food trucks, contractors and lawn-care companies and operated by a guy with “impeccable taste in music.”

That bike life could be worse.

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