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“Psst, Fiets kopen?” “Hey man, wanna buy a bike?” Everyone who has been in Amsterdam for longer than a few days has heard a shady person say these words to them at least once. But if the three student-entrepreneurs from LegalBikes have got anything to say about it, the city’s drug addicts are about to lose their main source of income. Bike shops selling second hand bikes for 150 euro and onwards should also fear for their income, as LegalBikes wants to make it easy for everyone to buy a cheap bike, anywhere in the city at anytime, and without fear of getting a criminal record. They are even getting support from Hewlett Packard Enterprise to get them ready for business.
The idea was born out of a frustration familiar to many students: your bike just got stolen, you don’t want a brand new one as that’ll only get nicked straight away, you don’t want to fork out 150 euros for a second hand bike from a shop, but you also don’t want to succumb to the temptation of buying a stolen bike from a junkie from 20 euro. What other options do you have? That’s when UvA Minor Entrepreneurship students Gijs de Groot, Julie van Lieshout and Friso Gramsma found out about the city’s bicycle depot. Friso explains: “Every week there are about 1000 unclaimed bikes that this depot needs to get rid of, as they’ve been there too long. This amounts to 50.000 per year. Some of these are old barrels, but some of them are in great condition, or only need a little bit of fixing”.
Locks, stock and two working lights
The depot already has a deal with a company called TradeFRM, that LegalBikes buys its bikes from. They then sell them with prices starting from 69 euro. Gijs adds: “Our target audience of students and expats don’t care if they don’t have a brand new nicely painted bike”. Julie explains LegalBikes initially started selling bikes through Facebook by setting up times and delivery points with customers, but they are already struggling to keep up with the demand. “We’ll now just have facebook posts saying ‘this bike is at this & that location’”. The idea is to have an app or operational website running asap. The next step is to have supply points with locked LegalBikes throughout Amsterdam. You pay online for the bike you want and you get the digits for the number lock. (Yes these bikes come with locks, and even lights!)
Fear for criminal record
Gijs reckons that although LegalBikes main selling point will be the hassle-free buying process, they have another big advantage over the city’s infamous illegal bikes: “Nowadays the cops are actually out checking that junkies aren’t selling bikes to students, and fining the buyers. That has made a lot of students wary about buying a bike from a junkie; if you get caught, you get a criminal record for buying stolen goods. That record can follow you for the rest of your career. And besides that, it just doesn’t feel right”. Yet Gijs also wants to make sure they are not getting into scaremongering, so LegalBikes is all about ease: “We are convinced there is a huge group of students willing to pay a bit more for a bike as long as it is easy and legal”.
Heavy lifting and bootstrapping
Before all the above happens, the student-entrepreneurs want to make sure their MVP is perfect before they officially launch. Friso, the company’s in-house handyman who does bike-repairs where necessary, is currently building the Legalbikes app through digital innovation studio Bizboard. He is clearly doing a lot of the heavy lifting – literally, as when we meet them he carries a backpack full of locks and lights. Once the MVP is ready it’s time to look for funding: “So far we have been bootstrapping full on”, Friso explains, “We know we have a very scalable model but we do need an investment first to make this happen”. For a clever concept like this, funding may not be far away. LegalBikes is actually looking at Town Hall as their first possible investor: “We may be eligible for municipal funding for actively decreasing bicycle theft”, Gijs reveals.
Professional Support from experienced professionals
The Minor Entrepreneurship appointed Engelbert Pelster and Paul Herijgers from Hewlett Packard Enterprise as mentors for LegalBikes. Engelbert explains how he supports the young entrepreneurs: “I’m the guy who hands them the angle grinder”, he jokes. “I encourage and motivate them, and I provide access to a large network. I also push them in the right direction by evaluating their business ideas”. “Evaluating our plans? You mean shooting holes in them”, Friso responds. “Every now and then I am a bit of a pain in the ass, but that’s just to help them get further along”, Engelbert assures. In all seriousness, the three Junior-Entrepreneurs admit they are very happy with the guidance they are receiving: “At the University they don’t really prepare you for life as an entrepreneur, so this is really valuable”.