COMPANIES & STRATEGIES - TECHNOLOGY

Digital startup

Ourbike: a platform for renting bicycles



“I’ve worked in marketing for different startups, but my private passion was always biking,” said Mathias Keune, who moved to Luxembourg from Germany five years ago. Photo: Ourbike

“I’ve worked in marketing for different startups, but my private passion was always biking,” said Mathias Keune, who moved to Luxembourg from Germany five years ago. Photo: Ourbike

Got a bike in your garage? Would you be willing to rent it out by the hour if all the transactional legwork were done for you?

Mathias Keune, cofounder of the Luxembourg startup Ourbike (ourbike.lu), is betting that many people will answer “yes” to these questions. “Sometimes it’s not that easy,” he explained to Delano, “if you invite friends over from another country and you want to do a bike tour… because they didn’t bring their own bikes.”

Via the Ourbike platform, such users could be connected with local bike-owners who are willing to rent out their wheels. The owner gets a bit of money; the bicycle gets more use; and the renter gets to ride.

Keune was reluctant to make the analogy, but ultimately conceded to its explanatory power: “It’s like Airbnb for bikes.”

Prices and insurance

Bike owners on the platform will be able to set their own prices, Keune explained, though the company will also offer guidance based on the quality of the bike and marketplace norms.

“On average the price is between €2 and €6 per hour,” Keune said, “though some people have professional racing bikes and can ask for more.”

Owners can also offer special deals or discounts, for example on rentals of 12 hours or a whole weekend.

Ourbike will make its money by taking a 17% transaction fee on rentals.

As for insurance, the platform will firstly use a trust-and-reputation model familiar from apps like Airbnb. Users will be verified via personal ID and a working phone number (given to the owner), while a review-and-rating system will help hold all parties accountable.

More concretely, Keune is in touch with two Luxembourg-based insurers and is planning to eventually offer an all-inclusive package that covers the full value of the bike. That would add, he estimated, not more than a euro to the final rental price.

A secondary goal of the platform will be to gather statistics on bike model popularity, bike routes and rider habits. Useful, Keune said, for marketing purposes but also for the benefit of the mobility ministry in Luxembourg. Photo: Ourbike

A secondary goal of the platform will be to gather statistics on bike model popularity, bike routes and rider habits. Useful, Keune said, for marketing purposes but also for the benefit of the mobility ministry in Luxembourg. Photo: Ourbike

Down the road

The startup is still in its early stages: Keune and cofounder Jennifer Heine have created a demo version, which has about ten users so far, and are eying the spring of 2022 for an official launch.

The company has also been pre-selected for the next edition of Luxinnovation’s Fit 4 Start programme, for which five startups out of 27 in the ICT category will be chosen. Whether Ourbike is selected or not, Keune said, the springtime launch is still the goal.

Beyond its core user-to-user functionality, the startup has a few more plans. For example, it aims to integrate professional bike shops into the product via a premium version: for a monthly fee they can list ten bikes on the app. “I don’t want to compete with existing bike shops in Luxembourg,” Keune said. “What we’d like to do is help them digitalise their business by offering them our platform.”

On the same principle, but further into the future, Keune also foresees selling the platform as a white-label service to universities or companies that wish to set up their own bikeshare programmes.

And finally, the entrepreneur is working on an automated locking system. Once operational, the bike could be locked/unlocked with a smartphone an unlimited number of times within the duration of the rental, meaning that the whole exchange wouldn’t require any human interaction.

“But we don’t want to make people avoid personal contact,” Keune hedged, “because that’s an interesting aspect of this whole concept: you get in touch with people who like to ride bikes, and maybe next time you do a ride together. We’d like to create a community.”