Bike concierge wants to take business on road
Premium content from Boston Business Journal by Kyle Alspach, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Friday, July 27, 2012, 6:00am EDT - Last Modified: Friday, July 27, 2012, 2:13pm EDT
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="550"] "Our novel concierge approach and membership program
give us a unique advantage, which will allow us
to succeed in new markets." LeRoy Watkins | Founder of MyBike[/caption]
Two years after Boston’s MyBike Inc. launched a bicycle repair concierge service that it says is one-of-a-kind, the company is now looking to leverage the service into becoming the first nationwide bike repair brand.
The service — which picks up a customer’s bike to bring to the shop, then returns it — is paired with scheduling software developed by the company. MyBike founder LeRoy Watkins says those two differentiators should allow the company to scale in a sector that has never managed to turn out a dominant national brand.
“No one does pickup and delivery bike repair through the Internet,” Watkins said, saying that the software, in particular, “just makes the idea of expanding a lot simpler and a lot more manageable.”
Watkins, a Northeastern University finance graduate in 2004, launched MyBike in 2005 to serve as a bike rental service — with the twist that the company would also earn revenue by placing ads on the bikes.
Along with ads from the likes of Extra Space Storage and Hello Kitty, MyBike has had a deal with Focus Features since 2010 that has landed ads for movies including “Greenberg” and “Hanna” on the company’s 200-bike fleet.
MyBike, whose 2,000-square-foot shop is located on East 2nd St. in South Boston with four employees, introduced the concierge service in 2010. Customers within 10 miles of the shop can get bike pickup and delivery wherever they choose; the service is free for MyBike members and $10 each way for non-members.
Watkins said he doesn’t consider himself a “bicycle guy” — he got into the business because of the idea of placing ads on bikes — and notes that he has had no interest in launching and scaling a bike repair shop if it wasn’t strongly differentiated.
“Trying to expand in the bike repair market and competing with established bike shops head-on is a losing strategy,” he said. “Our novel concierge approach and membership program give us a unique advantage, which will allow us to succeed in new markets.”
The company has now identified several markets in the Northeast, including New York City, that could serve as the first phase of MyBike’s expansion outside of Boston, Watkins said. The goal is to open the new location as soon as spring 2013.
“It will be interesting to see if the service works,” said Matthew McMullen, business development associate at Natick-based Landry’s Bicycles, which operates four Boston area bike sales and repair shops. Many cyclists, he said, “want to talk about their bike. They want that conversation.”
Part of the reason being: there’s a lot of trust required in giving someone your bike to work on, and customers also learn a lot by visiting in person with the mechanic to see what the issues are with their bikes, McMullen said.
“The conversation and education are really a part of the business model,” he said.
MyBike has raised $100,000 to date from angel investors, who include Alex Holz, co-founder of RightsFlow, a music licensing technology company acquired by Google this year, and Igor Alves, co-founder and CEO of visual media production company DreamPlay Productions.