Airbnb-style bike rental platform Spinlister relaunches via Oprah’s favorite bike business

Arrive in a new city, and itis useful for finding your way around public transport, but youYou will probably soon want to free yourself from fixed schedules and routes. You could rent a car, but city driving sucks. The walk is great, but slow. Cycling is the best option for many – it represents freedom. The city bike is fast, personal and truly door-to-door. You can scratch the itch by renting a self-service bike in these cities with enough light to invest in them, but youare limited to pick up and drop off at road terminals. Dockless bikes are more flexible, but with their rough ride, theyre best for short trips only. What would be ideal would be the ability to jump on your own bike. This is often impossible, so the best thing to do would be to rent a lookalike – or even a superbike – from spinlisterthe Airbnb-style peer-to-peer bike rental service.

But the service closed in April last year, citing an inability to raise new funds. Thistrades again tthanks to Oprah’s favorite philanthropic e-bike brand. More on that later.

Liquid capital

Spinlister has come back from the dead before. It was founded in 2011 by New Yorkers in their twenties Will Dennis and Jeff Nohraising $450,000 in seed funding, including from a Brazilian alcohol entrepreneur Marcelo Loureiro (He made his money distributing the Brazilian rum-style spirit Cachaça in the United States, eventually selling his business to Campari Milano.) The following year, Dennis and Noh renamed web service only as Liquid and opened it up to peer-to-peer sharing of other products as well as bikes. Loureiro balked, and by 2013 he had acquired control of the business, moving it to California, hiring new employees and adding a smartphone app.

At its peak, the platform had bike listings in 63 countries, with the majority of peer-to-peer rentals taking place in bike-friendly cities such as Portland, Oregon.

Prior to the global spread of dockless bikesharing by Chinese companies Ofo and Mobike, Spinlister collaborated with Dutch bike brand VanMoof to create a dockless-style “smart bike” that it was hoped would be purchased by consumers to hit the streets of the city. , with renter revenue split between bike owners and Spinlister. The bikes were launched at the South by Southwest music and tech festival in Austin, Texas in March 2015.

Private bikes were planned to be scattered across towns, located, and unlocked using the Spinlister smartphone app. the Vanmoof/Spinlister bike featured a built-in Bluetooth lock and also boasted anti-theft wireless tracking, an easily adjustable seatpost, and an integrated pedal-operated lighting system.

While these bikes bristled with the kind of tracking and locking technology that would later be put to good use by Chinese dockless companies, too few were sold to make it a viable project for Vanmoof or Spinlister. (An updated version of the bike is currently available through Vanmoofon an outright purchase or subscription model.)

Meanwhile, Spinlister’s original funding model was unraveling. Revenues have never been as high as initially expected. While homeowners could make a fortune renting on Airbnb, there wasn’t the same level of demand — or profit per rental — for bike owners looking to make money on Spinlister.


Part of the model’s beauty, but also its Achilles’ heel, was the diverse range of bikes available from Spinlister’s private rental companies. You could log in with a Long John cargo bike in London for $30 then, with a friend later the same day, rent a Tandem Viking Tarantino of Chelsea for $50. A family group could hire a Swiss-made ZEM four-person bike of a tenant in San Francisco. (All of these bikes are reportedly available for rent on Spinlister’s current website, but the owners haven’t logged onto the site for a few years.)

Demand for such exoticism was low, but monthly rentals for even bread-and-butter bikes — nondescript cheap mountain bikes, for example — were never stellar.

Instead, Loureiro pinned his hopes on bike shops. Spinlister Pro was introduced to independent bike dealers in the United States and those who signed up were thrilled with the demo bike rental and fleet management service.

“It was a great system,” recalls Joseph Nocella, owner of 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn, New York. Speaking to the industry magazine bicycle retailerhe said: “[Spinlister] took a 17-18% discount on each rental but we managed the price and didn’tI have nothing to do. We didn’t need to use a credit card for the full deposit on a bike or other crazy things with rentals. It was a great way to post the bikes we had. The software was awesome and they were really responsive.

Nocella added: “It was almost too good to be true. He fit in with our [till] system. There were no downsides. Thisit’s rare to say that.

However, too few bike shops signed up, and in March last year Spinlister was running empty.

Loureiro sent an e-mail Spinlister’s community of advertisers, rental companies and bike shop partners:

“I don’t have any good news, after 5 years since we relaunched the Spinlister platform on the market, we will unfortunately be shutting down our services on April 22, 2018. We have not been able to raise any new funds, so our board of investors decided the best option was to close up shop.

… To Story Bikes

Loureiro returned to Brazil and is now CEO of Grin, an electric scooter rental brand. He is still a minority shareholder of Spinlister but, since September 2018, the company is owned by Marc Gustafsonfounder of the Los Angeles-based e-bike start-up History bikes who donates a non-electric bicycle through the World Bicycle Relief non-profit for the use of African children for every $1,650 Story Bike sold.

History Bikes/Oprah Magazine

Gustafson founded the company straight out of college in 2016 and last year a Story Bikes stepper electric bike was included in Oprah Winfrey’s “favorite things”, a list of 107 personally chosen gift items.

My neighbor in Santa Barbara makes this battery-powered beauty,” Winfrey said of her Story Bike.

“I like mine because I can pedal up to 20 miles per hour and for every model sold, a non-electric model is given to someone in Africa, South America or Southeast Asia.”

Third time lucky?

Before Spinlister’s demise, Gustafson discussed getting Story Bikes e-bikes on the peer-to-peer service, but negotiations came to an abrupt halt when Loureiro announced the platform would be shut down. Gustafson sensed an opportunity because he had “already started down the road of smart locks and fleet management for Story Bikes.”

He added: “Marcelo and I had the same vision of what Spinlister could really be and after lengthy negotiations I completed the acquisition in September last year.”

At the end of December, Spinlister was resurrected, with a email to community members ask “are you ready to get back in the saddle?” Gustafson promoted that Spinlister was “getting a tune-up” and would be relaunching in January.

“We’ve spent the last few months working to improve our platform and make it even easier for you to ride or rent this bike,” he wrote.

“We will be introducing new features including remote locking and direct to your home deliveries.”

Gustafson told FORBES: “The biggest hurdle for Spinlister in the past was the need for a face-to-face transaction for someone to start a rental. By combining technology with the large Spinlister community, we can really drive growth.

He said he has partnered with hardware and technology companies to create Bluetooth-equipped and GPS-enabled locks that will allow renters – private or business – to leave their bikes listed on the street.

Gustafson is also relaunching Spinlister Pro, focused on bike shops.

“I’m in the process of entering into a partnership that will triple the number of bike shops on Spinlister,” he said.

“Spinlister Pro will be a way to provide more options to users and grow the network. We will not only provide stores with a platform for their rentals, but we will help them with SEO to really increase their rental business.

Spinlister is also launching a fleet management solution for companies or communities wishing to have a private fleet of bicycles or scooters in free or paid service.

“It will be with smart-lock technology,” Gustafson said.

“We’ve partnered with a co-living and co-working space that will launch later this month.”

He concluded: “It could be a bike-sharing solution for residential complexes, hotels, schools or even entire cities.”

With the long-awaited demise of China’s bike share companies, Spinlister could perhaps enter the same space, but with a more diffusely owned and operated model.

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