BimBimBikes Bike Rental Platform – When a hobby becomes a life’s business
This article is part of In Conversation with Contemporary Web Startups at the Web Summit
BimBimBikes is the first online platform for bike rental companies. It is currently present in 40 countries, with over 700 rental points in the BimBimBikes community of bike rental companies.
Its founder Michel Willems sat down with us to answer our questions:
Helena: What was the main inspiration for you to start this business?
Michel: I had a wonderful vacation in San Francisco. We booked a lovely apartment, we ate at great restaurants (with good online reviews). Then we went to a bike rental shop. They were out of bikes. As I didn’t want to disappoint my beautiful and lovely wife, I said I would handle the situation. I picked up my smartphone, looked for an independent bike booking site with reviews and availability…. and it wasn’t there. We found a rental bike after all, but that was the moment I thought: “I have to start a worldwide bike rental site.”
Helena: If I understand correctly, your main goal now is internationalization on a large scale. Are there other objectives you would like to achieve in the near future?
Michel: In three years time, we want to offer bike rental in every country that’s not a war-zone. 2016 will be focused on Europe, but every bicycle rental company on every continent is welcome. Furthermore, we want to partner with travel companies. It’s logical that they would put a link to bike rental in the confirmation mail of a hotel, train or flight booking. In the end, we want to have a very tight-knit bike rental company community, helping them with better bike purchasing deals with bicycle brands through group buying, as well as with free stock keeping and rental software.
Our next questions relates to Michel’s level of satisfaction with support from the Netherlands, where BimBimBikes is based.
Helena: What are the main reasons you are satisfied or unsatisfied with your government’s support? Does your country offer financial support, and have you evaluated the possibility of receiving any, should you need it in the future?
Michel: There are some subsidies or tax rebates for innovative companies in Holland. If we can apply for them, we will. Most important is the good infrastructure and ease of entrepreneurship in the Netherlands. There is not too much bureaucracy and a clear trustworthy business climate. We also really like the way the Dutch Ambassy helped us in Ireland!
Helena: Which city in your country do you consider the best for startups?
Michel: Most startups are set up in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful city, easy to live in, tolerant – and it has a great startup ecosystem. Tech startups can consider Eindhoven – a real knowledge center with its University of Technology and also quite a few serious tech companies that could help become the core of a tech ecosystem. We are in Rotterdam. It’s international, and has a no-nonsense workers’ mentality. Space is on average cheaper than in Amsterdam. There are a lot of smart young people from the Erasmus University and the University of Technology in nearby Delft. It has more space, more freedom, and is still international. However, Holland is small. Amsterdam and Rotterdam are just one hour apart. In a city like Paris, it takes you at least two hours to go from one side to the other during rush hour.
Helena: Since our blog is focused on recruitment and the world of work in general, my last question relates to your preferences between standard employees, freelance cooperation, or subcontracting. What are your preferences now, and what are your plans for the near future?
Michel: The core should always consist of very loyal dedicated team members. Quite often that’s easier with employees. Other projects could be picked up by a flexible network of freelancers, temporary team members and providers. We work a lot with interns from all over the world, as well.
Euspert would like to thank Michel for his sincere and detailed answers, and wish BimBimBikes every success in the future.