Bicycle subscription is gaining ground in the city

A guaranteed new bike for a fixed price per month. The concept is emerging, but what does the market notice?

Chances are you’ve seen a Swapfiets if you saw a bike with a blue front tire cycling around. Swapfiets offers new bikes for a fixed price per month. With success: since three Delft students started Swapfiets a couple of years ago, today around 44,000 bikes with blue front tires are cycling around Europe. But note, says Steven Uitenthuis of Swapfiets, it is not a lease. It is a subscription to a bicycle, just like Netflix and Spotify are also subscription models.

Waiting time

Now Swapfiets is based in 18 Dutch cities and the concept also runs in several German and Flemish cities. In some cities, there is already a waiting list. For example, if you want to register in Amsterdam for a ‘robust bike with coaster brake’ (15 euros per month) you will have to be patient for 2 weeks. Uitentuis: “Sometimes when it is too busy, the existing customers come first”.

Swapfiets’ bicycle servicing model has come relatively late if you think about it. Traditionally buying a new bike is a risky investment for city dwellers. The chance of theft is considerable and the possibility that the means of transport ends up in the canal is not a strong purchasing argument either. A second hand model is often the best option with the result that these bikes are offered for very high prices.  And exactly this was the gap in the market for Swapfiets. Uitentuis: “Own research learned that there are different reasons to choose a Swapfiets. Some say: my old bike was broken and I do not want any hassle, others to not have the money or do not want to spend their money on a new or second hand bike.

There is hardly any competition. Bikes can be leased at many places but that is more expensive and in most cases it concerns e-bikes. There are a few local providers. In Amsterdam Instabike offers a new bike for 15 euros, repair on location included.Also Easyfiets.nl in Leiden (and partly The Hague) offers bike subscriptions from 10 euro per month. The difference with Swapfiets is that Easyfiets uses second hand bikes: “With us you get a recycled bike, refurbished in our own social workshop,” says founder Kasper Richmond. At the moment there are just over a thousand bikes from Easyfiets and there are plans to expand. But all in due time, says Richmond: “The market is still quite large in Leiden.”

Bike market
The question is whether the traditional two-wheeler specialist is waiting for initiatives such as sharing or subscribing to a bicycle. Does a party like Swapfiets not disrupt the entire bicycle market? “No, they do not disrupt the market”, says Tom Huyskens from sector organization Bovag. “In the Netherlands, one million bicycles are sold every year, of which a third is electric, and on which an average of around 1,000 euros per bike is spent. 44,000 Bikes from Swapfiets are not seen as a threat.

Huyskens presumes that Swapfiets’s customer base consists mainly of students who do not have the need for a new bike to move around. “They are not the primary target group for the bicycle dealer.” According to the Bovag, concepts such as Swapfiets and Easyfiets fit into the trend of private leasing – also for cars, a growing market for some time now. Also the need for convenience (you do not have to fix a flat tire yourself) and no major direct investments are entirely in line with the spirit of the times. “I think the popularity of Swapfiets can also be an incentive for other initiatives.”

Ultimately it may be better for the bicycle specialist when more people experience such a simple ‘entry-level bicycle’, Huyskens argues. “A bicycle with a subscription can also be a stepping-stone to a quality bicycle of your own.”

Source (in Dutch): https://www.trouw.nl/home/het-fietsabonnement-rukt-op-in-de-stad~a8d884f5/

Rui Li

Studies / Background
I studied Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology, with a Masters in Strategic Product Design. Few years later I also got my MBA at INSEAD.

Why Ponooc?
Earlier I’ve worked for McKinsey and a fast paced scale-up in the bicycle industry. While I loved both, they both had things I liked that the other didn’t have. At Ponooc I find the best of both worlds: Intellectually challenging and fast paced work in an environment where both ventures and people grow.

Most important Ponooc principle
We are in this together

Skiing or snowboarding?
Proud self taught skier (lots of speed but no elegance whatsoever)

Hobbies or interests?
I am a fanatic DJ and used to perform for large crowds. Absolutely loved it, but it wasn’t sustainable to be a night owl too often. Another thing I like to do is to fully dedicate myself to a (sportive) challenge without any prior experience in it, like doing a full Iron Man triathlon. But it doesn’t always need to be extreme. I really enjoy cooking as well, and having a nice beer(s)/wine(s) with friends.

I live together with?
My girlfriend Sophia, my daughter Maya, and our oversized cats Stekker and Binkie

I learn by
Reading, doing, and a lot of reverse engineering. Not necessarily in this order.

My worst habit is
I laugh about my own jokes..

Steven Uitentuis

Studies / Background
I have my Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering at the TUDelft, with an exchange program of business adaministration at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. I completed my Master at Mechnical Engineering faculty in Production Engineering & Logistics.

Why Ponooc?
Why not?

Most important Ponooc principle
We are dedicated and follow through.
Starting is easy. Completing is difficult. I believe that you have to be fully dedicated to be successful.

First job
Restocking in a supermarket since I was 12 years old. But shout out to selling Ice cream on a boat on the lakes, which was the best paid activity ever.

Skiing or snowboarding?
In case of fresh powpow: snowboarding, but on slope: Skiing

Hobbies or interests?
I’m a big fan of croissants with butter & Hagelslag but I’m passionate about road cycling and like to run for a couple of miles.

My favorite book is
How to win friends and influence people written by Dale Carnegie. I learned more from this book than 4 years of high school.

I live together with?
My wife Wieke and our new roommate: our daughter Lara.

I learn by
Doing. Failing. Doing it again.

If I could put one message on a billboard for millions of people to see, it would be
Everyone has a hidden talent they don’t know, until Tequila.

Friso Bensdorp

Studies / Background
I studied Business Law at Groningen University and Msc Business Administration at Nyenrode University.

Why Ponooc?
I love working in venture capital. Working with passionate entrepreneurs.

Most important Ponooc principle
We are in this together.

First job
Picking flower bulbs in the summer vacation to earn my Technics stereo, which led to the start of a DJ business with a highschool friend. We soon learned that only playing Madonna and Michael Jackson songs is not going to make you successful in that business.

Skiing or snowboarding?
Hiking. But skiing is not too shabby either..

Hobbies or interests?
Reading non-fiction. Playing golf and tennis. Watching / following all sports with the exception of swimming, netball and And playing the occasional game of chess, with a good glass of wine.

My favorite book is
The art of the good life, by Rolf Dobelli. I usually do not read self-help books. But this little book is well written and full of wisdom. I regularly re-read this book to help me deal with my many shortcomings so that one day, in the distant future, I can say, like a famous Dutch soccer play once said: “before I make a mistake, I don’t make it”.

I live together with?
My wife Carolien and our three children Boele, Kate and Noep. And let’s not forget our labradoodle dog Toffee.

If I could put one message on a billboard for millions of people to see, it would be
"Life is too short to drink bad wine"

Max van Zoest

Studies / Background
I hold a bachelor’s in Econometrics from Maastricht university with an exchange at NTU Singapore and a master’s in computer science from TU Delft during which I studied philosophy and entrepreneurship at Melbourne University for one semester.
Before joining Ponooc, I worked at Google’s Cloud division in Dublin and interned at Mainport Innovation Fund.

Why Ponooc?
Because I strongly believe that great companies and sustainable companies are not mutually exclusive concepts. Working with amazing founders that share this conviction and helping them build companies that lead the sustainable economy of the future challenges and excites me.

Most important Ponooc principle
“We challenge our opinions” - at Ponooc we have strong ideas about how things will work out, but we are not afraid to put these ideas to the test and be proved wrong. I like to believe that this is how I approach life in general.

I learn by
Reading, trial, and error

First job
Painting wooden shoes (klompen) in a traditional wooden shoe factory (yes I’m Dutch).

Skiing or snowboarding?
Snowboarding and surfing when the slopes are green

My favorite book is
‘On the shortness of life’ by Seneca, which reminds me that the most valuable asset is time.

My worst habit is
Impatience

Maurits Koning

Studies / Background
I’ve got a bachelor in Philosophy and a master in Finance. For some an unusual combination, for me less so. In fact, the longer I thought about it, almost all disciplines find their origin in philosophy. Especially ethics, philosophy of science and political philosophy have my utmost interest. And yes, I do use the concepts of these fields in my work everyday.

Why Ponooc?
Although mobility is as old as people, it’s fascinating to see how so many bright people are continuously innovating the way we transport (ourselves). Being able to contribute to these great ideas and turning them - together with our teams - into real value is what keeps me going every single day!

Most important Ponooc principle
“We’re dedicated and follow through”. We support - in good and bad times - the teams we invest in. We do not give up easily, but don’t walk away from difficult discussions either. In negation lies the basis for the better answer.

First job
Driving a ride-on mower. Will be probably my last one as well!

Skiing or snowboarding?
I like technique, speed, elegance and people that don’t ruin slopes. You can do the math yourself.

Hobbies or interests?
Participate actively and passively (i.e. watch) sports! From the Masters to paris-Roubaix and from FC Groningen to Max Verstappen.

I live together with? 
My beautiful wife Renee and fatboy-cat Abu & real-cat Zaza

My worst habit is
Swearing. Hands down.