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Young couples on Pedego rental electric assist bicycles.
Young couples on Pedego rental electric assist bicycles.

119 Down, 256 to Go

'It's Not Share of Wallet Anymore; It's Share of Heart' states Firms of Endearment - How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, and that's exactly what ePEDALER has set out to do.

119. That's the number of investor groups that have reviewed and decided to not fund ePEDALER, our electric-assist bicycle rental startup.

256. The number remaining to review the three-page term sheet we created for a Chicago-led network of private investors and investor groups.

Here's another number: 68. That's the number of reviewers still waiting to take a look at the concept of renting e-bike to cruise ship passengers as they disembark for their onshore excursions in the Caribbean, starting on Aruba. Sixty-eight puts us half way through the list of 375 members in the syndicate, and half way is the point at which, they tell us, all of the startups they have accepted for review have been funded.

So, to put a positive spin on the situation - rejection being something all startups experience - we've (1) shared our story with more than a 100 investors and (2) we're that much closer to being funded.

And what are we looking for? $300K to set up and run for the first year our pilot rental system on the cruise ship dock in Oranjestad, Aruba. Given that in 2012-2013 tourism season, more than half million people walked right past where the Port Authority wants to locate our 'pod', we're confident that if just 2-3% of them decide to see the city or hit the beaches on our electric-assist bicycles, we can break even in the first year.

The plan is to source our e-bikes from established, quality manufacturers: Currie, Pedego, Prodeco. These we will rent in two hour time blocks at competitive rates: the more blocks you book, the better the hourly rate. Each rental will start with a fresh battery that has been solar-charged from the ten 230W solar panels on the roof of our converted 20 ft shipping container. The panels will charge a battery bank during the day and the bank will trickle charge the bike batteries over night. We're offering personal mobility that is about as green as you can possibly offer, from the resources used to energy consumed.

We're doing it with an ulterior motive in mind. Yes, we want to make money for ourselves and our investors. But more importantly, we want to get people to start thinking differently about how they get around and letting them rent an e-bike for a few hours is one of the best ways to do just that.

Let me give you a very recent example, like as of yesterday.

An acquaintance of mine that I met locally through the Kauffman Foundation's One Million Cups initiative told me Wednesday morning that he and his wife rented a pair of Pedego electric-bikes while they were in Newport Beach, California last week. They loved the experience, so he asked me how he could buy a pair here in Omaha, since none of the local bike shops carry e-bikes. Seated next to me was a lady with a local venture capital firm. Totally unsolicited, his comment reinforced one of the key points I make in the 11-slide 'pitch deck' I had shared with her: people won't buy something they don't know about; and American's don't know about electric-assist bicycles, much less have actually tried them. It's the classic Catch-22: dealers won't carry them because their customers don't know to ask for them.

That's where ePEDALER comes into the picture. Whether they rent an e-bke from us or not, we've just introduced half a million people getting off and on their cruise ship on Aruba to the idea. Now they are aware; now we've planted the seed for thought.

Of course, ePEDALER has aspirations beyond the rental market, but I'll leave that for another discussion. I decided to share this "Status Report" with you because of something I read last night in "Firms of Endearment - How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose."

Citing Daniel Pink's Concept Age hypothesis from his book 'A Whole New Mind', the authors write that companies must connect with the six senses in how they design their product, market it, and relate to their customers. The six senses are design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

Briefly, these are defined as follows:

Design: paying attention to aesthetics when carrying out any task.

Story: conveyance of information to consumers, employees ('crew members' in ePEDALER's case), and others through story telling techniques.

Symphony: the ability to put together pieces to create a holistic picture.

Empathy: identifying with an understanding another person's circumstances, feelings and motives.

Play: putting fun tint every activity to enhance both pleasure and creativity.

Meaning: extending the value of an activity beyond the moment and self.

As I read this last night, I mentally ticked off all the points in my mind as I think about what ePEDALER is and what I envision it can be. The 'aesthetics' will be there in the design of the 'pod' and its 'symphony' with its surroundings, its services, and its mission. I've already outlined the 'story' in the form of tour maps and mobile apps and GoPro videos shot at ground level from bike handlebars and overhead from toy-like drones.

'Empathy' comes in the form of realizing that the average cruise ship passenger is a baby boomer like me, over 50 and a bit out of shape, but who is increasingly interested more in the experiential moments of life than the material.

'Play', of course, is obvious; what's more fun than climbing back on a bike after four or five decades of riding around in a car, while taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Caribbean, something that's hard to do from the backseat of a rancid taxi cab or smoky tour bus.

'Meaning' comes from the simple realization that I just got around on a combination of my own 'steam,' assisted by solar power. That's a revelation of and by itself. For at least some of the time, you realize, I don't need that 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg) hunk of steel, rubber, glass, and plastic on four wheels to move my body from point A to point B. There are times when two wheels are far more fun and cost effective.

That's what my friend from the One Million Cups program here in Omaha discovered, enough so that one ride has inspired him to look into buying a pair of e-bikes for himself and his wife.

My aim is for ePEDALER to become the catalyst for that mind shift, starting in the Caribbean, the top cruise destination on the planet.

Posted By: Bill Moore [22-May-2014]

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