Startup Rethinking Bicycles in Taiwan

Startup Rethinking Bicycles in Taiwan

What you need to know

Ten questions with the co-founder of College Bikes.

A few years ago, College Bike co-founder Shawn Chi (紀翔) thought the bicycles available for students in Taiwan were “ugly” and “crappy,” he set out to change that.

The News Lens International (TNLI): What is the origin of College Bike and when did you come up with the idea for the business?

Shawn Chi: College Bike started in National Taiwan University (NTU) in 2014. The kicking-off point was that I, a sophomore then, found the bikes available around NTU either ugly or crappy, or often both. I tried to buy a good-looking, simple, stylish, and affordable bike online. And I discovered there was none. It’s ridiculous. What I want is just a nice bike for me to commute to school.

That’s when I saw there was demand in the market not being met. So I started to design colorful, good-looking, stylish, medium-quality, affordable student bikes and sell them online.

TNLI: Can you briefly describe what College Bike does?

Chi: College Bike is a brand which believes a bike is more than just a commuting tool, but an accessory that creates a city lifestyle. To provide that lifestyle, we combine software technology and the internet with hardware bike manufacturing, creating an innovative business model – in short, the “online bike IKEA.” People customize their ideal bike online, order it, and easily assemble, fix, upgrade their bike at home.

TNLI : What is the current company status, including the scale, employees, and annual sales volume?

Chi: The College Bike team is currently preparing to launch this “hardware software integration” project. There are five people on the team. And for the last year, we sold almost 2,000 bikes online with almost no resource. We are looking for first round investors now.

TNLI: Who is the target audience in terms of nationality, gender and age? Are there any reasons for the choice?

Chi: Our TA “now” would be college students (as our name says). However, our long-term TA will be all bike-commuting citizens in a city, including students, busy white-collars, housewives, elderly and so on. We plan to design just-the-right bike for each specific group.

TNLI: Who are the competitors of your company? What makes College Bike different from other assembled bicycle retailers?

Chi: There are several global city bike brands such as Tokyo bike (Japan), 700 bike (China), Freddie Grubb (England), Linus (U.S.). But none of them applied the concept of “hardware software integration” in their business model. College Bike will be the first online-oriented bike brand in the world, just like Warby Parker (U.S.) in the glasses market. We will be cheaper, faster and more efficient.

TNLI: What do you consider to be your most successful accomplishment so far and how did the team achieve it?

Chi: In our first six months we launched a “limited amount online sale” activity at NTU and it went viral. College Bikes sold out all 340 bikes in 30 minutes all over Taiwan. Looking back now, I think we really did well in storytelling and marketing.

TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges for College Bike so far and how did the company tackle them?

Chi: The challenge has always been the limited resources we have. We got it all planned out, but basically we have no money to implement them. Therefore, we are currently reaching out to investors.

TNLI: Is there any field that College Bike is focusing on in the future?

Chi: As I mentioned, the “all-online + DIY Service” business model is our main focus now. Besides that, we also look to apply big-data technology to manufacturing management, as well as product design. The online model gives us the privilege to collect all the data, enabling further data analysis to guide all the manufacture and design activities.

TNLI: What does College Bike hope to achieve in the long-term?

Chi: College Bike aims to become the online IKEA in the global bike market. Our product line would be complete, diversified and well-designed for the city biking experience, at an affordable price level for the masses. College Bike has access to all the strong bike-manufacturing resources in Taiwan and China. We believe we can make it happen.

TNLI: What may be College Bike's most exciting upcoming apps/plans?
As I mentioned, the full customization and DIY assemble online service is, we believe, the next big innovative thing in the city bike market. We plan to expand to Europe as the first step. The team members are all excited about it.

Editor: Edward White