weBike: QUEST Alumni Changing the Landscape of Public Transportation
Article by Brad Eisenberg (Q14)
We started with a small, simple idea: what if getting to class could be… better?
In the fall of 2007, then QUEST Director Dr. J. Gerald Suarez introduced a new course into the QUEST curriculum: Systems Thinking for Managerial Decision Making. The goal of the class was simple enough – identify a problem/project/cause that you are passionate about, and using the concepts of systems thinking, determine how you can solve that problem in a meaningful way. The simplicity of the class was its greatest strength; there were no constraints – no competition guidelines, no team-building requirements, no clients. Just a project, a passion, and the tools and teachings to make systemic change.
Our team, comprised of Allie Armitage (Cohort 13), Vlad Tchompalov (Cohort 14), Jacob Portnoy (honorary QUESTee), and myself (Cohort 14), found common ground in weBike among our shared goals and passions. With Allie, it was looking into green sustainable marketing techniques. For me, it was pursuing technological solutions to bike parking. Vlad had just come back from a trip in Europe, where he saw bike sharing being implemented there. Jake loved the opportunity to apply new technologies to business concepts. We took all these passions and put them towards the goal of improving our community’s transportation.
Now five years later, our project created in that very first 390 class has become one of the few QUEST projects to grow legs beyond the classroom and become a revenue-generating business.
Our company, weBike (www.webikedoyou.com), is the next generation of bike sharing. You’ve probably seen bike sharing systems in major cities, including DC, where you can sign up as a member and take out bikes from stations scattered across the city whenever you need a quick way to get around. Bike sharing in big cities today is affordable, efficient, and healthy for both you and the environment; however the high upfront investment needed to purchase and install a large scale bike station infrastructure is too costly for campuses and smaller communities.
Our mantra, “Bike, Share, Everywhere” reflects our mission of making bike sharing programs accessible everywhere – beyond the large metropolitan communities where we only see them today. We do this by replacing the stations with mobile and web technologies. In this way we cut the cost and cumbersome operations involved, making the whole process simpler, flexible and affordable.
Today, a lot of exciting things are happening with weBike. We’re preparing to launch our third system this fall at a university in Pennsylvania. In true 490 fashion, we’re working with a team of graduate students in George Mason University’s Social Innovators Program who are consulting with us to help develop a ‘brand ambassador’ campaign that we’ll use to bring weBike to new schools across the country.
Most excitingly, last Wednesday July 18th, weBike launched a fundraising campaign on the debut of Launcht (www.launcht.org), a new crowdfunding platform built specifically to support social entrepreneurs and start-ups. The money we’re raising with this campaign will be used to develop the final piece of the weBike puzzle – an electronic bike lock that works with our software products to enhance the security and reliability of our bike sharing systems.
After weeks of preparation, we’re off to a great start. We’ve become the premier project on the Launcht platform, raising more than any other project so far. In the first week of our 45 day campaign, our wonderful and generous funders have contributed over $3,000 of our $15,000 goal. We’re still $12,000 from our goal, but we have plenty of time left!
We’d love to be able to share our continued success with you. To follow our progress or contribute to our campaign, please visit Launcht.org (http://www.launcht.org/campaign/detail/126). You can also keep tabs on us by Liking our facebook page (www.facebook.com/webikedoyou), following our blog (http://blog.webikedoyou.com), or visiting our website (www.webikedoyou.com).
The QUEST community was extremely integral in getting us to where we are today; it empowered us to transform a project into a company and help change the way people move. We believe it can allow others to create the same kind of impact wherever they see it, too… it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you.