A big problem we face today is how people move around in cities. Public transport is expensive and requires a lot of infrastructure, whereas private vehicles face issues of congesting, air pollution and a longer travel journey. We don’t have an efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way to travel, and thus, we believe the electric bike is one of the mechanisms to address this issue.
Dash Rides provides a digital platform, that uses the power of e‑bike subscriptions to decongest our roads, reduce emissions, enable healthier lives, resolve operation inefficiencies and crucially, make business more profitable. To make it as easy as possible to get people on e-bikes, we cover the service and maintenance, insurance, carbon offset and provide a free helmet. Dash Rides carbon offset every bike by 400%, making a positive change to the environment, and leading the way to an efficient and sustainable future.
The UK government had tried to incentivise cycling with the cycle to work scheme, but in reality it’s underutilised. In 2019, pre-pandemic, the number of bikes purchased was a mere 7% in the scheme, even though the legislation allows you to take the cost of the bike off your salary pre-tax, resulting in 30% in saving.. We believe it should and can be used more, and thus our product is designed as a subscription-based service. This removes the high cost of ownership from the user and will lead to more people cycling.
The bikes also help to combat obesity as it’s a semi-passive mode of transport. Research shows that e-bikes riders on average burn 9% more calories than a regular cyclist. As a result, users are not only efficiently moving around cities, but are also saving money and improving their health and wellbeing.
Lastly, we are positioned as a B2B business as we believe employers are a great way to pull people in and distribute the cost. By using our service, companies encourage health and wellbeing in the workplace, alongside meeting their sustainability targets.
Where did the idea originate?
I always wanted to work within the mobility industry as I saw great potential when the wave of sustainability and technology came along. I knew it was a growing and turbulent industry and my co-founder, Jamie, has a similar view. The honest answer is that we started off with electric scooters and then the business naturally evolved to e-bikes via customer feedback and testing.
How did your team meet?
I left my job and decided to pursue an MBA, which is when I met my co-founder, Jamie. During my MBA, I would often meet a lot of people for a coffee, and so Jamie was actually an old school friend that I reconnected with during my studies. We hit it off instantly and were fortunate that our skillset complemented each other. He had a financial accounting background, whereas I was more engineering and product-focused, and that was the start of our journey together.
Do you have any advisers?
We have a lot of advisers. Our investors are fairly involved as they provide valuable skills in other functions such as marketing. We’ve also had some great advisors from the Enterprise Lab. IVMS had great mentors that were impartial and gave us honest feedback and guidance for our business. I believe diversity of thought is incredibly important and it leads to better decision making, and that is exactly what the Enterprise Lab provided.
What stage is the business at and what are your plans moving forward?
We raised £300k in our pre-seed round with several different angel investors. We are currently focused on increasing traction to grow the customer base as fast as we can. In a couple of months, we will fundraise again as we expect our valuation to increase as the business grows.
What’s been your biggest success so far?
It is extremely important to celebrate achievements, and fundraising was a massive milestone for us. Another major success was getting the first customer signed up on the platform. Since it is a B2B2C it’s a complex process, but getting the customer through all the steps was a great success as it validates that our business has value.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
I can’t pinpoint one particular thing as the biggest challenge. However, I think starting a business is incredibly tough mentally. It feels as though you’re pushing a boulder up a hill every single day. Every success is directly attributable to yourself, as it is with every failure. In a start-up, there is no way around that, it’s all you. When things go wrong it’s very hard mentally, and it’s important to have a support system, and with a co-founder, you’re in it together. We pick each other up when times are tough which is really helpful to grow the business.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I am sure everyone has heard this before, but you should pursue something that you’re interested in and passionate about, as it’s the only way you will put in the hours, stress and deal with the pressure. I always thought when people said it’s really hard to start a business, that I would be able to cope with it as I’ve put in crazy work hours and been in stressful situations before. However, even if you know all this, it’s hard in a different way. It’s challenging mentally in a way that people aren’t often used to, in a way that you’re not exposed to in large corporations. It’s the most uncertain and ambiguous environment possible, and when things go wrong it’s very tough. However by contrast, when things go well, it is hugely rewarding. If I had taken a regular corporate role after I finished my MBA there’s no way I would have learned the amount that I’ve learned up to this point. There is no faster way of learning than doing something of your own.
Support from Imperial
IVMS provided great advice, were completely impartial and we were able to talk to our mentors about anything. Earlier than that, we joined the Summer Accelerator which was challenging. We also had several Experts-in-Residence sessions that were very useful. I remember Janet Murry’s business coaching, which helped us to reflect on what we’ve done and where we need to go next.
I also attended a few Pitch and Mix’s, which taught me how to improve my own pitching. I really enjoyed the networking aspect as it was great to have a physical place to mix with others and bring bright minds together. When you start mixing business school students with science and technology students, you gain different pieces of expertise and that is where the magic happens. I think just spending time in the E-lab and having a coworking space that empowered entrepreneurs is incredibly beneficial.
In summer 2020 we took part in the Summer Accelerator, which was challenging due to COVID and remote communication. The accelerator helped us to focus our efforts and helped us progress by making us accountable at four-week intervals.
The Hackspace is another area of support that is a strong asset to the University. Over the space of a year, we worked in the Hackspace on a variety of hardware modifications. This ranged from electronics through to cargo crate welding. While you’re most definitely expected to lead the work, the team are always on hand to support.
The Enterprise Lab is an awesome attribute of the University and it’s a community that should be celebrated.