A big problem we face today is moving people around in cities in an efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way. Public transport is expensive and requires a lot of infrastructure, but private vehicles face issues of congestion, air pollution and a longer travel journey. We believe the electric bike addresses this issue.
The UK Government has tried to incentivise cycling in the past with the Cycle to Work Scheme, but the programme is underutilised. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of bikes purchased under the scheme was a mere 7%, even though the legislation allows users to take the cost of the bike off their pre-tax salary, resulting in a 30% saving. We believe the scheme should be used more.
DASH Rides is a B2B service, accessed by a digital platform, that offers e-bike subscriptions for companies and employees as a way of decongesting roads, reducing emissions, enabling healthier lives, resolving operation inefficiencies and making businesses more profitable. To make it as easy as possible to get people on e-bikes, we’ve included servicing, maintenance and insurance in the price, and provided a free helmet. DASH Rides also offsets the carbon of every bike by 400%, making a positive change to the environment, and leading the way to an efficient and sustainable future.
As a subscription-based service, our product removes the high cost of ownership for the user, leading to more people cycling. We’ve positioned DASH Rides as a B2B company, as we believe employers are a great way to pull people in and distribute the cost of accessing e-bikes. By using our service, companies are combating obesity by encouraging health and wellbeing in the workplace, while also meeting their sustainability targets. Our users are moving around cities efficiently, saving money and improving their health and wellbeing.
Where did the idea originate?
Our co-founder David always wanted to work within the mobility industry, as he saw great potential when the wave of sustainability and technology came along. He knew it was a growing and turbulent industry, and co-founder Jamie had a similar view. We started off with electric scooters and the business naturally evolved to e-bikes via customer feedback and testing.
How did your team meet?
David left his job and decided to pursue an MBA, which is when he met Jamie. During his MBA, David would often meet people for a coffee, and Jamie was an old school friend he reconnected with during his studies. The pair hit it off instantly and were fortunate that their individual skillsets were complementary. Jamie had a financial accounting background, whereas David was more engineering and product focused – and that was the start of their 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 advisers from the Imperial Enterprise Lab. Imperial Venture Mentoring Service (IVMS) gave us access to great mentors who were impartial and provided honest feedback and guidance for our business.
We had several ‘Experts-in-Residence’ sessions that were very useful. Janet Murray’s business coaching helped us reflect on what we’d done and where we needed to go next.
We also attended a few Pitch and Mix events which taught us how to improve our pitching. We 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 combine business school students with science and technology students, you gain different pieces of expertise and that’s where the magic happens. Spending time in the E-Lab and having a coworking space that empowers entrepreneurs is incredibly beneficial.
In summer 2020, we took part in the Summer Accelerator, which helped us focus our efforts and make ourselves accountable at four-week intervals. The Imperial College Advanced Hackspace was another strong asset of support – over the space of a year, we worked there 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 is always on hand to support you.
We believe that diversity of thought is incredibly important and leads to better decision making – and that’s exactly what our advisers at Imperial Enterprise Lab provided.
What stage is the business at and what are your plans moving forward?
We raised £300,000 in our pre-seed round with several different angel investors. We’re currently focused on increasing traction to grow the customer base as fast as we can. In a couple of months, we’ll fundraise again, as we expect our valuation to increase as the business grows.
What’s been your biggest success so far?
It’s extremely important to celebrate achievements, and fundraising was a massive milestone for us. Another major success was getting our first customer signed up on the platform. Since it’s a B2B2C, it’s a complex process, but getting the customer through all the steps was a great success as it validated the value of our business.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
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 you as a founder, as is every failure. In a startup, there’s 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. With a co-founder, you’re in it together. We pick each other up when times are tough, which is really helpful as we grow the business.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You should pursue something you’re interested in and passionate about, as it’s the only way you’ll put in the hours, and deal with the stress and pressure. Starting a business is mentally challenging in a way that people often aren’t used to; a way 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. When things go well, it’s hugely rewarding, though. If we’d taken regular corporate roles, there’s no way we’d have learned the amount we’ve learned at this point. There’s no faster way of learning than launching something of your own.