For some of us, using a car and burning fossils fuels is entirely necessary still. Yet, there continues to be a growing number of people in the United States and worldwide who have made the switch to using bikes as an alternative form of transportation. For many us, myself included, it’s a form that we hope will continue to grow as people become more aware of its benefits to society on the whole as well as personal health.
Zagster, a Boston based startup, also thinks it’s important which is why they have implemented a city-wide system in Boston that makes using bicycles as a form of transport easy. Bike sharing and rentals throughout the city have never been easier. You can rent a bike for a just of few hours of the day and they’re available 24/7. They even take of the maintenance so really, it’s a no brainer. It was after a trip to Paris where the founders saw a similar system that they thought the idea would take off in the U.S.
We had a chance to speak to cofounder Jason Meinzer of Zagster about his startup journey, and here’s what he shared with me:
How long did it take you from when you returned from Paris to launch Zagster?
We were so excited by what we saw there, and so sure we could make it work here, that we hopped right on the idea. It took us less than a year to get it in gear.
What were some of the challenges of launching Zagster that you encountered early on that were anticipated when drafting your plan?
Like a lot of startups with disruptive ideas one of the biggest challenges is trying to know what you don’t know. By definition, there’s no clear “3-point plan” to start a bike sharing company. We spent a lot of time looking at different models, running different scenarios and talking to investors, partners, mentors and potential customers before settling on the current model.
Even then – that’s less than half the battle. Now, we’ve got to prove it by signing customers, keeping them happy and scaling the business.
What about Boston made you want to launch a startup there?
Boston is a great place to start a business – especially one that is innovative and disruptive. You look at some of the companies, like Zipcar, Hubspot and others that have been founded here and continue to thrive. Add in the incredible brainpower coming out of the great universities in the region. And top it off with visionary and sophisticated angel investors and venture capitalists, and of course the TechStars program.
Is there a demographic of bike riders now using Zagster that you didn’t anticipate at launch?
What we have found is that Zagster’s sweet spot are riders that would hop on a bike if it was readily available and was located in the places where they live, work and visit. The beauty of our program is we enable anybody that’s physically capable of riding a bike to enjoy the simple pleasures of doing it. We’ve been pleased at the response from some of our earliest customers, including Hyatt.
What kinds of adjustments have you made with Zagster that are specific from customer feedback?
There’s no substitute for feedback from customers. And we really have two levels of customers. First, our channel partners – like hotels, real estate managers and corporations – they’re the ones that are paying for the system.
One of the first adjustments we are developing is a toolbox for our partners to market easily to riders that have signed up for the system, to continue to keep them engaged. The secondlevel are the riders themselves. We have received great feedback from them and are incorporating their suggestions into the future release of our technology on the bicycles.
What are some of the highlights having launched Zagster?
There are so many it’s hard to prioritize. But here are just a few. Maybe the biggest is knowing that each day we’re executing on our vision and getting more people on bikes each day, and hearing how happy it makes them. The second is building a team and a company dedicated to making a difference, and knowing that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves. Third, feeling comfortable knowing that there’s still so much room for innovation and growth, and that our ride is just beginning.
Can you describe your office and the company culture at Zagster?
Yup – it’s fun, flexible and laid back.
What are some of the best things about having a startup in Boston?
As I mentioned before, the entrepreneurial ecosystem here is exhilarating. You never feel like you’re alone, or that there’s no one else around that understands your challenges. There’s an incredible support network of people willing to share ideas, best practices and connections. That has been, and continues to be, key to our success.
What advice would you give someone interested in launching a startup?
If at all possible, don’t quit your day job until your business is making significant dollars. Or, keep costs as low as possible until you’ve gotten the business model right and can accurately project revenues. Beyond that – don’t give up.
There will be sleepless nights and frustrating days, but believe in your vision, trust yourself and focus on what can/will go right, rather than what can go wrong.
What’s your daily routine from the time you wake up?
That’s personal… but since Zagster is my life – I wake up, ride into work, ride to the gym, ride home, finish working; repeat. Weekends are completely different story.
When you’re not at Zagster, how do you like to relax?
Believe it or not, working on Zagster is relaxing to me, because it makes me happy. Holding health before all else helps, though, and makes everything better as a result. So, at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week keeps me pretty much relaxed 24/7.
No excuses. None. Ever. Living becomes therapeutic when you are healthy.
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