Swapfiets, the Netflix for bicycles
The Netherlands is home to almost 23 million bicycles, with most of the Dutch owning at least one bike per person. Having a bike also means having to fix it when there is a problem, and not everybody has the time or the know-how for that. That is where start-up Swapfiets, comes in – the subscription-based bicycle company that takes the bother and annoyance out of bike repairs and maintenance.
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Swapfiets is a Netflix-style subscription-based service. You pay a monthly charge for using their product and services. As a subscriber you’re provided with a robust Dutch bike - specially built for the company by Dutch bicycle manufacturer, Union, which includes the cost of parts and repairs, and bike replacements if needed, usually within 12 hours. Get a flat tire? Need a replacement for a stolen bike? It’s all covered in your subscription. Swapfiets will even replace your broken bell.
Equal opportunity and sustainable
These social-minded entrepreneurs also have an active programme for employing people with poor job prospects as their mechanics. By hiring this group, they give them an opportunity be part of the job market, earning a normal wage and be financially independent.
By maintaining their own fleet of bicycles Swapfiets controls what happens to the bikes at the end of its lifecycle. Instead of winding up at the garbage dump, or at the bottom of a Dutch canal, the company recycles the bikes and bike parts. Making it more sustainable and better for the environment.
The Dutch company Swapfiets was founded in 2014 by 4 students in the city of Delft. They used their own money to finance the initial start-up. Later on, they also received investments from a Dutch venture capital firm specialised in green technology. Since then, business has grown 1600%.
Swapfiets’ customers have traditionally consisted of mainly students, but recently they have seen an uptick in the growth of everyday residents, too. From 9 to 99, everybody is welcome.
The company currently has a giant fleet of standard bicycles. However, they have plans to also offer electric bikes in the future.
The bikes, with their distinctive blue front tire, can be seen in many of the large cities in the Netherlands. Swapfiets is also currently active in Germany, Denmark and Belgium - serving 39 European cities. The company aims to expand their business into the US market and even Asia.
Bicycles as a service
Swapfiets is part of a growing trend that focusses on sharing, renting or leasing products rather than individual product ownership. In the transportation sector this scheme is known as ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS). However, Swapfiets gave it their spin by calling it BaaS, ‘bicycles as a service’.