Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where have I been? ...and an Introduction to Social Bicycles.

Since I'm late to the blogging party on the account of adding the class during the second week and my absentmindedness to remind Professor Zak for an invitation to this blog, I'll be hitting this space with a flurry of activity over the next 24 hours. Well, if you consider four posts a flurry. Hopefully, I can stay relevant to the topics of this course and not devolve into unrelated diatribes. We shall see...

A few years ago a friend of mine developed this idea for creating a bike share program that uses mobile technology. Out of his idea grew his start-up company, Social Bicycles (SoBi). In lecture the first week of class (when I was illegally sitting-in), Professor Zak touched on how important the vision of a company can be in setting their strategy and eventual success. The discussion made me think of Ryan and his start-up.

The last two years have seen both of us visiting our hometown, Erie, PA, less frequently, although we trade the occasional text and email and I got to see Ryan when he crashed a conference in Pittsburgh last semester. Since I had never really asked him about his vision for Social Bicycles or their mission, I thought I would use this blog post to check the internet and see what he's telling the world rather than just our friends when we're home having a few beers.

His answer to the first question in this interview gives some insight into the company's mission to "transform urban transportation by using mobile technology to make bikeshare more affordable and convenient." While his answer to the last is what James Collins and Jerry Porras might consider a "big, hairy, audacious goal" where Ryan says by 2015 "SoBi has achieved deployments in hundreds of cities around the world and millions of registered users. There is a global market for bikeshare and I believe we have the right model for rapid growth."

When most people hear how the system works, their response is, "Oh, it's Zip Car for bikes." I think I was guilty of this the first time Ryan explained it to me. He does a nice job here of explaining the important differences with SoBi and how it differentiates from the competition. At the end of this rather skeptical review he goes even further to explain how the SoBi system will be a scalable, effective solution.

Personally, I think Ryan and his team have developed a really elegant solution that falls in line with their stated mission and would seem to put them in a position to achieve their BHAG. Although, I suppose I'm somewhat biased so I'm curious to hear what the rest of you think. And for those of you that are intrigued and have twitter, you can find them here.

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