The Donkey Republic bicycle­sharing service expands globally with an € 1,5 million investment from The Danish Growth Fund and the Luxembourg­based venture capital fund Howzat. Donkey Republic is setting up to disrupt urban transport around the world, with a business model not relying on public subsidies. Instead by using an AirBnb­ like model, bike owners earn money by managing their bikes on the Donkey platform. The company aims to turn the bicycle into the role-modell of public transportation.

Donkey Republic launched its ectronic lock and an app in mid ­2015. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the company has received further recognition in various competitions, like the Guldæg 2015 prize for Danish IT startups. Since their launch, Donkey bikes have become available in seven countries, with 500+ bicycles ready to cater to travellers’ needs. The system is based on an electronic lock mounted on any bicycle and an app that commands it. Bike rental owners buy Donkey locks to mount on their bicycles, thus making them available on the Donkey Republic platform.

“The rider books a bike and pays online, in advance or on the spotm, and uses the phone to unlock it. By using bluetooth as connection, we eliminate the need for internet to unlock, and it futher requires no docking stations, no cash, no leaving of ID cards or deposits, and no complying with rental shops’ opening hours. Travellers benefit from absolute freedom to set up their explorations on two wheels.” says Erdem, CEO of Donkey Republic.

Scandinavian bike love as global benchmark

For years, other countries have looked at this region’s cities like Copenhagen, Malmö and Lund for inspiration in how to build a cycling culture. Many of them are now pushing forward urban mobility initiatives that promote cycling for short­distance travels, with municipalities like Paris, London, Barcelona or New York already showing encouraging results in creating the right infrastructure and boosting bike utilization. This trend works as a tailwind for Donkey Republic in their building of a future where it will be natural for anybody who enters a new city to want to bike their way around. If they use the Donkey app to get their ride in a few clicks ­even better.

”The need for affordable and sustainable mobility in cities is growing exponentially, and bikes are an obvious solution. The sharing economy already has a good grip on the transport sector, but no current bike­sharing system can scale due to their need for public subsidies. What we are bringing to the table is a green and inexpensive solution to urban transportation that can be run without subsidies and provides everyone with a share of the profit,” explains Erdem.

At The Danish Growth Fund, the expectations are high as to the growth opportunities for the startup.

“Donkey Republic hits spot-­on with several of today’s big trends, by combining sharing economy and bicycle transportation, both lately gaining ground in cities around the world. Their platform has already proven attractive to both customers and end­users, in Denmark and abroad. This creates a strong potential for scaling.”

– says Jesper Lilledal, Investment Director at The Danish Growth Fund’s department of direct investments, VF Venture.

Seeking growth opportunities

Donkey Republic is currently targeting the tourist segment, by partnering with businesses like bike shops, hotels and tourist centres. However, the startup sees future market opportunities in the commuters segment, and are already in dialogue with several Danish municipalities for the introduction of shared bicycles as a part of the public transportation system.

As Erdem puts it:

“Public transportation is costly to run and maintain, especially in rural areas, where there are fewer users than in big cities. It makes sense to look at alternate solutions like shared bicycles as part of the public transportation flow, e.g. when the citizens need to cover the last few miles from the train station to their workplace.”

In Denmark, there are currently 300 bikes that can be rented through Donkey Republic’s platform, distributed in 40+ hubs. Other hubs have been created in Sweden, USA, UK, Spain, New Zealand and Finland, which amount to more than 500 bikes­ with the prospect of reaching a couple of thousands by the end of 2016. An average of 85 rental days are booked in a day on globally. Donkey Republic is constantly seeking potential partners among hotels, marinas, tourist information and conference centres, and even real estate developers, with the promise of a simple and convenient bike service that helps our cities become better living environments.