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Sobotka Stories: Bike City

The Sobotka Seed Stage Success Stories will introduce you to former recipients of the grants who share their experience and perspective. The Yale Center for Business and the Environment is proud of its alumni and aspires to build a robust entrepreneurial community around sustainability ideas.

After having recently won the Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant, we caught up with the founders of Bike City. David Hutchinson (SOM ‘17) and his co-founder, Celeste Jalbert, regard themselves as not only partners in this venture with complementary business backgrounds, but also partners in life!

Bike City is an unconventional shared bicycle model for people commuting by bike in urban areas. The model leases electric bikes (e-bikes) and traditional pedal bikes to companies in order for the companies to offer the bikes as a benefit to their employees. The goal is to provide a supportive ecosystem in order to get commuters riding, and keep them riding consistently. E-bikes overcome many of the concerns related to hills, fatigue and arriving at work perspiring. Furthermore, Bike City provides ancillary support services such as roadside assistance, regular maintenance, and route-planning.

David regards the success of their venture as “getting people who aren't currently commuting by bike out on the roads in a safe, supported, and enjoyable way”. Their primary motivation is to genuinely and sustainably improve people’s lives. Although the health and environmental benefits of cycling are well proven, Bike City also wants to ensure that it strikes a positive chord with users that see commuting as fun. This would be a significant boon in terms of Bike City’s uptake and commitment, as opposed to commuters relying on conventional forms of transportation, which emit fossil fuels.

When asked what advice he has for future Sobotka applicants, David said, ”Take advantage of the many resources and opportunities available at Yale through CBEY and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). If you’re interested in social entrepreneurship, engage with these great programs early – attend events, connect with others, and be open to new ideas and approaches.”

Despite a successful pilot launch in the summer, the team recognizes that the model still requires a degree of refinement. Particularly with regards to keeping commuters on bicycles throughout all the seasons. The Sobotka grant funding will therefore, be catalytic in Bike City’s ability to run additional pilots, and refine their business model. The hope is that this will lead to a growing number of progressive companies that are receptive to Bike City, and that encourage their employees to pedal forwards towards a healthy and environmentally conscious future. With cities setting higher sustainability targets, with the complementary bicycle infrastructure investments, there is little doubt that Bike City is ideally poised for momentous growth.

Follow the CBEY website for more Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant Success Stories.