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Innovation + Job News

Online startup Velolet plans to 'cover the map with bikes'

Last winter, when Dan Cleary sought warmer pastures for a bicycle trip, he encountered a huge hassle in a key aspect--bringing his bike.

He could choose from hundreds of dollars in airline charges, days or weeks for shipping and the risk of damage, or a bike shop rental (if he could find one) with a hefty liability premium.

A year later, Velolet was born. The Twin Cities online startup matches local bikes with visiting bikers by facilitating the above transaction, from search to saddling up.

Velolet went live in December in what Cleary calls a soft launch as he builds inventory to fill demand in warmer days and markets.

Icons are sprouting daily on the Google map on Velolet's home page. Most are concentrated in the Twin Cities, which will function as a demo market for his "methodical growth plan" into other cycling cities around the country and even overseas.

Cleary compares his online model to a hotel rental on Orbitz or Expedia. On the supply side, listings have been from individuals early on, but Cleary expects more and more bike shops to get on board.

Demand could come from the single traveler or through references from event promoters, who often field calls from incoming cyclists looking for local bikes. On either side, it's an organic dynamic with the natural potential for scalability.

"All I've done is create a platform for them to make it easy," says Cleary. A huge part of that platform is the handling of liability insurance, which Cleary calls the "secret sauce."

The online venture is also lean on infrastructure, thanks largely to the availability of "cloud space" and online applications and tools.

"You use everything that's available now," says Cleary, who remembers a different era of technology while in San Francisco in the late 1990s. The 20-year competitive cyclist describes himself as a "consummate entrepreneur" with a background in finance and small business with a flair for tech development.

"It allowed us to get off the ground without putting a lot of time and effort into the infrastructure," he says.

Source: Dan Cleary, Velolet
Writer: Jeremy Stratton
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