LimeBike has a different approach to bike-sharing. The startup aims to create networks of shared bikes that depend neither on docking stations nor government subsidies. Backed by $12 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and DCM, the startup today came out of stealth mode.
LimeBikes are sleek, citrus-colored bicycles that connect to the startup’s app over cellular networks to track position and availability, and collect payments. “This gives us the ability to turn a mobile device into a payment and parking mechanism,” wrote Toby Sun, cofounder and CEO of LimeBike, in an email to VentureBeat.
Once the app launches in a month or so, customers will be able to locate the closest bike and scan its QR code with their smartphones to unlock it. The app will automatically charge one dollar for every 30 minutes or $0.50 per ride for students. Contrary to other bike-sharing companies, LimeBike doesn’t require that riders return its bikes to a docking station — they are free to leave them wherever they want, as long as they lock them up using the app.
“By eliminating the docking station and boosting access, we can make bikes much more affordable than traditional bike-sharing models,” wrote Sun. “For cities, instead of having to subsidize millions per year for expensive stations and overpriced bikes, we offer our system at zero cost.”
Although LimeBike hasn’t announced a presence in any cities, Sun said his team is in final discussions with a number of cities and college campuses in California, as well as other areas of the country.
LimeBike is entering a marketplace of more than 1,000 competitors across the globe, but not all cities have welcomed the concept. For instance, the city of San Francisco threatened to take legal action against Chinese bike-sharing startup Bluegogo, which planned on dumping thousands of bikes in vast piles on public sidewalks.
Sun says he understands local government concerns and assures that his company aims to be a partner. “We are taking a collaborative ‘anti-Uber’ approach with cities,” Sun wrote. “LimeBike won’t achieve its full potential without working with cities and communities closely.”
Today’s funding is LimeBike’s first institutional round. Led by Andreessen, the round includes other investors, such as IDG, DCM, Jason Zeng and Free Wu (Tencent’s founding team), Immersion Ventures, Gang Wang (Didi Chuxing’s angel investor), and Danhua Capital. The new money will be used to hire more people, launch in different cities, manufacture bikes, and further develop the app.
Founded in 2017, LimeBike currently has 15 employees working out of its San Mateo, Calif. headquarters.