Student start-up nominated for innovation award

​Swapfiets is the brainchild of three TU Delft students and has been nominated for an Accenture Innovation Award in the Seamless Travel and Transportation category.

The winners of this annual competition for innovative products, services and concepts will be announced on October 30, 2015, at De Fabrique in Utrecht.

Martijn Obers, Dirk de Bruijn and Richard Burger are master’s students in the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering and co-founders of Swapfiets. The trio came up with the idea of renting out bikes to students last year. Many students cycle around on old ramshackle bikes that inevitably break down at the most inconvenient time. Not only must they then find the time, but also the money, to get them fixed. This is where Swapfiets can help. For a fixed monthly fee of €8, or €10 for non-students, you get the security of always having a working bike. In the event of a breakdown, your bike will be swapped within 12 hours, at no extra cost. Their bikes, which are recognisable by the blue tyres, are delivered to you within Delft. “We want it to be as easy as possible for people to get one of our bikes,” said Obers.

On New Year’s Eve, 2014, they bought their first 40 bikes. They rented a garage in town, set up a Facebook page, and customers came. Within three weeks they had 35 customers, and five bikes for swapping. “Our goal at this point was to learn a lot and get feedback from customers, it was our testing phase,” said De Bruijn. With a waiting list, they began to plan for stage two. They sought assistance via the student start-up programme at YESDelft, and organised a collaboration with the social workplace, Brik-Fit. The purchase of the second batch of bikes was financed via crowdfunding, and they reopened in April 2015. “We now have 150 bikes rented, and 20 spare,” said De Bruijn. Currently, no bikes are available whilst the team prepares for stage three, although you can get your name on their pre-order list, with an advised waiting time of 2-3 months.

The team is hoping that participation in the competition will help attract investors and raise their profile, enabling them to expand further. There are various awards up for grabs, and with around 1,500 nominees, competition is tough. The team would like to get enough votes from the public to be afforded the opportunity of pitching to the jury on the day. You can vote for them via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Check the websites swapfiets.nl and innovation-awards.nl for more details.

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