Ever been on a business trip and just started to crave a cafe racer to ride through your temporary city? What about a vacation where you’re just clamoring to hop on a dirt bike and off-road in the countryside?
Motorcycle enthusiasts, you’ve been heard.
The Speed Stable is revving its engines as the premier peer-to-peer motorcycle platform. Think Uber and Airbnb meeting the motorcycle. The premise: rent a motorcycle whenever and wherever.
Founder Steve Sharp said the website recently launched, and the mobile app is en route. With more than 100 users locked and loaded, the Mississippi-based company recently sped over to one of the largest motorcycle events — Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama — with more than 70,000 attendees, many of them learning (and getting excited) about The Speed Stable. Thus, Sharp anticipates thousands more users jumping onto the platform and onto bikes. The sharing economy platform is first rolling out in Nashville and then Atlanta. From there, Sharp is eyeing New Orleans, then “working our way up the West Coast from Los Angeles” and then circling back to Midwestern cities, like Milwaukee.
Sharp spoke to PYMNTS about the impetus of the business, as well as some bumps in the road, and whether millennials or baby boomers are the first to hit the road on the motorcycle sharing economy.
PYMNTS: Can you tell us the background on the impetus, and revving up, of the company?
SS: We started two or three years ago, and it all started with me getting into vintage motorcycles about five years ago. We live out in the country in Mississippi, and a 50-year-old, two-stable horse barn became available. The lady that owned it rented it to me to give me a place to work on my bikes and keep all my memorabilia and things of that nature. And it just turned into a really cool space where people wanted to hang out. It was a very creative space with lots of pastures, trees and woods. Just a really great place to get creative. So, my wife and I thought, “Hey, this is pretty good. Why don’t we try to turn this into a business of some sort?” It’s really what my passion is. So, over a couple of incarnations, we finally arrived at another addition of “Why don’t we turn this into technology-based as well?” We just didn’t want to be another motorcycle storefront selling gear, t-shirts and helmets. My passion is also technology. So, we decided to explore different options in that area. Got some feedback from some friends and realized, “Hey, there’s a void out there.” If we traveled, say, on vacation or on business, oftentimes, I wanted to rent a motorcycle and get a feel for the local community and countryside or the city in an urban landscape. Quite often, what we found was that the only thing available was a huge Harley Davidson touring bike, and that’s not about sensibility. So, after Uber and Airbnb started taking off, we thought, “Why don’t we create the world’s first peer-to-peer motorcycle platform?” We brought in a couple partners and did a soft launch of our website a few weeks ago. We’re now in development of a mobile app that will allow us to really facilitate things on a mobile basis moving forward. And we should be rolling that out early next spring.
PYMNTS: What does “Uber of X” mean to you?
SS: It’s basically peer-to-peer in that an individual has the ability to monetize the assets that they have. And you have the consumer to share in the access for a rental fee, with other people who are participating in the economy at that time.
PYMNTS: Walk us through the platform. How does it work for each user?
SS: If you’re wanting to rent a bike, you go onto our website and plug in the zip code. Then, you do a search of different criteria. Say you wanted a cafe racer or an adventure bike, or even a dirt bike for some offroad riding. You filter that down to the type of bike, then you filter by the date and what’s available in that area. Once you’ve identified a bike that you’re interested in, then you click on it, and it sends a message to the owner, who responds to confirm that it is available. A bit similar to Airbnb with rates, as we also do discount tiers. If you’re going to rent for multiple dates, the rate would go down.
We just take a fee out of the agreement. Everything is done online via credit card. No cash would exchange hands. We’re just basically facilitating the marketplace between two individuals.
PYMNTS: What about insurance?
SS: As the renter, you would identify if you have insurance. We require all of our owners or listers to have insurance. And we’ll also be offering supplemental packages, just like when you rent a car. If you so choose.
PYMNTS: How much funding have you already received, to date?
SS: I really can’t get into that specifically, but we have enough going to develop the app. We have some very high-level discussions going on with investors from Seattle and from the South locally.
PYMNTS: Startups have issues as they gear up. Can you share a story about a startup battle wound?
SS: When we were beginning the process of starting the app, we were working with a software group. We had already finalized the end of it, what was required of us, what the timeline was. We were working that out with the team leader and the development team. As a courtesy, the CEO wanted to talk to us before we got the ball rolling. We had already sent them the initial deposit for the work. The CEO gets on the phone with us and says, “This will never work; this is just a dumb idea!” Not really the kind of cheerleading approach we were looking for, especially if they were going to be building out our prototype. So, needless to say, we had second thoughts on that arrangement. We pulled the plug on working with them and have gone in another direction.
PYMNTS: Millennials, boomers, Gen Y or X … Who’s the target here?
SS: What’s really interesting is that it’s a new world out there with this business, so we really didn’t know how it was going to be perceived by the general public or the motorcycle public for that matter. But we had an overwhelming response over the past weekend when we were at the festival in Birmingham. Everyone we met said, “That’s a fantastic idea! I’ve never thought about that.” And it was really interesting because all the millennials, as soon as we told them, they got it. Immediately. Some of them said, “Oh yeah, I have four bikes in the garage right now, and I never ride them. So, that would be great to monetize that.” But if you’re 40 and older, the first question they ask is about the insurance and the liability coverage. After you address that, they get it as well. But it seems that millennials just understand and embrace the peer-to-peer economy. The older generation is taking a little bit longer to grasp it, but they’re all on board as well once they understand.
PYMNTS: Thoughts on starting a business? Any advice?
SS: For anyone starting a new company like this, just be prepared for a lot of obstacles and a lot of pushback. Especially with a new area such as peer-to-peer. I mean think about it: Five years ago, would you have possibly imagined that you could rent out a room in your house to a stranger and make money from it? So, I think the mindset is going to be evolving and adapting over time to the new technologies. To anyone, stick to your guns. If you have a unique idea — even if it’s not entirely unique — if you’re willing to work hard, good things will come from that.