Lagos, Nigeria—AwaBike, a bicycle-sharing and lifestyle application has received an equity investment from Ingressive Capital, a venture fund targeted at early-stage startups in Africa.
It was founded this year by Ifeoluwa Ogundipe, a Master’s degree holder from the Queen Mary University of London and an MBA grad from Grenoble Ecole de Management.
Speaking to Benjamin Dada, Ifeoluwa says “AwaBike is a lifestyle brand that focuses on promoting healthy living and environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on mobility”.
The 11th United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is targeted at Sustainable cities and communities but how can cities be sustainable when the automobiles plying the roads are emitting harmful CO2 gases?
As a result, Governments and private individuals have sought alternatives in solar-powered automobiles like Teslas and non-CO2 emitting automobiles like bicycles. For instance, in America, there are City Bikes run by Motivate who recently got acquired by Uber rival, Lyft.
Beyond that, there is a traffic congestion problem in many of the world’s busiest cities like Kolkata-India, Nairobi-Kenya, and Lagos-Nigeria which has led citizens to turn to two-wheel automobiles for their daily mobility needs.
AwaBike has seen that gap and is positioning itself to compete in the two-wheeled ride-sharing market currently dominated by Max.ng and Gokada. Their approach is to do more than move people around but provide information on their health and lifestyle–a concern many use third-party solutions for, like FitBits.
Their first challenge would be getting people to know about their app and showing them how it fits into their lifestyle. For that, they will be using a community-based approach. They intend to expand to 40 campuses across Nigeria within a year starting with Lagos State University (LASU). The AwaBike team will set up centres in their selected communities and hire key-personnel from the pre-seed funding gotten from Ingressive Capital.
Interestingly, AwaBike manufactures their bikes (AKA bicycles) from scratch using imported parts, so some of the funds will go towards enabling that process.
Speaking on the bike-sharing market in Lagos-Nigeria, Ifeoluwa says it's untested but has a lot of potentials, arguing that a sect of Nigerians already make use of bicycles for health and lifestyle purposes.
It's a market that has not been tested. We are particularly interested in seeing how best we can achieve success. We believe that there lies a high potential for success in bicycle-sharing
A number of Nigerians and Lagosians currently use bicycles for either health and lifestyle or just daily commute. It would be interesting to see what happens when we make bicycles readily available for everyone
There is a local adage that reads Black man no dey die which could explain why a lot of people from African countries tend to take the non-physical aspects of their lives with levity. For instance, mental health, and allergies may sound alien to the typical African. They struggle with those two concepts because they can't see the immediate physical impact. This same attitude has been carried over to exercising as many tend not to bother, saying “I can’t come and kill myself”.
However, Ifeoluwa thinks all that is changing, hence, their reason for adding a lifestyle spin to their mobility solution.
“We have the lifestyle bit because we are currently trying to get Nigerians to embrace healthier habits. The shift in health and fitness trends in Nigeria and particularly Lagos is astonishing. Seven years ago, you probably would see very few people jogging on the streets of Lekki, whereas today its hundreds of people.
The same goes for gyms and even healthy food vendors and dieticians. These were businesses that were considered dead seven years ago, whereas now they present some of the better growth opportunities moving forward. If people are going to cycle, it makes sense for us to give them the opportunity to be health conscious about it and they can easily incorporate their fitness goals into their daily means of commute”, he said being thoroughly convinced about their timing and solution.
Ingressive Capital believes the startup has potential not just for growth but also for the venture capital’s exit opportunities judging by what's happening around the world.
Imagine a state like Lagos making bicycles an official means of transportation.
Lagosians can then expect dedicated bike lanes to be carved out, as in the case of the rapid bus transit system (BRT) in Lagos. Already, in February, the State signed an MoU with a French company, Smoove to deploy a 200-bike share project in Lagos.
For security, AwaBike’s Bicycle will be geo-fenced meaning users will not be able to move the bicycles out of a specified region which will most times be the respective campuses or communities where it would be deployed. Like Uber, riders will be able to open a mobile app to find the nearest bike and would not have to worry about parking space, as the company would have negotiated those slots with the authorities of that community.
Their launch in LASU will determine a lot of this young company’s future, even as we wish them all the best.