Last week my Social Entrepreneurship course at GMU featured a guest — Paul DeMaio, Owner of MetroBike LLC. DeMaio’s company describes itself as a ‘progressive transportation consulting company based in Washington DC, whose expertise is bike-sharing. Paul has worked with cities in US and Europe on designing and implementing bike-sharing programs.
Bike sharing programs are basically short term rental systems with unattended stations, often based in urban locations and featuring multiple pick up and drop off points. Its a pretty interesting concept and it started in Europe. (DC just launched the first North American program — MetroBike played a role in designing and planning this system)
Paul became interested in this concept while an undergrad at UVA in 1995. Paul was a bike enthusiast and while working in tech support late one night, he stumbled across pictures of Copenhagen’s bike sharing system while browsing the net. He couldn’t read the words, but the pictures were all he needed. He went abroad Denmark and studied the city’s bike sharing program. He was now passionate about the subject.
Paul returned home, finished his studies and took a job working in transportation for the City of Alexandria, VA. As he worked, he continued to study bike sharing, publishing on the subject and going to school part-time at George Mason in order to do more research on bike-sharing and its economic, environmental, commercial, and policy impacts. DeMaio participated in GMU’s Transportation, Policy, Operations & Logistics masters degree program.
DeMaio did not launch his firm until 2005, fully ten years after he discovered bike-sharing at UVA. The lesson from this is that DeMaio recognized an opportunity as an undergrad and didn’t create a firm until 10 years later. Part of this was driven by the fact that DeMaio was way ahead of the market in recognizing an opportunity. But, because he was passionate and dedicated to the opportunity, he was able to spend the years building up his knowledge, market understanding, and experience in the field of transportation.
DeMaio also writes the leading bike sharing blog in order to increase his knowledge and brand, but also in order to grow the awareness and demand for the entire marketplace. I will post more on MetroBike and DeMaio as I spend more time with him, his firm, and the DC bike sharing system.
I have no doubt that bike sharing could be a huge opportunity on larger campuses and also urban campuses. Contact Paul and check into starting up a bike share business on your campus.