Big Issue eBikes Bristol Ltd is a new joint venture for the UK between leading social enterprise, The Big Issue Group and ShareBike as a leading micro mobility business delivering e-Bike sharing schemes.
The ambition is to deliver a host of environmental, health, economic and transport benefits for local authorities, communities and businesses.
Big Issue eBikes launched in Bristol, (the first city to launch the scheme), thanks to a £450,000 impact investment from City Funds, a Bristol-based impact investment fund run by Bristol & Bath Regional Capital. We spoke to Michelle Simpson, Director of Alliances at The Big Issue about the initiative.
What social or environmental problem is the Big Issue ShareBike scheme trying to solve?
We believe that Big Issue eBikes will encourage active transport, improve air quality and improve road safety, helping Bristol achieve cleaner air in the fastest time possible by providing a genuine alternative to car use.
We aim to bring bikes to the people who wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards them by assisting in behavioural change, e.g. workshops, special rates.
We want to create more employment opportunities for local and disadvantaged people (with specific focus on the long term unemployed, NEETs, ex-offenders and those with barriers to work).
We also have an ambition to contribute to improving the lives of those is in the most deprived neighbourhoods in Bristol. We will do this by working with local community-based organisations and offering discounted subscription models.
How is your commercial value proposition connected to the impact you want to make?
There is currently a global shift towards more sustainable solutions and transport is one of the largest areas with an extreme potential over the next few years. At the same time, there is a shift towards a sharing economy where it becomes more common to rent than to own. As part of this shift, there are ever better economies of scale and people are increasingly understanding the value of this which means that the willingness to pay also increases. There is no reason for this area to fall into the hands of international companies, and Big Issue eBike instead wants the profits from such activities to create new jobs based on fair conditions and fair wages. We also want to create a local culture around a service and make it a value-creating element in the city.
Tell me about the major milestones you’ve hit and why you needed investment.
The system was launched on February 1st and it is still too early to refer to concrete results. However, we have so far seen that our bicycles are used more than expected and we can point to a strong growth in the lending rate. We have also succeeded in recruiting more employees who have been outside the labour market. As a result of our presence, a number of companies and organisations in Bristol have contacted us and are interested in replacing car-based transport with bicycles. This will actively contribute to a better environment and better air quality in Bristol – and not least a better health for those interested. We also see that the bicycles, due to their range and speed, complement the existing public transport offer in a very good way that makes everyone win.
Why did you seek out impact investors, rather than pursue typical sources of investment?
As we are a mission-based business, having an impact investor supporting us has really helped us to make traction in the local community. It truly demonstrates our intent for Big Issue eBikes.
How are you going to use the funds, and how is that going to benefit Bristol?
The entire funding has been used solely for the Bristol scheme. It secured the purchase of our bikes and the ability to get the scheme up and running in Bonville Road, Brislington where we have 5 people employed.
Congratulations on a successful funding round! What do you know now that you wish you knew when you set out?
How important it is to have the legal structure of the newco and bank accounts in place so that the process is speedier.
What’s next for Big Issue ShareBike?
We will continue to embed the scheme in Bristol and provide more bikes for the city and surrounding areas like Bath during 2022.
In 2021 we were awarded a tender by Aberdeen City Council and will be focusing on launching a scheme there in late Spring 2022.
We have numerous warm conversations ongoing with other councils across the UK and will be working on the 22/23 plans with them.
Business name: Big Issue Sharebike
Mission: To generate increased employment opportunities for social good and create green transport solutions through cost effective and advanced bike sharing schemes.
Value proposition: Providing affordable, sustainable transport options that are good for you, good for the environment and good for others.
Sector: Environment, Economy
Legal form: Company Limited By Guarantee
Amount and type of investment: £450,000