Swapfiets: The company with the blue front wheel
They are seen everywhere in the city centre of Groningen, all the blue front wheels. Everyone seems to know at least one person who rides one. We mean, of course, the company ‘Swapfiets’ that now provides bikes in over 10 city centres in the Netherlands, of which Groningen is one of them. The company experienced incredible growth over a very short time span. They went from barely known to a widespread phenomenon in just one year. The reason for their success is not a mystery since the Netherlands is globally known for its widespread and thorough use of bikes there is no shortage of potential customers. The use of the Swapfiets solves many different kinds of problems and is therefore suitable for many different people. On the one hand, they are perfect for foreign students, who do not yet own a bike and want a cheaper alternative to buying one. On the other hand, it works for Dutch students who already own a bike but had theirs stolen or don’t want to use it in the city for precisely that reason.
They went from barely known to a widespread phenomenon in just one year
Back in 2015
The idea was born in 2015, when four students from Delft were struggling with one of the biggest problems faced by students: stolen bikes. They were inspired by the idea of leasing cars and were surprised that there was no comparable service for bikes. So, they started with buying 30 bikes on Marktplaats, the Dutch eBay, in order to rent them to people, together with the services they now still provide. The concept became increasingly more popular quickly and grew very fast during 2017.
The way Swapfiets works is simple but effective
The way Swapfiets works is simple but effective: customers pay a standard subscription fee and a bike they can use in return. The monthly fee, which is far below the price of a new bike, appeals to many people because not only do customers get the bike, it comes along with many services that guarantee working conditions of the bike. Swapfiets, for example, will in case of the bike malfunctioning replace the bike with a new one. They repair it if it breaks down and deliver a new one at your choice of time and location. What makes the package even more advantageous is the fact that the bikes are of really good quality and replaced very cheaply if they might get stolen. There is no question why such a great amount of people choose for the Swapfiets.
Since then the company has grown immensely and the students now have over 500 employees making sure the bikes get where they need to be and that they stay in optimal condition. According to the founders the company strives for high-quality parts and bikes, since buying cheap replacement parts only leads to more repairs and this hurts the profit.
A future abroad?
As of late, the company founders have expressed their desire to expand abroad. With Swapfiets growing dramatically in The Netherlands it important to keep this momentum and use it to expand across borders.
If you ask us the future of the Swapfiets looks very bright
Even though other countries do not rely on bicycles as much as The Netherlands does, the founders are very optimistic regarding their chances of success. They plan on keeping their business within the neighbouring countries at first, focusing on the real ‘bicycle-countries’. Therefore, they are looking at expanding to Belgium and Germany, attempting to gain a presence in the large cities first, as they did in the Netherlands.
If you ask us the future of the Swapfiets looks very bright, with proven success in their home country they now have the resources and confidence to start creating bases for their operations in different countries. The developments regarding their expansion will be very interesting and a useful lesson for students all across The Netherlands, who may be looking to start a business of their own.
A lesson to be learned
Now that Swapfiets has achieved its first successes it will be interesting to see how they will develop their strategies in the near future. What started with a simple idea of some students from Delft has now grown in a larger company in just a few years. This amazing feat is one of which many startup companies could learn a lesson or two from. Their service is excellent and one of their greatest strengths, leaving thousands of satisfied customers in more than ten Dutch cities already. Whether they will be able to repeat such massive success and retain their momentum across borders remains to be seen. However, the students from Delft have already shown to be creative and have a great sense for business. Who says they will not just do it again?Coen Wolters & Max Kanne 20-02-2018
Blotenburg, S. (2018, 02 04). Blauwe fietsband rukt op: Swapfiets beproeft geluk in buitenland. Retrieved from rtlz.nl: https://www.rtlz.nl/business/blauwe-fietsband-rukt-op-swapfiets-beproeft-geluk-in-buitenland
RTLNieuws. (2017, 03 01). Swapfiets: voor 15 euro per maand een fiets. Retrieved from RTLNieuws: https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/geld-en-werk/swapfiets-voor-15-euro-per-maand-een-fiets