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Estonian start-up boast a zero-theft rate so far...

A startup formed of young people has created a thief-proof bike rack for cities.

A team of Estonian students and young entrepreneurs brought together by an entrepreneurship competition called Brainhunt, has come up with Bikeep, and installed over a thousand smart bike racks in Estonia, Ukraine, Hungary, Belarus, and most recently in the US.

The rack works using a galvanized steel bar that locks the bike through the frame and the front wheel.

It makes life much harder for thieves than breaking a traditional lock or pinching a wheel.
What’s more, each bike rack is equipped with a loudspeaker alarm and is also connected to the internet, which can provide its operator a live overview of its usage.

The racks can be unlocked with a mobile app, phone call or an RFID access card - meaning spaces can be reserved for employees of a particular business.

Now Bikeep have opened offices in San Francisco from which to grown the US venture.

"We chose San Francisco mostly because of the local culture. People are very open to innovation and businesses have understood the long-term value of employees and customers," Bikeep CEO Kristjan Lind told ZDNet.

"Businesses are motivated to provide extra perks and wow effects for [staff and clients], and at the same time it's a contribution towards a better environment for everybody as well.”

Lind says in the five countries where the company has installed its stations, no bicycles have so far been stolen from the racks.

"In San Francisco I've heard a lot of scary stories about very highly motivated bicycle thieves. They are even using vans to pull the more traditional racks off the ground to get access to the bicycles attached," he said.

According to Lind, its biggest rivals are the bike-share companies, although their target group is slightly different.

"Bike-share products are mostly made for people who don't own their own bicycle, whereas our system provides security for people using their personal bicycle for everyday rides," he says.

The cost of maintaining Bikeep racks is lot lower than maintaining the bike-share services, Lind added.

"Also, it's more convenient for the user, whose journey starts and ends at his or her front door, whereas with bike-share one has to go to the closest bike-share station first to get a bicycle and then get back home after returning it."

The company is now looking into added a charging system for electric bicycles.

"It hasn't been very popular among the customers yet, because the small number of electric bicycles," he says. "But we can see this trend changing and when it does, we already have a product for it."

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.