Electric Bikes, Communal Dining, & Coffeeshop+[Function]

As my thinking around my value-creation opportunities evolves, I find myself returning to the three markets that I believe match the three criteria necessary for me to commit time and resources to them; namely, a market which:

  1. aligns with my core values of living a value-creating, sustainability, community-focused life,
  2. offers me a chance to apply my existing skillset to a new discipline,
  3. is at an inflection point with exponential growth ahead of it.

Those markets are, as you may have guessed, electric bikes, communal dining, & Coffeeshop+[Function] (think Coffeeshop+Office, Coffeeshop+Florist or Coffeeshop+Bikeshop). At a glance you may think I’m crazy — those 3 markets are nothing alike (hardware, hospitality and retail?!), but I actually think there are opportunities to capitalize on changes in a changing operating environment and tweak the existing business models of each.

I’m about discuss my thought process behind each market below, but first I would like to make a request: if you know someone working in these areas, please, please, please let me know about them! It would mean a lot :)

Electric bikes as a mainstream mode of transport

There is no question that electric bicycles are experiencing a surge in popularity as battery technology improves, innovative designs are crowdfunded into existence, and cities across the Western hemisphere become more navigable/safer for urban cyclists. But in today’s environment I don’t see how the electric bike becomes anything more than a niche product for a relatively small demographic (typically males with an environmental bent and the disposable income to afford a $2,000+ bicycle).

However, I believe that we are on the verge of a revolution in personal mobility with the advent of the self-driving car that stands to reshape everything we think about urban design, and the electric bike could be one of major beneficiaries. When transportation becomes “as reliable as running water”, exponentially safer and effectively commoditized, I believe people will look to alternatives such as electric bikes to regain a sense of control and freedom in their mobility. Self-driving cars will further make cycling an attractive alternative through improved safety (no blind spots or aggressive driving from your Tesla Model 3!), and the likelihood of improved cycling infrastructure with a reduced need for vehicle parking.

Access to electric bikes is increasing, as well. Smart companies like Riide offer a monthly subscription membership at just $79/month — a bike-as-a-service so to speak — which includes theft insurance and free maintenance. As the quality of the experience increases, and the barriers to entry fall aside, I am convinced that the electric bike’s appeal will broaden and achieve mainstream status — a massive opportunity to massively improve the way we get around the cities we live in.

Communal Dining isn’t rocket science, but it’s effective

I have a separate post in the works regarding communal dining as this is the area I feel most capable of dipping my toes into in the near future before diving head first. To put it simply: 1) I think dining with interesting people from one’s neighborhood is an activity that many people would like to participate in, but currently have no outlet for doing so; 2) I believe that we can design a system to continuously host dinner parties where the diners want to stay in touch with one another after the end of the night — it can be scalable if designed intelligently; and 3) I believe that through bringing people together to break bread, we can support and bolster a community’s identity.

It’s not heart surgery, it’s not rocket science, it is just about getting people together to share a meal. And I think we need to do it more often.

(Keep an eye out for the separate post about communal dining next week).

Coffeeshop + [Function]: Why reinvent the wheel?

In 2016, there are clearly no shortages of coffeeshops. I consider myself hugely fortunate to be living in a time when cold brews and third wave lattes are dime-a-dozen, from Williamsburg to Nashville to Medellin, Colombia. I love coffeeshops and I’ve written about them here and here. And while coffeshops have multiplied like rabbits, traditional retail has struggled as more consumer dollars and attention is spent online.

The “experiential” side to retail is not a new concept, nor is the coffeeshop+[function] model. How long Coffeeshop/Bookshops existed? But I do think the model solves the biggest problems of each business type — coffeeshops need to find a way to increase the average check sizes for the foot traffic that comes through the door; retailers on the other hand just need a differentiated experience to get people in their stores.

I personally like the idea of the florist/affordable art gallery+coffeeshop: plants and artwork can provide a beautiful ambiance in which to enjoy a coffee, and plants in particular are affordable luxuries that people could purchase to bring a little piece of the coffeeshop home on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.

So, now that I’ve articulated each idea/market I’m asking for your input. Do you know anyone working on something similar? Do you know a restaurant that would be good for a 20+ person communal dinner? Please let me know!

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