It is getting to that time of the year. The weather improves and suddenly everyone remembers their bike is in need of spring maintenance. Cue long queues and service times – if you even manage to get to a bike repair shop. Now Finnish startup Yeply wants to ease this frustration by taking bike servicing directly to customers.
“Brick-and-mortar bike repair shops are rarely located close to bike owners and, based on our experience, often prioritise expensive bike models over cheaper mass-market ones,” says Tommi Särkkinen, co-founder and CEO at Yeply. “We started to wonder does servicing your bike really have to be so difficult? We can make it very easy, convenient and fast, and even a fun experience.”
The concept is simple: Yeply has transformed vans into mobile service stations. The vans drive around different neighbourhoods, set up for an evening and serve all kinds of bikers and bikes. The service can be pre-booked online or requested ad hoc at the van. Either way, Yeply promises to have your bike ready the same day.
“No brick-and-mortar shop can guarantee the same,” Särkkinen enthuses. “We believe in simplicity. We offer one product, a seasonal service. It is easy for any bike owner to purchase, our vans have been tailored for it and all bikes go through the same process.”
A well-oiled chain
Yeply is what happens when an engineer and a designer get together. In 2014, Särkkinen and his childhood friend Antti Känsälä reconnected when both happened to be training for an Ironman triathlon. A few years later, the old camaraderie turned into a business relationship, when Känsälä brought up the idea of modernising the bike service industry. Särkkinen was easily convinced.
“We moved really fast. We developed a minimum viable product in early 2016 and started the service on 5 June,” he recalls. “The aim was to test with one van how the service would be received.”
It is safe to say the reception was positive. Two years later, Yeply has three vans operating in the Finnish capital region, over 500 000 euros in funding from private and public sources (including the public funding agency Business Finland) and a new digital platform running behind the scenes.
The new platform is a crucial part of Yeply’s operational efficiency. It records every bike, service and customer, and also offers real-time insight on the company’s vans, sales and marketing.
“This is a very different approach from traditional brick-and-mortar shops,” says Särkkinen. “We like biking, but we also want to create a profitable business.”
Hitting top gear
Yeply also has plans for rapid growth. In summer 2017, the company drove one of its vans to Germany and the Netherlands to test the local markets. Now the startup is ready to launch in Hamburg, first with its own vans and later with franchises.
“We are currently developing our franchising model in Finland,” Särkkinen says. “It is the key to conquering Europe before anyone else.”
Yeply isn’t the first to offer mobile bike repair services but the startup hasn’t run into anyone quite so ambitious. Unlike man-and-a-van operations and specialist on-demand services, Yeply wants to appeal to the masses.
In fact, the company aims to be Europe’s biggest bike service provider by 2022 and believes its Finnish origins offer a trump card.
“Finland is an extreme country when it comes to weather. That makes it an ideal location for piloting because, if we can make a mobile bike service work here, we can make it work anywhere,” Särkkinen concludes with a laugh.