SFU alumni launch station-less bikeshare service in B.C.
Mar 22, 2018
A team of three SFU alumni have launched U-bicycle North America, the first dock-less bikeshare program in Western Canada. The all-female leadership team comprises CEO Grace Min (BA, Sociology and Education), Chief Strategic Officer Angel Fu (BBA, Finance and Marketing), and Business, and Chief Marketing Officer Mandy Chan (BA, Communication).
After graduating, Min started a successful career as an entrepreneur, founding three businesses in the international trade, property, and travel sectors. Combining her entrepreneurial talents with a passion for cycling, Min sees U-bicycle as the perfect mix of business and making a positive impact.
“I grew up in Shanghai and in my childhood I really liked bicycles. I had some great, memorable moments with family and friends riding bicycles,” says Min. “But my husband and some friends suffered from lung diseases, it was very common because of the air pollution in China at that time.”
When she arrived in Canada to study at SFU, she was struck by the blue skies, clean air and cycling infrastructure and immediately saw the opportunity to promote cycling to help maintain the air quality, and reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.
Angel Fu, a close family friend of Min’s, was flying high in the world of finance as an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong. She left this job to join the U-bicycle team, inspired by the idea of giving something back to the community. The two were joined by Mandy Chan, who draws on seven years’ experience in marketing and advertising at Microsoft, to complete the leadership team.
U-bicycle launched its service in Victoria, BC, in October 2017 and now operates 450 bicycles in the provincial capital. It is now looking to grow, both in Victoria and its surrounding areas and in the Lower Mainland, and the leadership team is in talks with several municipalities. As former SFU students, the management team also hope to see U-bicycle operating at the SFU campus.
With 20 employees in North America and eight further crew members soon to be hired to support planned expansion, U-bicycle is growing fast. The company is committed to hiring local talent and partnering with business in its areas of operation, to promote local employment opportunities.
The station-less system means that users are not restricted by having to pick up or drop off bikes at specified locations. Instead, you can search for a nearby bike and unlock it using a smartphone app, and lock it up again when you reach your destination—wherever that is. The convenience of this system, which also removes the need for expensive infrastructure or the loss of parking spaces and revenues, makes it attractive to municipal governments.
U-bicycle’s smart bikes are specifically designed for BC users, and the company’s close relationship with the bike’s manufacturers allows them to customize them and make improvements in a very short timeframe. They have already launched a second generation of bikes incorporating improvements based on feedback from users, including improved fenders, lighter weight and increased range of seat heights.
The business is going from strength to strength, but, for Min, the success of the venture is about far more than the number of bikes on the road; she is proud of the impact it will have on her community and create a positive impact for the next generation.
“I can happily say that, when I look at my four-year-old son, Rick, running around and zipping around on his bike, I am extremely proud of the life and example I am setting for him,” she says. “With U-bicycle I hope he can in turn teach others how to reduce our carbon footprint, not just for ourselves but for the generations to come.”