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Drexel pair’s business model runs on pedal power

Bicycle rental rack at the Hyatt Regency in Penn’s Landing. ( AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer ) Bicycle rental rack at the Hyatt Regency in Penn´s Landing. ( AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer ) Gallery: Drexel pair’s business model runs on pedal power Zagster rental bikes Video: Zagster rental bikes Travel Deals $999 — Punta Cana: 4-Star ‘Dreams’ Weeklong Trip from Philly * See all travel deals » Diane Mastrull, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2013, 1:09 AM Outside the front entrance of the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, Timothy Ericson was surrounded by options for getting around. To his right, cars and trucks rushed and rumbled along that irritating, if not hair-raising, ribbon of asphalt, dented guardrails, and seemingly perpetual construction politely known as I-95. To his left flowed the tranquil traffic of cargo ships, tugboats, and sightseeing vessels on the Delaware River. In the skies above, planes made their way to and from Philadelphia International Airport. But Ericson’s transportation focus this day sat parked at his feet: four bicycles. The 2009 Drexel University grad hopes they will help his company, Zagster, become a nationwide bike-sharing provider to the private sector. Zagster’s market is not the general public, unlike typical city bike-sharing initiatives – such as the one Mayor Nutter has vowed will be ready to roll next year in Philadelphia. Zagster is more niche-oriented – it wants to put hotel guests, apartment dwellers, college staff and students, and office-park workers behind the handlebars of its two-wheel cruisers, managed through a high-tech reservation-and-security system. Oddly enough, Zagster’s inspiration is a car-sharing program. “We want to be the brand Zipcar built – for bikes,” said Ericson, who cofounded the company in Philadelphia in 2007 with fellow Drexel chum Jason Meinzer, 30, a Hershey native. (Back then, their company was a consulting business called CityRyde.) Some of the $1.5 million Zagster has raised came from an early Zipcar backer, Jean Hammond, a Boston-area angel investor. Zipcar sites influence where-to-live decisions by twentysomethings who don’t own cars, said the car-less Ericson, 27. “We want to be part of that decision-making process,” he said. “We want to be the brand where people make decisions on where they live, work based on where the bikes are.” Zagster was accepted into a top incubator program in Boston, prompting Ericson and Meinzer to relocate there with the company at the end of 2011. Now based in Cambridge, Mass., with 10 employees, two in Philadelphia, Zagster has more than 500 bikes in deployment through arrangements with five residential real estate companies, one hotel chain, a university, and a corporate campus. It’s also testing the concept at an Amtrak station in Portland, Maine. Ericson anticipates putting 100 additional bikes a month into service. Zagster’s “bike fleet in a box” comes with racks, bicycles, and the technology to allow users to reserve online or text a number and, in return, get a passcode to unlock a wirelessly enabled lockbox on the back of each bike. Through a partnership announced in May, Advanced Sports International, a 15-year-old bicycle distributor in Northeast Philadelphia, is supplying Zagster with Breezer brand bikes, an urban-style cruiser with a step-through frame and tires thick enough to handle cobblestone streets. It also is providing Zagster space in the warehouse to add its electronic system and other touches to the bikes. “It makes great sense,” ASI’s chief executive officer, Patrick Cunnane, said of Zagster’s business model. “It’s an amenity people like.””>
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