Podcast: How to quickly scale to 66 countries (Michel Willems, BimBimBikes)

In the new European startup podcast Startup Milestones, aimed at inspiration for founders, co-founder Michel Willems of BimBimBikes shares his lessons learned. How do you quickly scale to 66 countries worldwide?

While there are certainly a lot of podcasts available with 'startups' as their main topic, most of the time it has a focus on the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Or it's just a summary of the latest news. A new podcast called Startup Milestones, a 'passion project' by Austrian entrepreneur Florian Kandler, is a show purely for founders. We love these initiatives and we hope someday a Dutch project will follow.

In the fourth episode he interviews Michel Willems of Rotterdam-based BimBimBikes, the 'Booking.com' for bikes. This summer it got a 250.000 euro investment. Another Dutch startup to appear in the show is Yasir Khokhar's Connecterra.

You can listen to the podcast here. Too lazy to listen? Here's a recap:

  • BimBimBikes spun out of a web agency. It has its advantages: "it saves resources and developers are already in-house. it's difficult to find a great team from scratch."
  • The moment for Willems to split up the project, and create a seperate entity, was when the business model started working. "When we reached a turnover of 10.000 euro a month, it was time."
  • The startup got its first customer when Willems just visited a bike shop. The next one in the same street also said yes. For the rest of The Netherlands: "I gave my car keys to an intern, and said: 'get me 100 bike rental companies'."
  • To expand to other countries, more was needed. "However, bike rental companies don't necessarily have to see us in person. We work with an intern as country manager for every country, and let them do sales per phone or through email/social media."
  • Willems noticed lots of cultural differences. For instance, in Croatia, sometimes a Facebook message was all they need to get a 'yes'. In Germany, clients want you to have some sort of license, so they can trust you. "In Southern Europe, people are less risk aversed."
  • Business in Spain went well, but BimBimBikes struggled in Barcelona getting clients. "Once one said yes, we sent a message to the other ones which said 'no'. 'We're officially in Barcelona now, want to join us?'. That got things started."
  • Having interns can be a disadvantage, after a couple of months they leave. "But once we already have some clients in a country, it's not that big of a deal. Also, we rather have people here instead of a country manager in a specific country. That way you have more control and people can learn our company values better."

When the podcast with Connecterra airs, we'll be writing a summary as well. Image: yorgunum @ Pixabay