Nigerian smart bike-sharing startup, Awa Bike is going full throttle with its expansion plans in 2021.
The bike-sharing platform recently sealed a partnership with the Oyo State Government which will see it provide bikes to be used by workers and visitors at the State Secretariat as part of a 3-month pilot.
While significant, this collaboration is only the first step in a series of strategic plans for Awa Bike’s rapid expansion across Nigeria this year.
After securing pre-seed funding from Ingressive Capital, Awa Bike had first launched in the Lagos State University (LASU) and Redeemer’s University in March 2019. The startup’s bike-sharing platform helped ease mobility for students within these campuses at very affordable rates.
By November 2019, Awa Bike had also launched in Ahmadu Bello University – its third campus location in Nigeria. But just a few months later, COVID-19 happened, effectively halting the startup’s operations.
In a chat with Technext, Awa Bike Founder and CEO, Ifeoluwa Ogundipe explained that following last year’s hiatus, the bike-sharing startup has set out for aggressive expansion in 2021.
On aggressive expansion and regaining momentum…
Having seen its 2020 operations all but suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ife says Awa Bike is forging ahead with expansion plans to major cities and more Nigerian campuses this year.
We basically lost the whole of last year due to strikes and COVID-19. We are currently making up for lost time with a slightly more aggressive approach to our expansion.Ifeoluwa Ogundipe, CEO Awa Bike
The startup’s partnership with the Oyo State Government is a part of its expansion strategy to major cities in Nigeria. A similar collaboration with the Lagos State Government is expected to be sealed within the next 4-6 weeks.
With the Lagos government’s draconian treatment of bike-hailing startups still fresh in mind, perhaps the state will be more supportive of Awa Bike’s bike-sharing solution.
Speaking on the state partnerships, Ife says Awa Bike is going beyond its campus-focused model to test the feasibility of serving the wider community in cities such as Lagos and Ibadan.
“The idea is to see how best, in partnership with the states, to roll out these schemes so we have a high chance of success. The states want it, we also want it, so we are looking at how best to achieve it. It’s more of an expansion of our model to include metropolis areas where practical.”
Ife maintains that Awa Bike is still targeting students in tertiary institutions, stating that plans are underway to launch in at least three (3) more campuses in the next 2-3 months.
Our expansion to other tertiary institutions is currently happening as we speak. We should add at least 3 more institutions in the next 8-10 weeks and around 10 more before the end of the year.Ifeoluwa
Awa Bike’s next campus locations will include Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Imo State University (IMSU), Federal Polytechnic, Nekede and Niger Delta University, Bayelsa.
Bootstrapping its Way to Expansion
Since raising funds from VC firm, Ingressive Capital in 2018, there have been no funding announcements from Awa Bike. But the bike-sharing startup has also secured investment from Oui Capital.
When asked if this meant the team is currently bootstrapping the business, Ife answers in the affirmative.
Yes we have raised funding from other VCs and investors. We had actually started a seed funding round just pre-COVID but had to put it on hold for obvious reasons. Yes, we are currently bootstrapping and we hope to resume fund raising before the end of the year.
The Awa Bike CEO says the startup is still looking to secure external financing, but can successfully bootstrap for now despite associated difficulties. However, he does not disclose details of funding rounds in the pipeline.
“Unfortunately I can’t speak about our fundraises for now, but yes the halt on funding has been a challenge. We believe strongly we can bootstrap through it though and we are looking forward to an exciting year ahead,” he said.
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