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New startup links cyclists with global rentals, accommodations and events

Published March 21, 2017

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN) — It’s a bold concept. Think of an Airbnb-like website where cycling consumers can find and book rental bikes, bicycle-friendly hotels and hostels, tour operators andtour guides, events and races all with the click of a mouse. That’s what Phil Latz, a consultant for CycleLifeHQ.com, contends would unify and boost growth for a highly fractured bicycle tourism industry.

The online startup with offices in Canberra, Australia, the nation’s capital, has finished its first round of acquiring venture capital, netting a high-six-figure buy-in from investors. Latz, who also has minor stake in the company, said its founders, Charles Black and Matt Ryan, both with years of experience in IT startups, are preparing a second round for the investment community.

“The bicycle tourism industry is as big or bigger than the bicycle hardgoods industry,” Latz said, noting a study done in Europe that estimates bicycle tourism generates more than $100 billion in revenue annually. “That may seem hard to believe, but consider hotels, food, travel, rentals — it is just so diversified,” he said.

Another way to think of the website is to compare it to an online version of a Lonely Planet guidebook. It would include maps, articles, photos and other information on various regions of the world, Latz said.

The startup already has a toe-hold in the U.S. market. It recently signed up Missoula, Montana-based Adventure Cycling as a client. If the non-profit’s members use the website to book bike rentals, for example, Adventure Cycling would get 5 percent of the sale.

As Latz points out, the revenue model for the website is based in part on sharing a small portion of its sales with operators who participate in the program. In the U.S. alone there are some 5,000 operators, including retailers, who offer rentals, accommodations, guide services, organized rides and other activities that could net additional revenue when working with CycleLifeHQ.com. The company has hired Jeff Miller, formerly with the Alliance for Biking and Walking, to market and sell the program.

Latz, founder of Australia’s leading consumer magazines, Bicycling Australia and Mountain Biking Australia, is also the current editor of Bicycling Trade, a trade magazine for the industry. Latz sold his publishing company to Yaffa Media almost three years ago and is well known in the industry. A former racer, Latz is also involved with a variety of advocacy programs in Australia.

“With this program there is no money spent out of pocket, but operators must promote the website to their base. That’s the key to the model,” he said. The founders have no background in the industry other than being keen cycling enthusiasts. “This is a startup and they have done them before successfully,” said Latz, who has been advising them for about a year.

For now the company is focusing its efforts on building a market in Australia and the U.S. before expanding worldwide, Latz added.

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