Jonas Christensen is a co-founder of Bike Chaser, an online platform for buying and selling cycling products. The platform brings together new and used cycling products from retailers and private sellers.
Jonas and co-founder Cameron Nicholls are both avid cyclists, and their goal is to create a platform where cyclists and retailers can connect, trade and unite. Their passion for cycling combined with their experience from finance and software industries has helped them develop a platform that is simple, low cost and easy to use. This year the platform opened up to local bike stores which led to exponential growth in users and products on the site.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Cam and I have been keen cyclists for quite a few years. I grew up in Denmark where bikes are everywhere so it has pretty much been my main mode of transportation my whole life.
Cam’s addiction started when he joined one of the local bunch rides some years ago. Soon he was buying and selling lots of cycling products online and he was unhappy with the expensive and cumbersome platforms available in market. We talked about this for a couple of days and decided that we should create something that could make the process of buying and selling cycling products a lot easier for everyone involved. That’s how Bike Chaser was founded.
We worked on the concept for a while and decided to start a cycling blog to create an audience while we were exploring the build of a more comprehensive platform. The blog quickly grew in popularity because we filled a void in local community cycling so we knew we could make something of it if we kept going.
After developing our MVP platform we realised that we needed a much bigger investment into the technology to make it work to our standards. We spent a few months looking for a technology partner and found a quality digital agency to join forces with.
Can you explain your business model to us?
The business model is rather simple: cycling retailers and consumers can use the platform to advertise their products. The platform allows users to communicate with each other, with the final transaction taking place outside the site. We don’t handle any money for the users. Our role is to make it as easy as possible for buyers to find the products they need and for sellers to stand out amongst the crowd. We have two sources of revenue: bicycle retailers pay a monthly fee to use the platform and advertising revenue from banner ads.
What is it you’re working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
A few months ago we opened the platform to local Aussie bike shops and we are really excited about the way we have been received within the industry. Unfortunately, I can’t be too specific about the things we’re bringing to market in the next 12 months, but it will suffice to say that we are really excited about helping local Aussie businesses succeed online – something that is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller businesses to do. With our support, local bike stores can use Bike Chaser to get exposure they would otherwise be excluded from.
How do you make ideas happen?
At Bike Chaser we use a mix of internal ideas and customer feedback to constantly tweak and improve our offering. We have quite a nimble setup with developers in several time zones so we can turn ideas around rather quickly.
At the end of the day, time is our only non-renewable resource so we have to be very cognisant of how we spend it. We generally prioritise using basic 80/20 thinking and place our ideas into an urgent/important matrix. If something is urgent and important it will get done first, with the stuff that is important but not urgent taking second place. Non-important stuff should not get done at all. This prioritisation is really important for a start-up because there are a million different things to work on. Like Michael Porter said, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
I look for mentors around me on a daily basis. You can find a lot of inspiration in the skills and behaviours of others, no matter what they do. I find mentors in friends, family and colleagues but also have an “official” mentor who I catch up with on a monthly basis. I think informal mentoring has had a huge impact on my life so far, so it doesn’t have to come from an established mentor/mentee relationship. Sometimes an hour’s conversation with an expert in a certain field can lead to a completely new way of thinking about a challenge.
I also find mentors in books (especially biographies) and have recently become infatuated with podcasts. Books allow you to tap into the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers but podcasts add another dimension because you can hear how people think, reason and communicate. Success doesn’t only come from what you do and say but also how you do it. Barack Obama is a classic example of “it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it”.
What does your typical day look like?
My day starts early, typically at 5.30 am. I enjoy the early hours because I can do things without external distraction. Often I will do some blog writing or other creative work first thing because my brain is rested at this time. Towards the end of the day I tend to run out of steam mentally so I reserve this time for more basic tasks. Some mornings I will prioritise exercise over work to make sure I allow myself some time for physical well-being.
I generally work quite a few hours and will tend to clock in for a couple of hours after dinner. I normally put the tools down at about 9.30 pm to allow myself to unwind for 30 to 60 minutes before bed. I work 7 days a week when time allows for it. I believe that if you have a goal to achieve you should give it all you can. If you fail it shouldn’t be for lack of trying. Luckily my co-founder Cam has a similar mindset so slackery is uncommon at Bike Chaser.
What challenges have you faced when starting a business in Australia?
I think it’s generally fairly easy to start a business in Australia compared to so many other places in the world but for us it has been the usual challenges of capital, experience and time, none of which you have enough of when you start out.
For us, the biggest challenge has been finding the right business partners to help us scale the business fast within our resource constraints. Bike Chaser is a JV between the co-founders and an experienced digital agency which allows us to quickly pivot the business when we need to.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Think big! Aim high and set the highest standards for yourself and your business. The world is full of great ideas with bad execution, so do what you can to not add to that statistic.
We have pivoted the Bike Chaser concept three times because we realised that we weren’t thinking big enough. By the way, I am not saying anything here you can’t read in many business books about strategy and execution so I see it as a bit of an universal truth in the world of business.
What people or companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
At Bike Chaser we tend to look outside our industry for inspiration because we are trying to challenge the status quo of what’s already on offer for consumers and bicycle retailers. Our JV partners are experienced platform builders so we have been able to leverage a lot of their previous experience.
Afterpay is an Australian company that inspires me a lot. They have been able to create a massive loyal following while also improving the revenue and customer satisfaction of their customers. All this has been done with a relatively lean setup, but with excellent execution.
What about internationally?
E-commerce is changing because of new business models such as Amazon, Uber and AirBnB. These companies are effectively faceless platforms but they still manage to create huge customer loyalty without the human interaction. I think any business can find some inspiration in how these organisations have humanised e-commerce through customer reviews and smart algorithms.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I personally think businesses today should focus on their social responsibility much more than it has been done traditionally. If every business had an altruistic purpose to it as well as the purpose of making money, the world would surely be a better place than it is. At Bike Chaser we donate part of our profits to charity and consumers can choose to donate a sum to one of our three partner charities when they post an otherwise free ad on the site.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
Our newest charity partner is beyondblue, which is an Australian charity focussing on mental health.
Can you recommend 3 websites to our to our readers?
My favourite podcaster is Tim Ferris. He just has access to some of the sharpest minds in the world so you’ll to learn from people you wouldn’t otherwise come across.
Ted.com is another classic website for people who are avid learners, like me. Be careful though, a few hours can pass by very quickly when you’re jumping from one interesting presentation to another.
I also like reading the Harvard Business Review, both in paper form and online. It’s quality content all the way. By the way, I think it’s important to read widely as an entrepreneur because you have to be a bit of a jack of all trades to succeed.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We aren’t looking for any particular skillset at the moment but we are always willing to listen to people’s ideas and very open to having an informal conversation. I’d encourage anyone, who has something to share with us, to get in contact.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?
I think the biggest question, until you succeed, is always “am I working on the right concept”?
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Being from Melbourne I’m spoilt for choice but my favourite restaurant is actually the Spirit House in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Wonderful food and fantastic ambience, every time.