Wheelys Starts it’s first Bike Café
in Lund. The cafés are built by hand
in Malmö, and Wheelys ships
it’s first cafés to Chile and Jordan.
Wheelys gets accepted
into Y Combinator in
250+ Wheelys Cafés
in over 45 countries
Wheelys is a chain of organic bicycle cafés, enabling people (ALL people) to start their own businesses. Since launching in 2014, Wheelys has exploded over the world and currently operates cafés in more than 45 countries. Wheelys was hosted at Y Combinator (the accelerator behind Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit) and has been funded by, amongst others, Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), Jared Friedman (founder of Scribd), and Justin Waldron (co-founder of Zynga).
Wheelys HQ is in Stockholm, and the boss is 27-year-old Maria De La Croix, the only CEO of a global food company with blue hair.
“We will break the hegemony of the industrial fast food chains, and pave the way for an organic revolution. Helping us to do this is young hungry eco entrepreneurs from all over the world.”
— Maria De La Croix, CEO of Wheelys
Wheelys: The Story
In late 2015, a group of friends gathered in a shady bar outside the wind torn city of Mamlö to share a barrel of wine. We were quite disillusioned.
In an act of lunacy we had just shut down our profitable, award-winning advertising agency. All we knew was that we wanted to change the course of the world.
Having worked with some of the biggest brands, we knew better than most how powerful these brands had become.
Was there a way to challenge them?
The result was Wheelys.
A Wheelys café costs $3,000 to start, versus a Starbucks, which costs $500,000. This allows a whole new group of people to open a café (you know, the 99% of the population who can’t afford $500,000).
After one year, we’ve spent a lot of money, and got… not too far. Half the group jumped ship. Who could blame them? But the rest of us continued.
The first cafés were shipped in the autumn of 2014. Thirty of them. Among our pioneers were Wheelys Jordan and Wheelys Chile. In early 2015, we sold 60 more cafés. We followed that by selling 120 cafés the summer of 2015, thereby establishing a pattern of doubling business every six months.
After being accepted at Y Combinator, Wheelys was now a well funded, stable, growing company. Yet we are just at the beginning of the beginning of what we will do.
A Green Revolution
A lot of big corporations are panicking these days. “Whoa, they want ecological thinking? Well, let’s … eh … run our diesel engines on palm oil! And print our corporate-environment-policy on that brownish paper!”
Wheelys is not perfect. But let’s face it. We serve organic, vegan food from cafés that run on energy from your body and the sun.
Wheelys want to make the world feel again. The taste of coffee as it used to taste. The joy of running your own business. We want to take part in the great movement away from the the soul-numbing mega-brands. (Click here for an analysis of why big brands must be bland.)
THE TOOLS OF THE REVOLUTION
The most important step is to do everything in a new way. By building an infrastructure that connects young people around the world and aids them with the tools of the revolution.
The bike is only one tool. The coffee another. Equally important is the network, the app, and so on.
For us, this is the core of what we do, and why we are starting to dislike being compared to Starbucks since this comparison misses the point. To say that we will become bigger than Starbucks is like saying that AirBnB will become bigger than Mariott Hotels. Of course we will, but Starbucks is just one part of the gray mass that is the real competition.
WHY ****BUCKS IS DOOMED
But humans are also the same. The giant hegemony of the global brands has been built on delivering consistency. People choose the known before the unknown. This is the reason that ****bucks brews the same coffee in all of their cafés around the world. Not many people hate that coffee, but not many people love it either.
Wheelys has chosen a completely different approach, with three different coffees. What? Three official coffees? Could we not be safe like ****bucks and find ONE coffee, with the only difference being that Wheelys coffee would be LOVED by everyone? The short answer is: no!
The problem with ****bucks is not that they are stupid, or bad at tasting coffee. The problem is that there does not exist a coffee that is loved by everyone and hated by no one. Remove the hate, and you will remove the love.
This is something most scientists who work with food agree upon: when you find a product that no one hates, it will be a product that no one loves. This is the reason that the coffees of most food franchises, from McDonalds to Starbucks, are seldom hated, but never loved either. Their “coffees” have been meticulously engineered to not make anyone upset, and the only way to do that is to engineer a flavor that doesn’t evoke any kind of emotions whatsoever, good nor bad.
After doing this for forty years, the global café chains have created something like the food version of elevator music or daytime sitcoms.
This is a tradeoff that ****bucks, quite knowingly, made. Under the banner of consistency!
Wheelys wants to be the opposite. Hated and loved. Like Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Or X-Ray specs. Why not listen to Malcolm Gladwell talking more in depth about the theory behind this here.
The goal is that all three coffees shall be available on most Wheelys Cafés at the end of the summer. Our aim is that among these three you will find one that will make you want to beat us up, and another that will make you want to make love to us.
Through the ages, people have been drawn to symbols: the cross, the star, the crescent. During the last part of the 20th century, companies started to put this knowledge to use by creating recognizable “brands.”
By manipulating people subconsciously, the global mega brands managed to fasten their grip on our minds until they had virtually extinguished all local cafés and small businesses from the city centers of the world.
The main problem with this is not the brands, but the fact that the brands are only accessible to people who are already rich. To start a ****bucks you need $500,000 or more.
Wheelys want to offer the power of branding at a much lower price.