If you’re looking to be active in a city there are usually a lot of options, but they may not be easy to find options. Where do you bike to rent, or a basketball if you want to shoot hoops at the park for an hour? The Northwest Iowa startup Koloni is hoping to streamline a city’s connection to its parks and recreation activities and products.
How Koloni works
If a pedestrian is walking through a city and see a bike they want to rent, they pull out their phone and scan a QR code with their app. Similarly, city parks would have lockers with sporting equipment that can be unlocked by scanning a QR code. Once someone is done using the equipment or bike, they put it back and scan the code again, ending the rental and completing the transaction.
“Our vision with Koloni is to essentially bring the key to the city to your pocket,” said co-founder Brian Dewey.
Koloni operates on a software to service model. They’re currently working with cities, apartment complexes and hotels and resorts that are looking to start a rental service. The QR codes can be placed on existing bikes and sporting equipment, or Koloni provides bikes start at around $20 each.
Koloni got its start in 2015 when Dewey and his partners were working on a project collecting data on trail usage for a county master plan. Dewey and his partners realized parks and rec departments didn’t have a way of collecting data from their parks.
“We ended up designing Koloni Play, a first to market product for these departments to enhance the usage of their parks system,” Dewey said. “We went through development and trails and finally got to a place where we could minimize cost and produce at a price point that’s suitable for them”
Koloni recently acquired the fleet of the Silicon Valley company Spinz, giving them around 3,600 bikes across the U.S. Dewey said Koloni will soon redistribute those bikes to medium-sized markets (50,000-250,000 population), which are the company’s target markets.
Koloni began testing out its system in 13 cities in Iowa and Minnesota, including Mason City and Clinton. It will soon be launching in Cedar Falls, Coralville and Animosa, with plans to expand soon into Georgia, Kentucky and the pacific northwest.
An exploding market
Bike and scooter rentals are popping up in cities everywhere, largely driven by Bird. The Silicon Valley company has recently seen its valuation double to more than two billion dollars. Dewey thinks Koloni has a chance to succeed in this quickly expanding market.
“Maybe it’s rooted in our Midwestern focus, but the model we’re deploying now is very sustainable, and scalable as well,” Dewey said. “We’re dispersing ownership of our system, at a price we can scale. A lot of these mobility companies have been on record that their scalability model is unknown. I think this is a model that can generate revenue for the cities, hotels and apartment complexes that we partner with.
Down the road
Koloni is currently hiring, looking to bring on a CTO to help manage the technical aspects of the company. Dewey said they’re also starting steps toward raising $1.5 million for a seed round of capital, which will allow Koloni to bring more than a dozen new employees on board.
“I hope that in five years we’re a company that’s known across the nation,” Dewey said. “We’ve integrated enough different levels of products that have value for users that you’ll need Koloni to get through life. You’ll be able to use Koloni to get to work, at the local park, and own the road we’ll give people access to kayaks and canoes. I think you can connect and share virtually anything.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.