From Drexel Student to Startup Leader
June 26, 2020
Meet Timothy Ericson, a Drexel alum and founder of Zagster (formerly known as CityRyde). Zagster is a bike-sharing company that offers turn-key solutions often found in big cities, for small to medium-sized businesses, commercial companies, and other organizations. With over 250 different bike-share setups across the country, Zagster has become one of the leading companies in the transportation sharing industry.
It all started in 2007 on a study abroad trip to Europe. While spending the weekend in Paris, Ericson was introduced to bike-sharing. Finding the concept very intriguing he set out to find similar solutions back home after returning from his trip. During his initial research, Ericson realized that, while bike-sharing was starting to touch down in a few big cities, it was a largely untapped industry. After securing space in the Baiada Institute incubator at Drexel he began blogging about his new passion for bike-sharing and working with his co-founder for the next few years on their ride-sharing idea. During this time, Ericson was able to land his first major client, the University of Chicago. The University already had a bike rental program, but managing that bike share was a tedious process and required a lot of training. Ericson and his team were able to boost ridership and track all data points by selling their software management system to the school. From that point on Zagster knew they were heading in the right direction.
After achieving success at the University of Chicago, other schools showed interest in Zagster. But with new contracts came new demands. Schools wanted a way to automate the rental process, needed new bikes, a workforce to handle everything and more. Ericson’s products began to evolve as they rose to meet the new problems and needs faced by their potential customers. Then it clicked - people wanted a turnkey solution to their problem. So, that’s exactly what they developed. After landing their first turnkey customer Zagster realized they had found their role in the bike-sharing niche! It was time to get to work, but they needed help to reach the level of growth that they envisioned.
Shortly after this, Ericson and his business partner moved up to Boston; fed by nothing but hope that they’d be able to land a coveted place in Techstars - a Boston based accelerator for startups. Which they did. After being accepted into the program, they were able to meet the connections, mentors and future investors that helped them develop the skills and knowledge they needed to really take Zagster to the next level. By the time the TechStars program finished Zagster had raised $1 million from investors which they used for operational growth. After refining their pitches, hiring a solid team, and learning their place in the market, Zagster became defined as a sales company selling turnkey bike-share programs.
After successfully landing their first turnkey client, Yale University, Zagster reached out to everyone that would listen. All the big bike-sharing companies were focused on major cities, which gave Zagster a clean slate to make their mark in the industry on their own terms. From there on they grew rapidly, signing three to five university clients a year. As Ericson put it, they “were just on the rocket ship of growth”.
Even a short conversation with Ericson makes it abundantly clear just how passionate he is about Zagster and entrepreneurship as a whole. From starting as CityRyde at Drexel to transforming into Zagster and landing over 250 clients in 35 states, Ericson’s entrepreneurial spirit is still growing. Zagster was acquired by Boston company Superpedestrian earlier this year! With more time on his hands, Ericson is taking some time off as he thinks about his next business endeavor.
After a multitude of years as a successful entrepreneur, Ericson has a breadth of advice to give. “I think the best time to start something is when you’re coming out of college because you have so little to lose, just going for it was the best decision I ever made in my life,” he says. While he hasn’t been involved with Drexel’s entrepreneurship program (the Charles D. Close School wasn’t yet formed when Ericson was a student!) since starting Zagster, with the huge success under his belt Ericson said, “You know I started this out of college and had a lot of people help me, so now I just wanna go back and repay it”. Through Baiada and The Charles D. Close School’s Entrepreneurship Alumni Network, Ericson can give back just as so many alumni before him. With options to mentor new startups, participate in entrepreneurial events, and so much more, the EAN has provided young entrepreneurs with guidance, funding, and advice from those who have faced similar challenges before.
If you want to get involved with the Entrepreneurship Alumni Network follow the link below!