ROCHESTER – AutoBike LLC, a Troy-based client of the OU INC business incubator, has received a $50,000 loan from the Michigan Pre Seed Loan Fund, administered through Ann Arbor Spark, to advance its plans to manufacture and market a bicycle that shifts gears automatically.
The company’s idea and business plans won first-place honors on Friday, Feb. 10, in the Intercollegiate Business Plan Competition hosted by Eastern Michigan University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and representatives were to present to the OU INC Investment Review Board at OU INC on Tuesday, Feb. 14, to win additional funding opportunities. Company co-founder Sean Simpson said the Ann Arbor Spark loan represents a key step forward in AutoBike’s efforts to provide casual bicyclists with a means to ride a bike at a steady cadence without having to push levers or turn knobs.
“Our technology allows even the most novice bicyclists to always be in the right gear, because instead of teaching the rider how to shift, we taught the bike how to,” the company’s Web site explains. “The AutoBike bicycle riding experience can best be described as a stress-free ride in the park.”
Another advantage the bike’s internal controller provides by automatically adjusting the gear ratio is keeping the rider comfortably pedaling within an optimum efficiency range.
“This loan enables us to design and develop a production, automatic-shifting bicycle that will leverage all of the things we’ve learned from designing, constructing and testing concept bicycles,” Simpson said. “We’re extremely grateful that Ann Arbor SPARK has provided us funding to help make our business concept a reality and that OU INC has assisted us in developing our business plan. We’re hoping this technology will encourage more people to get out and enjoy bicycling.”
“We are very excited for AutoBike and congratulate them on their early successes,” said Amy Butler, executive director of OU INC. “Their creativity, innovation, and strong business sense will deliver a product that will greatly enhance the cyclist experience.”
AutoBike is jointly owned by John Czoykowski, Mark Simpson, Sean Simpson, and Kevin Smith. The group has leveraged individual experience in research and development, product development, project management and financial management to bring their product from its conceptual beginnings all the way to production design.
The company plans to begin beta testing in April and May and then begin limited production in the third quarter of 2012. AutoBike models will be sold directly to customers rather than being distributed through conventional retail bicycle outlets.