Here’s a good sign about what Cambridge bike-sharing startup Zagster is up to: One of their biggest success stories is at a place where you might think they could never thrive—at a huge automobile company in the heart of Motor City.

Since launching at the General Motors campus in August 2014, Zagster has gone through a number of expansions and is now at 100 bikes with GM. The bikes allow employees of the campus—which is about the size of Cambridge, acreage-wise—to get around without needing to get in a car, drive and then park. That’s a big time savings and a cost savings, which has no doubt helped GM to get past any reluctance about embracing alternative forms of transportation.

“Something that’s happening in our generation is people are deciding what is the best option for each trip—that could be Uber, a bike, a bus,” said Timothy Ericson, co-founder and CEO of Zagster. “That’s really the macro shift in the way that people think about getting from Point A to Point B, and I think GM is starting to recognize that—that always using a car is not sustainable anymore.”

Zagster CEO Tim Ericson

Zagster’s model has similarities with citywide bikesharing programs such as Hubway, but they’re focused on providing bikes for private properties such as colleges, apartment buildings and corporate campuses. The secret sauce is Zagster’s ability to get bikes serviced nationwide from its network of mechanics, who are dispatched via mobile phone, Ericson said. “We created the technology and process around being able to effectively dispatch mechanics around the country,” he said.

Zagster, which took part in the Spring 2012 session of Techstars Boston, raised a $3.5 million Series A in June 2015 and since then has been accelerating its growth pace. The startup is now running 140 programs around the U.S., compared to about 30 prior to the Series A, and is operating in 33 states compared to eight previously. Meanwhile, the startup’s staff grew during that time from eight employees to 33. This month, the company added another $1.5 million to keep up the momentum, Ericson said. And Zagster is now getting a presence on the West Coast, with the opening this month of an office in San Francisco at the RocketSpace technology campus (where Uber had an early office).

In particular, Zagster has its sights set on expanding to universities that presently have Zipcar car-sharing programs on campus—thus demonstrating an interest in alternative transportation models. There are 500 such universities in the U.S., Ericson said. “We could build a $100 million business just with universities that have Zipcar,” he said.

Other customers of Zagster include Yale, Duke and Ohio State, along with TripAdvisor (headquarters in Needham), Samsung and Salesforce.

“Our model is really to expand to become the standard in bikeshare in everything except the largest 15 cities in the U.S.,” Ericson said.


Zagster

  • Founded: 2007 (formerly CityRyde)
  • Employees: 33
  • Funding: $8 million
  • Investors: LaunchCapital, Fontinalis Partners, Clean Energy Venture Group, Launchpad Venture Group; angel investors including Jean Hammond and John Landry

Photos courtesy of Zagster.