Wheelys Inc, a Swedish Y Combinator startup operating hi-tech organic bike cafés in 50 countries, just closed a $2.5 MM seed round. Investors include Paul Buchheit (the creator of Gmail), Othman Laraki (Color Genomics), Jared Friedman (Founder of Scribd), and Justin Waldron (co-founder of Zynga).
Wheelys idea is simple: to lower the threshold for young people to start their own café. Instead of paying $500.000 to open a generic Starbucks, Wheelys offers a high-tech mobile café for a few thousand dollars. What Über did for drivers and Airbnb did for the hospitality business, Wheelys is doing for food.
After being hosted at Y Combinator, Wheelys is now growing faster than any food chain before. In the last six months, the company has expanded to 45 countries and there is a waiting list to order cafés.
The company is led by the charismatic 27-year-old Maria De La Croix. With her blue hair and a background in art, she is an unlikely CEO for a global franchise.
"I'm used to people looking for the real boss behind me. But that’s ok. I just show them our growth-numbers, and our numbers are scary as hell for the industry.”
Maria De La Croix
The rapid growth and aggressive marketing has gotten a lot of media attention. Both Fast Company and BBC have focused on Wheelys taking on Starbucks, but Maria doesn’t see them as a competitor.
"I can’t say I do. Starbucks basically offers the same GMO sugared drinks as McDonalds and all the rest, only with a different logo. Wheelys are offering something totally different. A wholly distribution channel. To compare us with Starbucks would be like calling Best Western Hotels a competitor to AirBnB. We are growing with three outlets per day right now, yet we have just scratched the surface of our potential. Sure, we might force Starbucks out of business, but that would not be a goal, but collateral damage.”
If you have any questions or would like to speak with Maria, please let me know.
Have a great day!
Spokesperson for Wheelys Café
PS. HERE is a video of Maria selling coffee right in front of a Starbucks.
"Wheelys- the Bike-powered Coffee Cart that could take on Starbucks"