When he was a teenager, Guillermo Cornejo loved going on motorcycle rides in the countryside outside of Lima, Peru, seated behind his dad.
“When I moved to the United States I thought maybe I could drive a motorcycle instead of being a passenger,” Cornejo said. “But I could not afford to buy a motorcycle and renting them cost $200 a day.”
That’s how Cornejo got the idea for his company, Riders Share, which he founded in 2018 in Los Angeles. In 2020 the company moved to Austin, drawn by its business-friendly environment.
Riders Share operates an online platform that lets riders rent motorcycles from owners. Just as demand for rental cars, RVs and campers has skyrocketed as travel recovers from the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Riders Share has seen a surge in demand for its cycles.
Today, more than 2,000 motorcycle owners across the U.S. are registered on the platform and it has 200,000 members signed on to rent and ride.
The company uses machine learning to screen and vet riders before allowing them to rent on the platform.
Cornejo, who previously held analytics roles at Nissan Motors, General Motors and Hyundai, said using an online marketplace rather than a brick-and-mortar store lets Riders Share offer lower prices than traditional rental shops, as well as a larger vehicle selection.
“Gas prices are really high and that benefits owners and renters because motorcycles are more cost-efficient and a great way to travel,” Cornejo said.
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Riders Share partners with an insurance company to ensure owners are covered in the event of loss or damage. Meanwhile, renters receive liability coverage, optional roadside assistance and live U.S.-based customer support.
Offerings on the platform range from traditional motorcycles to three-wheeled bikes and Slingshots, the three-wheel, open-air roadster that sits five inches above the ground. Brands include BMW, Ducati to Harley-Davidson.
Riders Share motorcycles typically rent for $100 a day and owners receive half the rental rate. People typically rent the bikes out for a three-day weekend, which means owners would make $150 a weekend, according to the company.
“It’s a very convenient way of making money,” Cornejo said, adding that some owners use the revenue to add more bikes to their rental fleets.
“One member ended up making enough money that she bought more and now has five. Some have grown to 30 motorcycles and are using Riders Share” as their main source of income, he said.
The company’s growth marks a major rebound from 2020, when the arrival of COVID-19 brought business to a screeching halt.
Cornejo told the American-Statesman in April 2020 that the pandemic caused sales to plummet by about 90% in a single week. To adapt, the company tweaked its business model by expanding models offered on the platform beyond higher-end bikes like Harley-Davidson or BMW.
Now Riders Share has added more large scooters that require motorcycle licenses and can be driven on the highway. The scooters give food delivery drivers a transportation option at a lower price than a car, he said.
According to a recent Tripadvisor survey, 71% of Americans plan to travel for leisure in 2022. Many are seeking exciting new outings and are looking for unique experiences that immerse them in the local environment.
Riders Share is one of a number of companies that have seized the return to travel with concepts similar to the Airbnb business model. Austin-based Outdoorsy lets owners of RVs, motorhomes, camper vans and travel trailers rent out their vehicle to anyone who wants to pick it up and hit the road.
Owners set their own pricing on the Outdoorsy website with the help of tools provided by the company, and keep a percentage of the rental fee. Outdoorsy was founded in 2015 in San Francisco and moved its headquarters to Austin in 2018 to tap into the region’s labor pool, tech scene and outdoors culture. Outdoorsy raised $120 million last year for expansion.
For Riders Share, the biggest challenge it faces it finding enough motorcycles to rent, Cornejo said. “We’re in the opposite position than we were in 2020. We don’t have enough motorcycles to meet demand,” he said.
Since its debut, Riders Share has raised $4 million from investors including Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners, Texas HALO Fund and Techstars.
Now it’s going after a new funding round, which it would use to expand marketing and and add new offerings such as travel experiences and community events.
Investor David Steakley of Texas HALO Fund first discovered Riders Share on the internet when he was in Los Angeles and wanted to rent a motorcycle. When he returned home to Houston, he listed his motorcycles on the site.
“I had my bikes on the site for a year did a lot of rentals in 2018,” Steakley said, adding that the positive experience led him to meet with Cornejo in person and become a financial backer.
Steakley predicts that Riders Share will eventually be acquired by a larger company.
“There are a lot of places where it would be a natural fit – for example, Harley Davidson, Turo, which is a marketplace for cars, or for a marketplace that focuses on RVs,” he said. “I think if Guillermo got an attractive offer he would take it, but it will probably be three or four more years to get to the place where the company would be ready.”
For now Rider Share’s top priority, Cornejo said, is to reach more motorcycle owners.
“We literally just need to grow the inventory to grow the revenue,” he said. “A lot of motorcyclists still don’t know that we exist, so we have a lot of room to grow.”