Bike Hunter - Martin Jäger
I don’t particularly like Berlin. The city is large, loud and not windy enough.
When the wind blows his hair all around and he has to force himself forward, then Martin is really in his element. But when the air is still, the founder from Rostock can deal with it, but it irritates him. But it's alright for him to stop in Berlin on his way from the biggest international bike fair, Eurobike, in the still air of Friedrichshafen at Lake Constance. This is not Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, but there's a gentle breeze.
Martin has a meeting with Oliver Binder, deputy branch manager of Zweirad Stadler at Blankensteinpark. Sun-tanned, in shorts and a t-shirt - and as always barefoot - he welcomed the bike expert to introduce "insect" to him. The community-based theft protection 4.0 for bicycles is finally ready for production. It's a product that fits to Berlin like full beards and cloth bags. Or like cyclists ignoring red traffic lights and arguing with drivers.
The pain point in Berlin is already really high on the subject of cycling.
Bicycle theft is a real problem: Around 30,000 bicycles were reported stolen in 2014 in Berlin. In fact, there may be more, because the real figure is much higher. The thieves, who are mostly organized in gangs, do not care whether the two-wheeler is rusted or in good shape. A lock cannot prevent this, only delay a theft, which usually takes just three minutes. If you do not want to change ownership of your e-bike, road bike or trekking wheel involuntarily, it is best to leave it in the apartment or garage.
Martin did not want to be like half a million other Berliners. And as an engineering student in Rostock, he made the painful experience that he once only found the lock left behind from his bike. On the fifth such occasion, he had finally had enough. He let his frustration roar from his balcony - and the lions in the nearby zoo roared back. Whether that was a sign or not - that evening, Martin decided: “I never want to go back to running after my own bike like people did 100 years ago, but go hunting together with others.”
I can achieve more together with the community than alone - which is exactly the philosophy I can find in Berlin.
The idea developed as a student project. And after six months in New Zealand, Martin knew: This is a product. Out came "insect", a sleek device that is mounted on the water bottle holder on the bike frame. The insect is connected to a bicycle racer app. If the owner removes his wheel, the device goes off like an alarm system. If someone makes a move towards the wheel, insect starts crying, as loud as a hungry baby. This is the technical component. The community idea is much more important for Martin: insect not only informs the owner that his bike is being stolen, but also gives the current location data, and also warns all other cyclists within a 100 meter radius. The larger the community, the more signals I get and the more accurately I can determine the new location of the bike.
After the appointment at Zweirad Stadler, Martin takes some time to check out his old neighborhood. He does not like to remember the Berlin that he lived in during the mid-2000s. Far too big, bustling, colorful and loud. Not like in Rostock. Today, Martin is astonished, as he cycles from the Frankfurt gate to the river Spree in the direction of the Warsaw bridge: renovated houses have largely replaced the grey old buildings with cracked windows and bad balconies. Underneath the houses, bike shops, Mustafa’s vegetable Döner, organic supermarkets and coffee shops have all appeared where Martin once lived, a few streets further in the fashionable district, Friedrichshain. Near the river, he breathes deeply: It doesn't smell like salt and sea. But he enjoys the gentle wind and thinks:
I saw Berlin from a different angle. And I liked it. I’m coming back.
Martin Jäger is CEO of Fahrradjäger, a start-up from E.ON: agile program.