An ex-Google investor is aiming to raise $1 million by getting tech workers to ditch their laptops and cycle hundreds of milesPublished by admin | No comment
On March 30, 2012, a Google employee named Eze Vidra asked his Twitter followers if anyone fancied cycling from Paris to London with him. He invited them to sign up through a Google Form and 55 people expressed an interest within 24 hours.
Jump forward to 2016, and Vidra is again looking for riders (sign up here) for the fifth “TechBikers” Paris to London ride — a 300 kilometre journey that takes three days to complete.
Vidra founded TechBikers with Benjamin Southworth, former Tech City UK deputy CEO, Mark Jennings, founder of Shake, and Abraham Choi, founder of Decision Analytics.
Vidra told Business Insider that the non-profit is hoping to raise £50,000 off the back of the 2016 Paris to London ride for a charity called Room to Read, which helps children get access to education around the world. The four previous Paris to London rides resulted in TechBikers raising over $ 400,000 (£274,000) for the charity.
Thinking about organizing a Campus/Tech community cycle ride from Paris to Shoreditch this summer, wanna get involved? http://t.co/KnXDkCXN
— Eze Vidra (@ediggs) March 30, 2012
Vidra hopes to have raised $ 1 million (£687,000) through TechBikers by the end of 2016. In a bid to do this, he’s looking to organise five rides this year including one from Napa Valley to San Francisco and another from Vienna to Budapest.
Here’s a look back at some of the previous rides between Paris and London:
Vidra and over 300 other tech enthusiasts have completed TechBikers’ Paris to London ride. A number of others have also completed rides from Hamburg to Berlin and Stockholm to Berlin.
TechBikers attracts a mix of investors, founders, and techies. Employees at Google, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, Balderton Capital, Mckinsey, Founders Factory, and Salesforce have been on past rides.
TechBikers is not meant for professional riders. It’s a serious physical challenge, cycling 320km from Paris to London, but it’s a mixed ability ride, supported by a professional organising team. “We celebrate and thrive on diversity,” said Vidra.
People have completed the Paris to London ride on Bromptons, fixies, Boris Bikes, and tandem bikes. For the past two years, Chris Mairs, the blind cofounder and chief scientist of MetaSwitch Networks, cycled on a tandem bike called Genevieve with Michael Willmott in the front. Mairs was the investor in Willmott’s company.
Sam Strong, director of sales at marketing at data intelligence startup Keyrus, broke his ankle three weeks before the ride in 2014. Rather then pulling out, he ended up completing the ride on a hand bike.
Previous riders have included: Carlos Espinal (partner at Seedcamp); Gemma Young (founder of Settled); Sam Barnett (founder & CEO of Struq, acquired by Quantcast); Thomas Stone (cofounder of PredictionIO, acquired by Salesforce); Anna Boffetta (associate at Balderton); and Philipp Gontier (head of Twitter Mobile EMEA).
The costs are covered by sponsors and the riders themselves, and all the donations go straight to Room to Read. Here is a YouTube video showing what it’s like to complete the Paris to London journey with TechBikers.
TechBikers has seen its rides sponsored by a number of organisations. This year Seedrs, Quantcast, La Fosse Associates and Fried Frank are pledging money.
People bring their own gadgets from bike computers and GoPros to smart watches and Google Glass.
The ride goes through quaint little French villages like this one. Vidra said there’s a high level of camaraderie on the road. People help each other out, fix flat tires, motivate others up hills, ride alongside each other and make new friends.
The riders gather for photo opportunities at famous landmarks on the route, including Tower Bridge in Central London.
They also stop for photos in other spots. William McQuillan, a partner at Frontline Ventures, rode for 320 kilometres with a pink tutu — a bet he made in order to pass £1,000 in donations. You can just about make him out in this photo.
Unlike many other tech events, TechBikers tends to attract groups of around 50% females and 50% males.
Vidra, who admits to not being a huge cyclist, said TechBikers has been made possible thanks to a team of volunteers. They include: Marie Steinthaler, currently head of growth at Zopa; Michael Willmott, who has rode every year since inception, coded the website, rewrote the JustGiving API to help create a fundraising page automatically for each rider; Rich Pleeth, a former colleague from Google and founder of Sup; and Mark Jennings, founder of Shaken Cocktails.
The money raised through TechBikers has resulted in five schools, eight school libraries, 3,000 scholarships for girls and a training program for teachers in Nepal, Cambodia and India.
This promo video gives a bit more insight into what it’s like to do a ride with TechBikers.
Room to Read founder John Wood said: “It’s great to see a community get together, put down their laptops, and pick up their bikes to support kids from around the world and bring them the lifelong gift of education.”
Vidra, who used to back startups with Google’s billions, argues that what started as a weekend bike ride between a few friends in the London tech scene is now very much a global operation pulling in substantial sums for a worthy cause.
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