Startup Spotlight: Twisted Road

All Things Venture #008

Hey Everyone - Dez here from Apex. When I was around 15, a good friend of mine told me about how I should use Reddit, buy Bitcoin, and check out the Silk Road. Today, as a twenty something navigating the endless mouse trap that is Post-Grad Life, I caught myself thinking about that advice. I log on to Reddit almost daily, a single Bitcoin is worth around $11,000, and Silk Road is nothing if not infamous. I share these things for two reasons, one to give a shout out to my friend who is now a member of our growing newsletter (Joey, if you’re reading this - thank you for being one of my first doorways in to tech), and two to share my belief on how important and necessary early adopters are for any product. Early adopters, in my opinion, are the single most important source of growth for any product. They will literally pull the value proposition out of you, spread the gospel of your business to their friends, and (when the stars align) pay you money. Joey’s recommendations way back when, were just an early example of an early adopter doing what early adopters do. They stay ahead of the curve.

And speaking of staying ahead of the curve, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Austin Rothbard. Austin is the founder of Twisted Road, an AirBnb style marketplace but for motorcycles and motorcycle lovers. We talked about his path to founding Twisted Road, and how his business has navigated the pandemic.

APEX: Can you describe Twisted Road's business?

Austin: Absolutely, Twisted Road is essentially an Airbnb for motorcycles. It's a peer to peer marketplace that allows riders to rent motorcycles while they're traveling. We also rent bikes to riders who no longer own a motorcycle.

APEX: What inspired you to pursue an "Airbnb" for motorcycles?

Austin: Three years ago I was in the Grand Canyon on vacation with my family and I wanted to rent a bike. There were three issues with that though. The closest bike was two hours away, it was going to cost me $200 a day, and it was a large motorcycle. There really weren't any options that met my requirements, and I knew that if I could build a community of trust I'd be able to solve this need.

APEX: What was it like building a community of trust early on?
Austin: It was a lot of work. The first step was gathering information through rider interviews and surveys, to quantify the true level of interest. I realized that speaking with friends and family aren't always the best barometer for whether a company will be successful - they are more interested in protecting you and are very biased. Trust was built through the site design and rider verification and background checks. I decided to outsource the tech and I ran it by myself for two years. In early 2019, I took on some investors to hire my team. 

APEX: You've worked in a number of roles and fields in your career, what attracted you to this intersection of entrepreneurship and hospitality?

Austin: I've had a very fortunate career and although I've had the opportunity to run many businesses, I wasn't entirely fulfilled with these roles I had. I always wanted to build something and create my own community, and I was always thinking of potential business ideas. It was only recently that I was able to have the idea, experience, and money to allow me to start Twisted Road.

APEX: Given the current environment, what has it been like building a business, specifically a hospitality business during a pandemic?

Austin: We've been lucky. Although we saw a slowdown in March/April, in May the business started to pick back up again and we then had record months in June and July. I think that people in quarantine just need to ride, and we are here to help.

APEX: Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Austin: Learn as much as you can about what it takes to start a business. Talk to people. Read books and articles, and learn from the experience of others. There's a class at Stanford called "How to Start A Start Up". The entire semester is available on YouTube; it's a good place to start.

TL;DR - Twisted Road is an peer to peer marketplace for motorcycles

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