Securing city bikes with a smart locks infrastructure

Case study of a project with

Project genesis

Alexandre and Nicolas had the idea of taking on secured bike parking challenges in European cities Alexandre Molla is a former GM of Uber in France and Switzerland and Nicolas Louvet is the CEO of 6T, a renown mobility research-oriented firm.

Based on the observation that a bike is parked 95% of the time, Sharelock's founders want to massively unlock bike usage by solving the secured parking problems for bike enthusiasts!

“‘Where am I going to put my bike?’ is the single biggest obstacle we need to tackle to massively unlock bike usage.” - Alexandre, Co-Founder of Sharelock
Securing city bikes with a smart locks infrastructure

The challenges we faced

Useless poles on the sidewalk

In order to unlock the usage of bikes in European cities, Alexandre and Nicolas had the idea to transform these useless poles that you can find on the side of the street into smart, connected and secure bike locks in order to build the world's first shared bike locks network. The concept is cool and easy but how can we make it real?

“Although they were a young team*, they perfectly understood what we wanted to do.” - Alexandre, Co-Founder of Sharelock

* Sparkmate was less than 6 months old when Alexandre started to engage with our team

Technical challenges:

  1. Security: The primary challenge is to ensure that the locks are secure and cannot be easily broken or hacked. How do we ensure end-to-end secyrity from the mechanical aspects to cybersecurity?
  2. Connectivity: We need to make sure users will always be able to lock/unlock the bikes using their smartphones even in dense urban environments. How do we make manage network coverage, reliability and security of devices to Cloud communication?
  3. Power supply: Smart locks will require a sustainable power supply to operate effectively. How can we develop a very low-power consumption system?
  4. User interface: Sharelock needs a user-friendly interface that enables bike users to easily access and operate the locks using their smartphones. How can we build the fastest and smoothest experience for users?
  5. Durability: The locks will need to withstand harsh weather conditions, vandalism, and wear and tear. How do we create a durable and robust design that can withstand the rigors of everyday use in a busy city?
  6. Compatibility: Another challenge is to make sure the locks are compatible with different types of poles, bikes and bike frames. We also need to ensure that the locks can be easily installed and removed from the poles without damaging the infrastructure. How can we design such a mechanical structure?

The solution we built

We've been working together with Sharelock for little over a year, we went from an idea to the first shared locks system in the world, composed of:

The locks

  • Adapt to all bikes, and most poles (tens of thousand in all cities)
  • Connected
  • Highest security standards (SRA, FUB approved)

The apps (IOS and Android)

  • Find the nearest available lock to book
  • Lock/unlock your bicycle on any lock
  • Check on your lock status ( Receive notifications when theft attempts are detected)

The Operator Platform

  • Monitor the whole network of locks
  • Organise the maintenance
  • Data analysis of the usage

All of this allows the user to enjoy the highest standards of security to park its bike all around the city, 

“When I worked at Uber, what we believe that really makes a difference in companies operating in the same field is: speed of execution, and excellence of execution.” - Alexandre, Co-Founder of Sharelock
A fleet of Sharelock deployed in Nice

A Nice, les nouveaux cadenas à vélo connectés ont été mis en service ce  lundi - Nice-Matin
Locking a bicycle

Project Journey

We started the project with Sharelock at the stage of the idea and needed to align the product development on their business requirements! The Sharelock team quickly grew from 2 co-founders to a team of 15, allowing for a dense and fruitful partnership, with Sharelock’s team going as far as sharing offices with our team.

And here is the breakdown milestone by milestone of what happened during almost a year of collaboration

Weeks 1 to 5: Getting the concept

Milestone 0 aKa Find your Spark

As soon as we started the project with sharelock, we started to test some concepts and build some super rough versions of the products with 3D printing off the shelf components and a super basic webpage to control the lock from a phone in order to map the user experience from A to Z

  • 💼: More clear view on what it will take to develop the sharelock
  • 🔧: A concept chosen to be developed
  • 💸: 50K USD invested to date


Weeks 6 to 10: Building the first prototype

Milestone 1

In the previous milestone we had chosen to make a prototype based on a "U lock" design, we built a first functional prototype with the main features, locking/unlocking, clamping on a pole… We made everything in-house even milling the aluminum on our CNC machines

  • 💼: First user testing with a working prototype 
  • 🔧: A fully working prototype made in-house (#SharelockV0), back bone of a cloud architecture and mobile application
  • 💸: 150K USD invested to date 100K USD for the milestone 1)

Weeks 11 to 15: Making it sexy

Milestone 2

The first prototype was working with the minimum functionalities, but let's be honest it was not very beautiful, in collaboration with a team of designers we made a design that can fit in our city's streets. We switched from aluminum to steel.

  • 💼: First engagement with key stakeholders
  • 🔧: A new version of the lock #SharelockV1, the app, and the cloud infrastructure 
  • 💸: 250K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 2)

Weeks 16 to 20: Make it for the market

Milestone 3

Sharelock got the approval of a City to launch an alpha test in the previous milestone so we focused this milestone on raising the level of finish (adding bumpers to protect the bike, Led status, anti-theft system…)

  • 💼: Continue to build trust with Stakeholders, first meetings with Private investors
  • 🔧: Improved version of the #SharelockV1
  • 💸: 350K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 3)

Weeks 21 to 25: Launching the alpha testing

Milestone 4

In order to launch the coming city in great condition we decided to run a an alpha test in our office, we so drilled our office parking slots and installed 4 poles on it so our team could use the sharelock on a daily basis in order to detect and fix bugs.

  • 💼: Better understanding of the Sharelock product, with real data about battery consumption, weather resistance
  • 🔧: A set of 5 #SharelockV1 that were used on a daily basis
  • 💸: 450K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 4)

Weeks 26 to 30: Let's build 120 Locks in-house

Milestone 5

In this milestone we built internally 120 Locks in order to install them in the street of a city in the next milestone, in the meantime we were continuing to run the alphatest and improving the device, the apps and the cloud platforms.

  • 💼: First engagement of Investors via a SAFE fundraising
  • 🔧: A set of 120 #SharelockV1 ready to be deployed, apps on the stores
  • 💸: 550K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 5)

Weeks 31 to 35: In the Streets

Milestone 6

At the beginning of this milestone Sharelock and Sparkmate's team installed 120 locks in the streets to launch the first city and a beta testing with real users

  • 💼: First city launched! 🎉
  • 🔧: 120 Locks deployed in the street and a beta test running
  • 💸: 650K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 6)

Weeks 36 to 40: 5000 Units? Who?

Milestone 7

We supported the run of the beta-test, fixing remaining bugs and improving the overall experience! In order to continue and help sharelock to scale we started to look for third party partners who will handle the production of 5000 units.

  • 💼: The beta-test had been renamed "pilot" regarding the level of fiability of the system
  • 🔧: Preparation and new design for the #SharelockV2
  • 💸: 750K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 7)

Weeks 41 to 45: Ok let's grow the SparkFactory

Milestone 8

We reached out to multiple partners that could handle the sharelock project after us, but all of them had a timeline that was not aligned with what sharelock wanted in terms of time to launch the V2. Sharelock asked us to handle the middle range production, which we agreed to do! 

  • 💼: Sparkmate agreed to handle the production of 5000 units with the SparkFactory
  • 🔧: New test and new features on the #SharelockV1 for the pilot
  • 💸: 850K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 8)

Weeks 46 to 50: Redesigning for production

Milestone 9

We starting to work a lot on the long term range with a new version of the device, new version of the electronic in order to optimize the cost of the device and its reliability

  • 💼: Big engagement with VC to raise a seed round!
  • 🔧: First new complete design of the #SharelockV2
  • 💸: 950K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 9)

Weeks 51 to 55: Launching a second city

Milestone 10

We refactored some of the Sharelock V1, make more parts in order to adapt to different poles and continue the work on the redesign of the system to launch #SharelockV2 especially on the Electronics and the mechanics of the device

  • 💼: New City closed to be launched in a few weeks
  • 🔧: New version of the #SharelockV1 for new poles
  • 💸: 1050K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 10)

Weeks 56 to 60: First sample of the Long term product

Milestone 11

We tested the first version of the #SharelockV2 with a brand new design adapted to long term production, this version is made for aluminum injection and will help to optimize long term costs of the Sharelock

  • 💼: A cost per device divided by 3 between the sharelockV1 and V3
  • 🔧: New version of the sharelock here #SharelockV2
  • 💸: 1150K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 11)

Weeks 61 to 65: Optimizing the Sharelock V2

Milestone 12

In order to improve the level of reliability and performance of the sharelock we conducted a set of deep testing of the sharelock device, on the mechanical part with the adaption to new poles and on the electronic part on the long range communication

  • 💼: First commitment of Venture capitalist
  • 🔧: New optimisation on the #SharelockV2
  • 💸: 1250K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 12)

Weeks 66 to 70: Raising 4.1M€ and exploring new opportunities

Milestone 13

Sharelock announced his fundraising with a strong 4.1m round closed, very impressive for a "hardware" startup in europe! 

  • 💼: The seed round in closed
  • 🔧: New version of the #SharelockV2 even more optimized and 
  • 💸: 1350K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 13)

Weeks 71 to 75: Assembly at the SparkFactory

Milestone 14

Our neighbor downstairs went bankrupt due to the economic crisis and left his office. We took back the lease to launch the SparkFactory with 400 sqm dedicated to the assembly of projects like Sharelock! Sharelock actually deployed their own assembly line to fully master the assembly of the sharelockV2, now launched with a first batch of 300 units to be deployed in a third city in France.

  • 💼: New cities ready to launch and almost fully independent from Sparkmate thanks to recent hiring
  • 🔧: Production of the #SharelockV2
  • 💸: 1450K USD invested to date (100K USD for the milestone 14)

Here you go!  You now have an idea of what it is to work with Sparkmate! As a quick reminder all of this has been made in the middle of the pandemic, when a lot of companies were closing and struggling to grow. We strongly believe that the success of a project depends on the mindset of the team behind, we loved working with Sharelock and helping overcome the challenges that they were facing! 

“Sparkmate had a level of energy, involvement and ownership I’ve never seen in other firms before.” - Alexandre, Co-Founder of Sharelock

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