One day, while checking the status of a book ordered online, Moritz Stephan noticed that it was shipping from nearly 600 miles away. Stephan–a 16-year-old living in Vienna–and a friend, 17-year-old Konstantin Klinger–recognized a business opportunity.
“We asked ourselves why they would have to ship our book from so far away when the same book is probably available at a local store just a few blocks away,” Stephan tells Co.Exist. “Realizing that this is awfully inefficient and harmful to local businesses at the same time, the idea to provide a service that combines the simplicity and convenience of an online shop with the proximity and expertise of local businesses was born.”
The pair launched Lobu, a startup that works with local bookstores to provide same-day delivery of books by bike. (It’s similar to a German startup with a bike-delivery business for other products.) People order online, so it’s as convenient as shopping on Amazon, but faster than a standard shipment while supporting local business, and it has a lower carbon footprint.
During the current pilot of the business, which began in January, the students are offering the deliveries free in their neighborhood, the 18th district of Vienna. “We have received 90 orders in the last four days, which is an amazing amount considering that the district has a rather small population and we are completely new to the market,” says Stephan.
Despite being full-time students, Stephan and Klinger are managing to run the business–and make deliveries–themselves. As they scale up, they plan to recruit college students as part-time bike messengers.
Ultimately, they hope to bring the project beyond Vienna. “Bookstores and generally small, local businesses [that] need support everywhere,” says Stephan. “Our business model is easily adaptable to other cities and business sectors, which enables us to expand into other European cities, and we are determined to do so.”