You could say that entrepreneurship is in my blood. Even as a kid I was constantly starting small businesses, trying to make a few quarters or a buck wherever I could. As I grew, those instincts only sharpened, as I harnessed the Internet to bring my ideas to a wider scale.
Over the past 12 years, I’ve founded or been an early employee of four startups across the software, publishing, and transportation industries. The two I created ended up being acquired and one where I was an early employee — Turo.com, a car rental marketplace — went on to raise over $90 million from venture capital funds and expand nationwide at a breakneck pace.
My experience at that last startup showed me that when it was time to venture out on my own again, I would want to do so with a company that would both have the potential to do good for others while also being able to grow into a formidable organization.
There are, after all, many ways to make a living. So doing good — something that would benefit others — was a key criterion. However, the ability to scale and grow was also paramount, as it would be the only way to build a strong team and make a significant impact in the long run.
The idea for the startup found me, however, instead of me finding it.
My brother, Yevgeniy, enjoyed bicycling, especially with his wife. However, their rides would end up being more tiring than she desired or shorter than he wanted. An electric bike represented a way to balance out their endurance. By combining human power with an electric boost on demand, a rider to go further without additional effort. And, for Yevgeniy and his wife, it worked magnificently, finally giving them the opportunity to do the riding that kept both of them comfortable, happy, and engaged in the activity.
When I saw what the electric bike did for them, I was drawn to it for the potential of solving many of the commuting and transportation challenges in our cities. This overlapped closely with the work I did at that last startup, Turo.com, where we worked to give people access to cars on-demand without needing to own one.
With an electric bike, I wanted to make it so people could commute and get around without needing a car altogether.
The concept was alluring as it offered a way to disrupt an industry that has been stagnant for years. Traditional bike sales have been flat for years, as many consumers stay away due to hills, fitness levels, age, or even the inconvenience of arriving to work sweaty and needing to change and shower.
Electric bikes could eliminate these obstacles and make cycling a viable mode of transportation. Thus Yevgeniy and I launched EVELO in 2011 with the goal of enabling people to give up their car and commute by electric bike.
The company grew and expanded over the years to millions in revenue and thousands of satisfied customers along the way.
However, it wasn’t without its share of surprises. The journey led us in an unexpected direction. While targeting commuters and encouraging the transition to electric transportation, we’ve stumbled across — and enthusiastically embraced — what we refer to as the “longevity economy,” the needs of the age 50 and older demographic.
The longevity economy is a tremendous, underserved, and underrepresented sector. It is focused on aging and the transition that goes along with it.
We came across it almost by accident. Yet it has become our largest driver of growth and our biggest single customer demographic. It completely changed our business and our direction, even though we hadn’t planned on it.
Over the next few posts, I will discuss why the longevity economy represents the biggest hidden opportunity for many small businesses. I’ll explain the mistakes we’ve made. And I’ll address my experience of growing a business while also improving the quality of life for our customers.