Spintop sat down with Carmen Hasenknopf and Niels Henrik Rasmussen from our portfolio company Donkey Republic just in time for the release of their Annual Report for 2023, to discuss the growth and success of their republic ten years into their journey of providing easy access to bikes through their bike-sharing service. Founded in Denmark, Donkey Republic now has had more than 20 million rides on their bikes in eleven countries. 

Their focus is developing long term contracts and partnerships with cities and municipalities they serve in order to be able to balance their growth in revenues, capturing markets and profitability.  

– We’re a data driven service company giving our customers easy access to thousands of bikes getting you from a to b most efficiently in time and with a smile, for freedom and health and better living in a city. Last year our revenues grew strongly by 70% to 15 million EURO, and this with a positive EBITDA for the first time in the company’s history, of 1,3 million EURO – so we’re very pleased with our development in our financial performance. But more importantly is that our organisation is evolving stronger and more and more into a team working together across our operations and across the cities we serve in Europe, says Niels Henrik Rasmussen.

Today more than 70% of Europeans live in cities and therefore transforming the way we move is critical in achieving a sustainable future. Bike sharing has a positive impact on 4 major areas: Improving public health, reducing congestion, minimising emissions and better use of public space. The 6,7 million trips taken with an average of 2 km per trip on Donkey Republic bikes in 2023 correspond to a total positive impact of 10,5 M EURO in health benefits and 528 Tons in CO2 savings. 

– For us, working with ESG is a perspective in everything we do and it has lots of synergies. Profits and purpose are supporting each other in everything that we do. A great challenge that I run into a lot in my day-to-day work is data and measurement. There’s not a standard measurement yet, to measure impact and get your information right. Every provider uses their own calculations, us included. So we try to be very transparent in how we calculate our impact and when we communicate. We try to lead by example and welcome anyone who wants to challenge us on these numbers because they can easily see how they’re put together. So far we’ve worked with Technical University of Dresden to figure out the overall methodology. This provides us with a solid base, says Carmen Hasenknopf, who’s been with Donkey Republic for almost seven years and today she’s a Product and Governance specialist, focusing on how to push the ESG agenda forward while aligning the product development with the commercial demands of the market.

She’s hopeful that the industry in the coming years will continue to improve how impact is measured and Donkey Republic is part of initiatives looking to develop a common impact calculation model.

– I hope we get to something that is really good and can be applied across industries and then also improves comparability. Then we hopefully can push each other to become better here. This is essential in order to be able to improve our operations and get better forecasts of how much our overall impact improves.

Being ESG-driven is not easy, it’s complex and has many moving parts. 

– It’s easy to think that our business idea, bike sharing, is a sustainability sweet spot, you would say. It’s a no-brainer that a bike to move around is quite a sustainable choice as compared to many others. But you can do it in different ways. You can still have a bike that can only be used for a year, then it has to be trashed and you drive it around with diesel vehicles, for example. So it’s not a no-brainer that the way you do it is sustainable as well. So that’s why we try to take this thought into all the operations that we do. It’s the overall core DNA of the Republic, says Carmen Hasenknopf.

In several spots they also have deep social engagements. For example in Switzerland where in Geneva they work with an organization working towards socio-professional integration, or in Belgium where they work with an organisation where employees learn how to work with bikes through an apprenticeship in the workshop. In Germany they have supported initiatives that focus on cycling training for women.

– We’re an Impact Business – being both! They go hand-in-hand together for our company. The better our business performs the better we can make an impact. And developing a model of lean businesses is a key success for our company as an impact business. If we want to be great and serve cities and riders and a greener transition, then our business model and performance are to work also businesswise of course. A healthy business can develop for more and develop a better future, says Niels Henrik Rasmussen. 

Niels Henrik Rasmussen joined as CEO of Donkey Republic in the fall of 2022 with focus on the strategic execution towards more defined markets for developing the performance and execution, and a stronger organisation. In the past Niels Henrik has served as CEO for Secunia and Penneo. Carmen Hasenknopf has been at Donkey Republic for almost seven years and has served in different positions, now as Product and Governance Specialist.