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UA student and alum electrify cycling

Robert+Alcaraz+%2F+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ATaylor+Hedberg%2C+co-founder+of+a+bicycle+company+named+Velocis%2C+showcases+his+bikes+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+18%2C+2012.+Hedberg+is+a+UA+senior+enrolled+in+Eller.
Robert Alcaraz / Daily Wildcat
Robert Alcaraz / Daily Wildcat Taylor Hedberg, co-founder of a bicycle company named Velocis, showcases his bikes on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. Hedberg is a UA senior enrolled in Eller.

What began as a school project for two UA classmates spun into a career in striving to be at the forefront of the electric bicycle market.

Together, UA senior Taylor Hedberg and alumnus John-Mark Bantock formed Velocis Bikes. Hedberg is a triple-major in entrepreneurship, management information systems and operations management while Bantock graduated from the Eller College of Management in May 2011. The company grew out of the project for the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship’s end of the year competition and showcase, where groups of students work in teams on a business venture their senior year. At the end of the year, the students present their final projects to a panel of investors.

The team, which originally consisted of Hedberg and Bantock as well as Eller College graduates Lindsey Erlick and Sam Ellis, started with a bike-share program in mind. The program, as the team envisioned, would offer electric bikes to students on campus. During the team’s research, they traveled to Las Vegas in September of 2010 to attend the Interbike International Trade Expo, the country’s largest international bike show. While there, Hedberg and his business partners discovered that electric bicycles were still a long way off from what they hoped to see.

“When we were there, we couldn’t really find a good bike that was high-quality that also looked good that we thought people would like,” Hedberg said. “So when we were thinking about it, we were like, ‘What if we tried to make that bike?’ and that was our company instead.”

Velocis Bikes is now producing its second generation of bicycles, which are already being marketed directly through the company’s website, as well as through an additional local dealer. Each bike is fully customizable, allowing buyers to choose from three different models based on riding style, 6,500 different frame colors and a number of chain gear-sets, handlebars and seats. This, according to Hedberg, is what sets Velocis Bikes apart from other electric bike manufacturers.

Each bike runs on a brushless motor that contains no gears and is attached to the bike’s rear wheel. Instead, magnets work inside the motor, powered by the lithium-ion battery situated on the frame. Riders can choose from three levels of power to supplement their pedaling, as well as three levels of resistance to provide more of a challenge. The bike’s electric throttle also allows for mobility at the press of a button, without pedaling. On average, a fully charged bike can be ridden for about 40 miles, and the bike’s regenerative braking system charges the battery each time the brake lever is pulled.

Although Ellis and Erlick have since parted with the company, Bantock said he and Hedberg have already met the company’s preliminary goals.

“We wanted to launch regardless of where we were at the end of the program,” Bantock said. “We knew that a lot of the fun would be in going ahead and doing the business.”

As far as future plans go, Hedberg said he would like to see the company expand into other areas of the country after getting established in Tucson.

“We want to expand outward to other cities on the West Coast, and then start moving east, and get our company out there as one of the premier sources of electric bikes,” he said.

Where the UA is concerned, Velocis Bikes is just one of many successes to come from the Eller College and the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, according to the center’s director, Sherry Hoskinson. Since opening in 1983, several thousand students have graduated from the center, many of whom turned their projects into companies, Hoskinson said.

“Our programs are national models that other schools seek to replicate, so it says a lot,” Hoskinson added. “Years ago, few schools had entrepreneurship programs; today, all of them do, and our (the UA’s) reputation is very strong.”

For other entrepreneurs interested in achieving the same success as the founders of Velocis Bikes, Bantock had a few words of advice.

“Jump in with both feet,” he said. “Don’t be scared of the opportunity that knocks on your door because it will eventually. All you need is one break, and success compounds on itself.”

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