Cardboard bicycle with a philanthropic heart is crowd-funding in Israel to pick up speed

posted Jun 27, 2013, 9:22 AM by   [ updated Jun 27, 2013, 9:31 AM ]
A cardboard bicycle made by Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni leans against a wall.
A cardboard bicycle made by Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni leans against a wall in Moshav Ahituv, central Israel September 24, 2012. 

Cardboard Technologies, a startup founded last year, has launched the most ambitious Israeli crowdfunding effort yet, with a campaign via Indiegogo to raise $2 million to produce cardboard bicycles in Israel.

“A bicycle made of recycled cardboard, plastic and rubber can change the world,” the company says, and promises that, despite the component materials, the bikes will be durable, fire- and water-resistant, and able to carry up to 180 kilograms.

Cardboard Technologies has its roots in a project by Izhar Gafni, who four years ago succeeded in producing ultra-strong cardboard using special folding and cutting techniques. The company took shape with the help of Gigi Karib and venture capitalist Nimrod Elmish, who is now CEO.

The bikes will weigh only nine kilograms, and will sell for between $30 and $50 in developing countries, and $100 in developed nations.

Jeffrey Swartz, founder of the footwear and apparel company Timberland, joined the project as an investor two weeks ago, and will be responsible for the company’s finances. The company believes that to build its planned factory in Or Akiva it will need $5.5 million.

“It’s important to us to have a philanthropic element to the project,” says Elmish. “Aside from raising money for the bicycles through crowdfunding, the western world will know that it is essentially donating bicycles to developing countries, where they will be sold for $30 to $50. We’ll be able to get free marketing by cooperating with major marketers who, by transferring us raw materials, will save themselves the cost of recycling their packaging.”

Since the project was unveiled, numerous volunteers have approached the firm, offering to be involved with the production of the bikes. So the company founded a volunteer group called the GameChange Community, which has 4,500 volunteers on board. Their first mission will be to help raise funds via the Indiegogo site.

Donors of $290 (which includes shipping) will get a numbered edition of the bike from an early production run, while for $390, you can choose your color and your limited-edition bike will be autographed by Gafni.

Elmish says that the company is expected to reach fully automated production within 18 months and a pace of 2,000 units a day within two years. Within three years the company plans to build factories in Germany and the United States.

“We already have offers of funding from countries like Germany and South Africa,” says Elmish. “They are offering us lots of incentives because we recycle materials and will offer local employment. After we set up the next factories, we will focus on our next project: wheelchairs.”