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When life threw Guillermo Cornejo a curve, the entrepreneur spun it into a startup

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by Nona Tepper

When life threw Guillermo Cornejo a curve, the entrepreneur spun it into a startup.

Cornejo was riding his own motorcycle one day in 2014 when he hit a highway bend at 80 miles per hour, lost control and smashed into the hot cement.

“I was so happy to be alive,” Cornejo told Built In. “I recommend anybody that rides motorcycles to wear leather. Jeans are not enough.”

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The accident left Cornejo with broken bones and serious road burn. It also left him with a slew of hospital bills that, once settled, left him unable to afford his next bike.

Cornejo, who was working in auto pricing and risk management at the time, started renting bikes from brick-and-mortar stores at $200 a day, desperate for the adrenaline rush — “Motorcycles are like a roller coaster that you can control,” he explained — but astounded by the high price. He realized motorcycle rentals could — and should — head in a more inclusive direction. In 2018, he launched Riders Share, a peer-to-peer motorcycle rental platform that aims to bring underutilized bikes to the people.

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“Motorcycles get one fourth of the usage that a car gets, we use them for fun on the weekends,” Cornejo said. “So to me, it doesn’t make sense that people are buying motorcycles and we’re building more motorcycles when we have inventory out there.”

On Thursday, Cornejo announced that his Austin startup raised $2 million in Series A funding, led by LiveOak Venture Partners. He plans to spend the cash on new tech features for the site.

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Riders Share plans to build its first mobile app, potentially expand its inventory to include off-road vehicles and incorporate motorcycle tours into the platform. Ultimately, Cornejo said he aims to model Riders Share after other sharing economy startups like Outdoorsy, an Austin-based RV rental platform.

“One of the advantages of being fairly new is that we are using tech stacks that allow us to code faster, and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Cornejo said. “We don’t need to A/B test this and that, we know what works and what doesn’t.”

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When Riders Share initially launched, Cornejo said the company lost money with every transaction, since the price to insure the hogs ran so high. Last year, Cornejo launched his own insurance company, which relies on machine learning to identify the cost of insuring individual rentals. Riders Share’s AI system pulls data from the more than 10,000 sales the company has processed, like motorcycle characteristics, how far in advance a customer books and users’ phone history, to determine an individual’s likelihood of crashing the bike. Riders Share also partners with Lloyd’s of London insurance company to offer certified liability coverage to users.

“Basically, we are taking the risk ourselves and we do that because it allows us to be more flexible with pricing,” Cornejo said.

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In addition to new tech features, the eight-person company also plans to spend the cash on hiring a few customer service reps, since Cornejo has been answering customer queries since the start of the company and “it wears on you,” he said. In five years, he aims to launch Riders Share in Europe. Ultimately, he hopes to modernize how people engage with motorcycles.

“I think a lot of people cannot afford to engage in power sports, to rent an ATV for a weekend, in the current market,” Cornejo said. “There exists a way to make motorcycles more fun, more accessible, more inclusive, and we do it by targeting underutilized assets.”

 

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