Founder Mahi Kolla, 16, of Los Altos, California
Mahi Kolla, 16, of Los Altos, California, is a solo competitor in this year’s i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Her company, Bikeware, is a tech startup that aims to make cycling safer for both the cyclist and the drivers they share the roads with every day. We spoke with Mahi to learn more about the company.
Tell us about your business.
Bikeware is an innovative solution that seeks to prevent accidents between bicycles and cars. By communicating the location of the cyclist (and maintaining the cyclist’s anonymity) to the driver through our app, we ensure the driver is aware of the biker before it is too late to prevent an accident. Bikeware promotes green transportation by making our roads safer for both drivers and bikers.
What inspired the creation of Bikeware?
I was inspired by my community to create this product. After observing many bikers traverse the dangerous roads on my morning commute, I looked for a solution to the problem that affected many of my close friends. Upon seeing my own parents hesitate to allow me to bike alone on roads with separate bike lanes and in a “bicycle-friendly” town, I knew there was something wrong with the way the current road system is setup. The sheer number of blind spots on all cars, from SUVs to compacts, shocked me. Just one distracted second could cause a fatal accident. I wanted to try and find a solution that would improve communication among bikers and drivers. After many iterations of the product, I settled on the current iteration of the app. By simply sharing the location of bikers to drivers, we drastically improve the problem of blind spots and offer the driver a few extra seconds to make a safer decision.
How will Bikeware impact the world?
Creating a sustainable city begins with identifying and promoting green modes of transportation. According to a Gallup Poll, 83% of U.S. adults regularly drive a car with 64% driving every day to and from work. The effect of car emissions and fuel consumption can be seen in rising world temperatures and the deterioration of the air we breathe. Recently, there has been an increased number of cities adopting the “Bicycle Friendly Community” initiative. These cities are building bike lanes into their roads and promoting cycling amongst their citizens. However, according to a survey conducted by Gallup, a staggering 74% of adults are still wary of biking on roads citing negligent drivers and risky intersections. Parents are even more reluctant to let their children bike to and from school on roads, even those with bike lanes. Bikeware combats this issue and promotes green transportation by making the roads safer for bikers. The concept is simple, but extremely effective. By making drivers aware of the biker a few seconds before the interaction, we give the driver a longer reaction time, whereas before, a driver would have to react to a biker within milliseconds. After conducting a trial run with the Los Altos Cycle Club, we received outstanding reviews and real-life accounts of how this app made bikers feel safer on the road and helped them avoid road hazards that would have otherwise been a danger to them.
What are the next steps for Bikeware?
We are currently in the process of finding developers for the app. We hope to build off the current version of the app and launch the final iteration in the app stores early 2020. Meanwhile, we are also doing test runs with local cycling groups such as the Los Altos Bicycle Club to prepare for our Bay Area wide launch. We are looking for mentors who have experience in app development/tech company growth, and who identify with our cause of making cycling safer. Additionally, we are seeking $100,000 in initial funding for app development and launch expenses.
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