Richa Bhalla is the founder of Pedals and talks to us about life in Silicon Valley, floristry and finding the right people.
How did you come up with the idea for Pedals?
I left London for two and a half years and when I came back, I was struck by the explosion of cycling in the capital. I’d been living in San Francisco, where bicycle deliveries were becoming the norm even though the city is difficult to navigate.
In London, with so many commuters, I felt there had to be a way of taking advantage of this dead time and volume to creating a green delivery service.
And so Pedals was born?
Actually, first up was Petal and Cycle.
I wanted to test the idea with the most fragile thing to transport – and decided upon flowers, a good test case. I’d go to New Covent Garden Market at 5am, create bouquets and pack boxes in my flat, and coordinate with bicycle couriers to get the flowers from A to B.
While talking to the couriers, I found that they were super unhappy and foresaw the problems now in the press [e.g. issues associated with the gig economy] – and I knew there had to be a better way of doing things.
How did you get to Pedals?
With Petal and Cycle I started getting approached by other companies to deliver their products. But it was a flower delivery company; it wouldn’t make sense for it to start delivering other things like a hangover cure, which was one of the companies that got in touch!
Fundamentally customers couldn’t get quick and green deliveries – it was impossible to do because of fluctuating prices.
And that’s when I started Pedals to test it. I was running both companies by myself at the same time but when Pedals took off, it became the one to focus on. My CTO was working on it part-time until February last year.
Was that a big milestone for you?
Absolutely yes. Since then, everything has happened. We got funding from Geovation in April, which felt like validation of our idea.
Since then we’ve been working on business development and fundraising. We started raising money in August and got a lot of ‘not right now, but we are interested’ type of responses. So we went down the crowdfunding route to heighten our focus on funding, and create a sense of FOMO. We ran it just before Christmas and smashed our target, which was amazing.
How have you found the experience of building a startup?
I spent two and a half years working in the Valley – coming from a corporate background, I knew that I wanted to work for a startup. There I learned how to build a company from scratch and got tech heavy, because I knew that was a gap for me.
What does the Pedals team look like?
We’re very small – there are only four of us at the moment. I met my CTO through a cyclist, and have been through a laborious four months of trying to find the right people to join us. Going through the hiring and firing process has been painful but it’s worked out – we now have a really solid team.
Are there any approaches you’ve found to be successful when running a startup?
Talking to people is priceless. I’ll talk to everyone about problems I have, and inevitably someone will find a solution. It’s how, after talking to a cyclist, I met my co-founder!
How are you finding the Nitrous programme?
I was introduced to Nitrous by a mentor of mine and it’s so useful. It seemed that everything about it aligned to exactly what we’re currently trying to do, and now the programme’s underway, this has been confirmed.
There are so many local government organisations we’d like to talk to but the challenge is finding the right people and knowing how to do it. It’s like there are giants walking around and you feel like a tiny ant waving their hands! Intra-council deliveries in particular are a huge opportunity – the volume is so great, and making these deliveries green and lower-cost is what we can help with.
I’ve also enjoyed meeting other startups and hearing how their journeys are going. It’s nice to have some support and know that other people are going through the same things as you.
Pedals is in the April 2017 cohort of the Nitrous programme.