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This Entrepreneur Created a Global Café Franchise as an ‘F You’ to Starbucks

This Entrepreneur Created a Global Café Franchise as an ‘F You’ to Starbucks De La Croix has a fine arts degree and an advertising background, and she lives in Stockholm, Sweden — unlikely characteristics for a Silicon Valley-backed founder. But she does embody the region’s status-quo-disrupting ethos.

Two years ago, the 27 year old applied for a barista job at a Starbucks in Stockholm. She didn’t get the job, she says, because her hair was “too blue.” The rejection inspired her to set out to sell her own coffee, so she founded Wheelys, a solar-powered bike café franchise. She’s managed to participate in the Y Combinator accelerator and start a global company in a matter of two years.

To get started, Wheelys launched a series of IndieGogo campaigns. One was titled, “Wheelys. A café in a bike. Deal with it.” As of March 2015, that campaign alone had raised $153,196 — 253 percent of its fundraising goal. This support helped Wheelys supply bikes to more than 250 franchisees, called Wheelers, in nearly 50 countries worldwide. Meanwhile, De La Croix and her two co-founders applied to Y Combinator and got in. 

In April 2016, Wheelys announced its seed round had closed at $2.5 million. Its investors include Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), Othman Laraki (co-founder of Color Genomics), Jared Friedman (founder of Scribd) and Justin Waldron (co-founder of Zynga).

Each Wheelys cart is compact, leaves a minimal carbon footprint and allows owners to specify their own schedules. All Wheelers have to sell Wheelys house coffee, but they are free to offer secondary varieties of their own choosing along with various pastries, snacks, fruit, magazines — it’s up to the each individual seller and local regulations. Wheelys also has an app that allows customers to order ahead and pay digitally, though Wheelers can opt for cash transactions… read more at