Social Entrepreneur Tim McLaughlin Inspired by SF Bike Culture


By Jeanne Pengelly, Axiom News

Published 4.17.13

Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours logo

Working in the Silicon Valley in the late 1990s Tim McLaughlin had become disillusioned. He left that world and took a job guiding cycle tours and outdoor adventures. Still, he knew he wanted to do something meaningful.

“I wanted to make sure whatever work I was doing was having a greater impact than just on my social calendar,” he says.

On his manager’s suggestion he checked out and later joined the Presidio community.

“Presidio just felt right – I wasn’t specifically looking for a business school. My thinking was I could go through business school and leave my career goals open. I wouldn’t be pigeon-holing myself,” he says.

The Presidio MBA program allows for a core emphasis on sustainable business practices and principles. It also promotes individual learning. For McLaughlin, the individual learning consisted of as many books he could find on entrepreneurship. “I just started reading about entrepreneurs, business models.”

“What Presidio did for me was give me a shot of confidence,” McLaughlin says.

In the meantime, he wanted to know if he could “hack” being an entrepreneur. Halfway through his four-year program he and a friend opened their own bicycle tour company to find out.

The business goal McLaughlin had was to get more people riding bikes.

Many people may be intimidated riding in urban areas, but after visiting one on a guided bike tour, they feel more confident, he says.

“We saw the opportunity that no one was doing what we thought everyone should be doing,” he says.

“So we scrapped together some prototypes and got our first gig touring 15 journalists around the city. After that we knew we were onto something.”

“We give people a tour of the city focusing on culture and events, on the weird kooky politics that are invariably going on. We show them the real San Francisco. And we do it on bikes,” he says.

“I see us as a bicycle experience company. We’re not selling things; we’re selling experiences.”

Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours now employs several people and has a vision for the future.

With cycling culture building momentum in its favor, the company is well-poised, McLaughlin says, to nip new opportunities.

Jeanne Pengelly, Axiom News

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