Global Cycle Solutions (GCS) started as a D-Lab project at MIT. The goal was to take a hand-powered maize (corn) sheller developed in Guatemala and put it on a bicycle, turning the bicycle into more than just a mode of transport.

An unfortunate number of D-Lab projects fizzle away into nothing once the class ends or the students graduate. But this particular D-Lab team won MIT’s 100K Competition in 2009. So Jodie, the current President and CEO, moved to Arusha, Tanzania, to turn their project into a reality.

GCS’s goal is to promote technologies that turn the bicycle into a machine of innovation. Even in the most rural areas there are always a few people with access to bicycles, and this number is increasing. These people often use their bicycles only for their own personal transport. GCS wants to turn them into small-scale businessmen on wheels.

Currently GCS sells a bicycle-powered maize sheller, which drastically reduces the time and effort required to shell maize in villages (traditionally done by beating bags of maize with a stick), and they’ve recently started producing a bicycle-powered mobile phone charger (design by Bernard, who also makes things like this for fun).

Over time, their products will expand, but they will all share a common theme: using the power of a bicycle to increase output. The goal is to create a line of products that are all interchangeable with a universal adaptor, thus allowing clients to expand their businesses.

Currently GCS is setting up dealers both in Arusha and in other places in Tanzania to sell their products. They can tap into both bicycle dealer and agro-dealer networks, and they can target the entrepreneurial youth. Customers need to invest in a bicycle and a GCS machine (GCS is partnering with the National Microfinance Bank of Tanzania to help provide loans), but the returns from such a business can cover their costs in months. And despite being such a new company, interest from both local customers and dealers and foreign investors has been overwhelming.