Leap, the luxury San Francisco commuter bus, is bankrupt and selling its buses for $5 each

Leap outsideMatt WeinbergerLeap’s blue bus

Leap Transit, the startup that served fresh-pressed juice to commuters on its luxury buses, has filed for bankruptcy. The rest of its buses are now up for sale, starting at $US5 each.

Signs that Leap was headed towards a shut down started in May. The company suspended its service, although at the time it was supposed to be temporary.

In June, two of its buses were up for auction. More buses were auctioned off in July. Now there are two left, up for sale in an October auction.

The company officially filed for bankruptcy on July 15 but the filing wasn’t spotted until Tuesday by the San Francisco Examiner. In the filing, Leap estimated that it had between $US100,000 and $US500,000 in debt, as well as $US100,000 to $US500,000 in assets. The company could identify more than $US129,000 in owed back wages and other claims, but it had a long list of creditors and investors that it had to notify about its bankruptcy.

In contrast, its gross income in 2015 was only $US20,748, according to the bankruptcy records.

Rocky from the start

When Leap relaunched in March, it was both heralded and blasted for its private bus approach. The critics in San Francisco claimed it was just another way for rich techies to get to work — the city already has an extensive network of commuter shuttles. One headline said “San Francisco gets the ridiculous luxury bus it deserves.” A city supervisor reportedly called it a “crock of s—” and criticised it for creating a two tier transit system in the city when it first launched in 2013.

Leap’s proponents though saw it as a problem solver and a way to get more cars off the street. The high-end line of buses were equipped with WiFi, coffee, snacks, power outlets, and leather seats. It unabashedly catered to those who could afford its $US6 ticket each way.

Kyle Kirchhoff PortraitLeapKyle Kirchhoff, CEO of Leap

The company attracted money from some of the top VC firms in Silicon Valley, including Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, and Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff. Despite being the second largest shareholder after the CEO, Kyle Kirchhoff, Andreessen Horowitz no longer lists it as portfolio company.

Kirchhoff and Leap did not return request for comment.

Its debut in 2013 was a test run, and the company profited $US13,567 from its trial period, according to the bankruptcy documents.

Leap Transit took some time off to get its permits, but then ran into problem from the state, which denied it a permit since it only operated in San Francisco. The city, in turn, did not require it to have a permit either, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The company re-launched in March 2015 without any permits from either the city or the state, a problem that continued to dog it. It was told it needed to add wheelchair accessibility after it purposely yanked the gear out during the bus remodel.

The startup also ran into complaints from its launch. When Business Insider reporter Matt Weinberger rode it during the first week, the Leap “attendant” on the bus said that it had already changed its stop locations twice after the bus blocked a homeowners driveway and then a convenience store.

A look back at luxury

After it took what was supposed to be a temporary break in May, the startup never rolled again.

Here’s a look back at when Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger took his first and only trip on the Leap Bus:

From the outside, Leap looks like your normal, everyday city bus, just in a bright shade of blue. Before you get on the bus, you have to pull up the app, which provides a real-time arrival estimate as well as a number for how many seats were left. You can either check in with a QR code or activate an 'express' check-in option which uses Bluetooth to check you in automatically. I went with the second option.

Matt Weinberger

Leap stops were demarcated by blue-and-white poles with the Leap rabbit icon on top.

Matt Weinberger

I was sceptical, but as soon as I stepped on the bus, my phone buzzed, and Richard, the Leap 'attendant' on duty, confirmed I was checked in. True to expectation, it was just me and Richard on this bus. Given free rein to choose my seat, I sat down at what looked like the counter at your everyday coffee shop and sat on the leather stool, facing the window so I could watch the masses not on a private bus go by. On the other side of the bus were rows of black leather armchairs.

Matt Weinberger

In the back of the bus was a more open seating area with benches and wood paneling.

Matt Weinberger

I ordered a Stumptown Cold Brew iced coffee from the Leap app, which automatically charged me the $4.50 before Richard handed it to me. Other options included cartons of Blue Bottle New Orleans iced coffee, coconut water, and fresh pressed fruit juice. If I were hungrier, I could have also ordered a yogurt, a Simple Squares 'Cinna-Clove' snack bar, or whole-fruit energy bar.

Matt Weinberger

The best thing I could say about Leap is that it's boring: It's designed to be frictionless, so you sit there and have a smooth ride and get off. It is, admittedly, a stark contrast from a crowded city bus.

Matt Weinberger

In press photos, Leap advertised its bus as full. During Matt's ride in March, a total of three people were on the bus during its peak. Good-bye Leap.


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