Pages Navigation Menu

The blog of DataDiggers

Categories Navigation Menu

Lime hires its first CFO

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in electric scooters, lime, morgan stanley, Nancy Lee, Personnel, Ted Tobiason, Transportation | 0 comments

Lime is hiring Ted Tobiason, former managing director in tech equity capital markets at Morgan Stanley, to serve as its chief financial officer.

This comes following Lime’s behemoth $310 million Series D round earlier this month. Led by Bain Capital Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity Ventures, GV and IVP, the round values Lime at $2.4 billion.

Lime, which got its beginnings as a bike-share company, has deployed its scooters and bikes in more than 100 cities in the U.S. and 27 international cities. Since June, Lime has more than doubled the number of cities where it operates in the U.S. Lime has also partnered with Uber to offer Lime scooters within the Uber app.

Additionally, Lime recently brought on Nancy Lee, formerly of Google, to lead its human resources efforts as chief human resources officer. Lee formerly worked at Google as its head of diversity. She retired from the company in December 2016, but has since found a new home with Lime.

“During her tenure at Google, Nancy played a key role in encouraging Google to disclose its diversity demographic data publicly,” Lime wrote in a blog post. “Her commitment to inclusion and transparency will be instrumental in leading Lime’s cross-cultural team throughout 2019 and beyond.”

Lime has been on a hiring spree as of late, filling out the ranks in its executive team. Earlier this month, Lime appointed its head of engineering, Li Fan, to CTO and hired Duke Stump, formerly of Lululemon, to serve as its CMO.

“Both Ted and Nancy have outstanding experience at companies that have scaled from small to large,” Lime CEO Toby Sun said in a statement. “With their leadership, we’re excited to take Lime to the next level in building a world-class business and people-first company.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Startups Weekly: Spotify gets acquisitive and Instacart screws up

Posted by on Feb 9, 2019 in alex wilhelm, anchor, Bessemer Venture Partners, consumer reports, CrunchBase, funding, Fundings & Exits, Fusion Fund, gimlet, gimlet media, Instacart, josh constine, lime, Mark Suster, Megan Rose Dickey, Mike McNamara, Reddit, Sanjay Jha, Spotify, Startups, steve huffman, TC, Uber, upfront ventures, Venture Capital, web summit, Y Combinator | 0 comments

Did anyone else listen to season one of StartUp, Alex Blumberg’s OG Gimlet podcast? I did, and I felt like a proud mom this week reading stories of the major, first-of-its-kind Spotify acquisition of his podcast production company, Gimlet. Spotify also bought Anchor, a podcast monetization platform, signaling a new era for the podcasting industry.

On top of that, Himalaya Media, a free podcast app I’d never heard of until this week, raised a whopping $100 million in venture capital funding to “establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space,” per Variety.

The podcasting business definitely took center stage, but Lime and Bird made headlines, as usual, a new unicorn emerged in the mental health space and Instacart, it turns out, has been screwing its independent contractors.

As mentioned, Spotify, or shall we say Spodify, gobbled up Gimlet and Anchor. More on that here and a full analysis of the deal here. Key takeaway: it’s the dawn of podcasting; expect a whole lot more venture investment and M&A activity in the next few years.

This week’s biggest “yikes” moment was when reports emerged that Instacart was offsetting its wages with tips from customers. An independent contractor has filed a class-action lawsuit against the food delivery business, claiming it “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers.” TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey has the full story here, as well as Instacart CEO’s apology here.

Slack confidentially filed to go public this week, its first public step toward either an IPO or a direct listing. If it chooses the latter, like Spotify did in 2018, it won’t issue any new shares. Instead, it will sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors, a move that will allow it to bypass a roadshow and some of Wall Street’s exorbitant IPO fees. Postmates confidentially filed, too. The 8-year-old company has tapped JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its upcoming float.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Horacio Villalobos-Corbis/Contributor)

It was particularly tough to decide which deal was the most notable this week… But the winner is Reddit, the online platform for chit-chatting about niche topics — r/ProgMetal if you’re Crunchbase editor Alex Wilhelm . The company is raising up to $300 million at a $3 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine. Reddit has been around since 2005 and has raised a total of $250 million in equity funding. The forthcoming Series D round is said to be led by Chinese tech giant Tencent at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation.

Runner up for deal of the week is Calm, the app that helps users reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier. The startup brought in an $88 million Series B at a $1 billion valuation. With 40 million downloads worldwide and more than one million paying subscribers, the company says it quadrupled revenue in 2018 from $20 million to $80 million and is now profitable — not a word you hear every day in Silicon Valley.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

I listened to the Bird CEO’s chat with Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster last week and wrote down some key takeaways, including the challenges of seasonality and safety in the scooter business. I also wrote about an investigation by Consumer Reports that found electric scooters to be the cause of more than 1,500 accidents in the U.S. I’m also required to mention that e-scooter unicorn Lime finally closed its highly anticipated round at a $2.4 billion valuation. The news came just a few days after the company beefed up its executive team with a CTO and CMO hire.

Databricks raises $250M at a $2.75B valuation for its analytics platform
Retail technology platform Relex raises $200M from TCV
Raisin raises $114M for its pan-European marketplace for savings and investment products
Self-driving truck startup Ike raises $52M
Signal Sciences secures $35M to protect web apps
Ritual raises $25M for its subscription-based women’s daily vitamin
Little Spoon gets $7M for its organic baby food delivery service
By Humankind picks up $4M to rid your morning routine of single-use plastic

We don’t spend a ton of time talking about the growing, venture-funded, tech-enabled logistics sector, but one startup in the space garnered significant attention this week. Turvo poached three key Uber Freight employees, including two of the unit’s co-founders. What’s that mean for Uber Freight? Well, probably not a ton… Based on my conversation with Turvo’s newest employees, Uber Freight is a rocket ship waiting to take off.

Who knew that investing in female-focused brands could turn a profit for investors? Just kidding, I knew that and this week I have even more proof! This is L., a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based retailer of pads, tampons and condoms made with organic materials sold to P&G for $100 million. The company, founded by Talia Frenkel, launched out of Y Combinator in August 2015. According to PitchBook, it was backed by Halogen Ventures, 500 Startups, Fusion Fund and a few others.

Speaking of ladies getting stuff done, Bessemer Venture Partners promoted Talia Goldberg to partner this week, making the 28-year-old one of the youngest investing partners at the Silicon Valley venture fund. Plus, Palo Alto’s Eclipse Ventures, hot off the heels of a $500 million fundraise, added two general partners: former Flex CEO Mike McNamara and former Global Foundries CEO Sanjay Jha.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the expanding podcast industry, Reddit’s big round and scooter accidents.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

And Uber is going with Bird (looks like)

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 in bird, lime, TC, Uber | 0 comments

Update: Bird tells us it is not in discussions with Uber. The company declined to comment on reports that there have been recent talks between the two companies. Our piece from earlier today reflects what we were told by sources, which is that Bird was engaged in advanced discussions to be acquired.

Five months ago, the Bay Area-based electric scooter rental company Lime joined forces with the ride-hailing giant Uber, which both invested in the company as part of a $335 million round and said it was going to promote Lime in its mobile app.

It’s looking now like that may have been a mistake for Lime. Though Lime presumably shared information with its investor, Uber is now on the cusp of acquiring Lime’s fiercest rival Bird, according to several sources, none of whom quite knows at what price as of this writing.

What we’re hearing at the moment: talk in the neighborhood of $2 billion. That’s the valuation that Bird was assigned in the spring by investors when it raised its most recent round of $300 million, and it’s the same valuation that was being discussed recently by investors who contemplated giving the company an extension of that last round.

It’s also a price tag that could potentially double if the deal is an all-equity offering and Uber, currently valued at roughly $60 billion, is able to go public at a $120 billion valuation. Crazy as it sounds today, bankers have reportedly suggested that it’s possible.

A request to Bird for comment from this afternoon was not returned before we published this piece, though founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden now tells us the company “is not for sale.” As originally noted, VanderZanden has also told employees the company is not for sale.

For his part, Lime cofounder Brad Bao was also asked about acquisition talks with Uber and said at a Business Insider conference today that he was “very flattered to be part of the speculation” but, like VanderZanden, he insisted that Lime wants to remain an independent company for the time being.

The Information had reported on Friday that Uber has held talks recently with both Bird and Lime.

Altogether, Bird, founded just 19 months ago, has raised $415 million. Its backers include Goldcrest Capital, Tusk Ventures, Craft Ventures (the investment firm of serial founder David Sacks), Index Ventures, Valor Venture Partners, and Sequoia Capital, which led the company’s most recent round.

If Uber chooses Bird over Lime, few industry observers will be surprised, given that the two have always seemed similar culturally. Before founding Bird, VanderZanden worked for Lyft as its COO, and was later sued by the company for allegedly breaking a confidentiality agreement after he left to join Uber as its VP of Global Driver Growth.

From the outside, at least, VanderZanden — who later settled with Lyft for undisclosed terms — seemed a man after the heart of Uber’s original and highly hard-charging CEO, Travis Kalanick, whose tenure at the company ended in June of last year over its many cultural missteps. (Kalanick was later replaced by current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.) Even the way that Bird launched was highly reminiscent of Uber, barreling into numerous cities without first securing their explicit approval.

That strategy backfired in some places, including San Francisco, which later forced Bird, Lime, and every other scooter company that dumped its hardware on the city’s streets to remove their scooters and apply for permits first. The city then gave out permits to just two companies, neither of which was Lime or Bird. Still, by then, Bird had already generated “cool” cred with users that it may still enjoy to a greater extent than Lime, which launched at nearly the same time but began renting electric bikes and only layered in electric scooters after watching Bird’s rise.

A months-old deal with Uber may not have helped Lime as much as the company expected, either. It was back in July that Lime joined forces with the ride-hailing giant, which invested in Lime as part of a $335 million round and planned to promote Lime in its mobile app as part of the deal. According to Bloomberg, Uber also planned to plaster its logo on Lime’s scooters.

The deal looked to potentially be the first step toward a permanent tie-up, based on a particular precedent. To wit, Uber had struck a similar arrangement with the electric bike company JUMP bikes before spending $200 million to acquire the company in the spring. Yet while Uber has been featuring Lime within its own heavily downloaded app, the company hasn’t made a major push to promote Lime — which has raised $467 million altogether — otherwise.

As one source familiar with Uber said about whether its intentions all along were to collect data from Lime or otherwise use its pact as leverage against it, “I could see Travis Kalanick doing that. I don’t think it fit’s Dara’s [modus operandi], but you never know.”

What does clearly fit into Khosrowshahi mandate is finding ways for Uber to thrive, especially as its zooms inexorably toward its IPO.

On this front, Bird may be able to scoot the company along faster. Though Bird and Lime compete neck-and-neck, largely using scooters from the same China-based manufacturing company, Bird’s first-mover advantage, plus VanderZanden’s history with the company, may be enough to seal the deal in this case — at least as of this moment.

Of greater interest is whether either company can help Uber reach a far richer valuation than it already enjoys, and that’s another question altogether.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Lime launches electric-assist bikes in its first UK city

Posted by on Nov 27, 2018 in electric bikes, Europe, lime, LimeBike, Startups, TC, Transportation, United Kingdom | 0 comments

Lime launched in the United Kingdom today, starting with a group of dockless electric-assist bikes in a Milton Keynes shopping center. The San Francisco-based startup says it plans to expand into more UK cities over the next few weeks.

As in other markets, users in Milton Keynes find and unlock Lime’s bikes, which use battery-powered motors to reduce pedaling and travel further distances, through a mobile app. Bike rides cost £1 (about $1.28) to unlock and an additional 15 pence per minute of riding time and will be available first at intu Milton Keynes Shopping Centre.

Backed by investors like Uber, GV, and Andreessen Horowitz with $467 million in funding so far, Lime recently said it had hit a milestone of 11.5 million rides, only 14 months after its bikes first became available to riders. The company already operates in 100 markets through the United States and Europe and plans to launch in 50 new cities by the end of this year.

But LIme’s rapid growth hasn’t come without bumps. Along with competitors Bird and Spin, Lime was one of the companies involved in San Francisco’s war on electric scooters when they ran afoul of the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The SFMTA said e-scooters created obstacles and potentially safety hazards. This ultimately resulted in Lime being denied an e-scooter permit in August, a decision it appealed.

By choosing Milton Keynes as its first UK city, however, Lime intent on preventing conflicts by working with a city that is more receptive to transportation startups. Milton Keynes was the site of an initiative called MK: Smart to integrate more Internet of Things hardware. The project was followed by CityLABS, a program that supports data and IoT startups. In its announcement, Lime said it “will be working closely with city leaders and stakeholders to ensure the fair and respectful distribution of the service across the area.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Santa Monica will allow Lime, Bird, Lyft and JUMP to operate e-scooters

Posted by on Aug 30, 2018 in bird, e-scooters, JUMP, lime, Lyft, TC, Transportation | 0 comments

The city of Santa Monica has officially awarded Bird, LimeLyft and JUMP Bikes, which Uber acquired in April, permits to operate both electric scooters and/or bikes in the city as part of its 16-month pilot program beginning September 17.

The city will allow Bird and Lime to each manage 750 scooters. Lyft and JUMP were granted permission to release 250 scooters each, as well as 500 bikes. In San Francisco, which is similarly launching a scooter pilot program this fall, city leaders chose Skip and Scoot as their official scooter providers.

Earlier this month, the committee had officially recommended to David Martin, the city’s director of planning and community development, that only Lyft and JUMP receive permitsLime and Bird, however, followed up immediately with a protest, asking their riders to speak out against the recommendations in hopes of reversing course. Looks like that strategy was successful.

Bird is honored to have called Santa Monica our home since we first launched shared electric scooters less than 12 months ago,” Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a statement. “We have a shared mission of reducing congestion and emissions, and look forward to continuing partnering with the City and to serve our community. Bird is committed to providing Santa Monica residents and visitors the accessible, equitable, and responsible transportation option that they deserve.”

“We’re excited to bring scooters and bikes to Santa Monica soon,” a representative from JUMP Bikes said. “Our ultimate goal is to reduce reliance on personal cars, and we believe the best way to do that is to offer multiple modes of transportation — scooters, bikes, cars, public transit and more — in one app. We’ll continue to partner with cities in the right way to bring more options to more people.”

And here’s what Lyft had to say: “We are thrilled to have been awarded permits for both bikes and scooters by the City of Santa Monica,” Lyft’s bike and scooter policy lead Caroline Samponaro told TechCrunch. “The city’s decision to collaborate with Lyft deepens a partnership that will reduce vehicle congestion, increase public transportation trips and provide equitable transportation solutions to all residents of Santa Monica.”

Lime did not immediately reply to a request for comment. We will update the story when we hear back. The other contenders for a Santa Monica shared-mobility permit: Hopr, Razor, Scoot, Skip, Spin, Cloud, Drop and Goin’ did not receive permits and will not legally be able to operate scooters in Santa Monica.

Martin’s decision to stand by the committee’s recommendation is good news for Lyft and Uber, which are already the dominant players in the ride-hailing space and are now poised to dominate the scooter market as well. It’s also worth noting that Uber and Lime struck a deal this summer that will involve Uber pasting its logo on Lime scooters and investing $355 million in the company.

The city’s decision was based on several factors, including each company’s experience operating shared mobility devices, the company’s proposed operations plan and the company’s ability to launch operations in a timely manner. Additionally, the committee took into account the company’s history with compliance with local law.

Bird has been a contentious company among Santa Monica city leaders because of the nature of its entry. Taking a cue from Uber, Bird erupted onto the scene without official permission. Granted, at the time, the city didn’t have an official process for regulating bike-share and e-scooter startups.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Bird and Lime are protesting Santa Monica’s electric scooter recommendations

Posted by on Aug 14, 2018 in bird, electric scooters, jump bikes, lime, Lyft, santa monica, TC, Transportation, Uber | 0 comments

Lime and Bird are protesting recommendations in Santa Monica, Calif. that would prevent the electric scooter companies from operating in the Southern California city. We first saw the news over on Curbed LA, which reported both Lime and Bird are temporarily halting their services in Santa Monica.

Last week, Santa Monica’s shared mobility device selection committee recommended the city move forward with Lyft and Uber-owned Jump as the two exclusive scooter operators in the city during the upcoming 16-month pilot program. The committee ranked Lyft and Jump highest due to their experience in the transportation space, staffing strategy, commitments to diversity and equity, fleet maintenance strategies and other elements. Similarly, the committee recommended both Lyft and Jump as bike-share providers in the city.

“The Lyft and Uber applications to operate e-scooter sharing programs in Santa Monica demonstrate the desperate lengths CO2 polluting companies will go to for the purpose of undermining clean energy competition,” a Bird spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We at Bird are dedicated to replacing car trips with clean energy trips and will continue to fight against car dependency alongside our loyal riders.”

Now, both Bird and Lime are asking their respective riders to speak out against the recommendations. Bird, which first launched in Santa Monica, has also emailed riders, asking them to tell the city council that they want to Bird to stay.

“In a closed-door meeting, a small city-appointed selection committee decided to recommend banning Bird from your city beginning in September,” Bird wrote in an email to customers. “This group inexplicably scored companies with no experience ever operating shared e-scooters higher than Bird who invented this model right here in Santa Monica.”

Bird goes on to throw shade at Uber and Lyft — neither of which have operated electric scooter services before. That shade is entirely fair, but one could argue both Uber and Lyft already have more experience operating transportation services within cities and would be better equipped to run an electric scooter service than a newer company.

Lime says it’s worked collaboratively with the city to design a program tailored to the needs of the Santa Monica community since day one.

“It’s clear Santa Monica residents and visitors have enthusiastically embraced Lime, with over 180,000 unique riders choosing us as their affordable, zero-emission transportation option since we launched in April,” Lime CEO Toby Sun said in a statement to TechCrunch. “As the most experienced shared bike and scooter company in the United States, we are disappointed by the City’s current proposal because Santa Monica riders deserve access to best-in-class technology. We have on-the-ground experience operating shared scooters in Santa Monica and around the world, giving us the greatest readiness to fulfill the needs of residents without interruption when the pilot program begins.”

In addition to asking people to contact their city officials, Bird and Lime are hosting a rally later today at Santa Monica City hall. But given that most of these electric scooters are manufactured by the same provider and that the services are essentially the same, I’d be surprised if there’s much brand loyalty. Over in San Francisco, I personally miss having electric scooters, but I really don’t give a rat’s pajamas which services receive permits. That’s just to say, we’ll see if these efforts are effective.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Are scooter startups really worth billions?

Posted by on Jun 23, 2018 in Apps, bird, e-scooters, Europe, funding, GreenTech, Index Ventures, lime, London, paris, Scooters, Startups, TC, Transportation | 0 comments

It’s been hard to miss the scooter startup wars opening fresh, techno-fueled rifts in Valley society in recent months. Another flavor of ride-sharing steed which sprouted seemingly overnight to clutter up sidewalks — drawing rapid-fire ire from city regulators apparently far more forgiving of traffic congestion if it’s delivered in the traditional, car-shaped capsule.

Even in their best, most-groomed PR shots, the dockless carelessness of these slimline electrified scooters hums with an air of insouciance and privilege. As if to say: Why yes, we turned a kids’ toy into a battery-powered kidult transporter — what u gonna do about it?

An earlier batch of electric scooter sharing startups — offering full-fat, on-road mopeds that most definitely do need a license to ride (and, unless you’re crazy, a helmet for your head) — just can’t compete with that. Last mile does not haul.

But a short-walk replacement tool that’s so seamlessly manhandled is also of course easily vandalized. Or misappropriated. Or both. And there have been a plethora of scooter dismemberment/kidnap horror stories coming out of California, judging by reports from the scooter wars front line. Hanging scooters in trees is presumably a protest thing.

Scooter brand Lime struck an especially tone-deaf tech note trying to fix this problem after an update added a security alarm  that bellowed robotic threats to call the cops on anyone who fumbled to unlock them. Safe to say, littering abusive scooters in public spaces isn’t a way to win friends and influence people.

Even when functioning ‘correctly’, i.e. as intended, scooter rides can ooze a kind of brash entitlement. The sweatless convenience looks like it might be mostly enabling another advance in tech-fueled douche behavior as a t-shirt wearing alpha nerd zips past barking into AirPods and inhaling a takeaway latte while cutting up the patience of pedestrians.

None of this fast-seeded societal friction has put the brakes on e-scooter startup momentum, though. Au contraire. They’ve been raising massive amounts of investment on rapidly inflating valuations ($2BN is the latest valuation for Bird).

But buying lots of e-scooters and leaving them at the mercy of human whim is an expensive business to try scaling. Hence big funding rounds are necessary if you’re going to replace all the canal-dunked duds and keep scooting fast enough for the competition.

At the same time, there isn’t a great deal to differentiate one e-scooter experience over another — beyond price and proximity. Branding might do it but then you have to scramble even harder and faster to create a slick experience and inflate a brand that sticks. (And it goes without saying that a scooter sticky with fecal-matter is absolutely not that.)

The still fledgling startups are certainly scrambling to scale, with some also already pushing into international markets. Lime just scattered ~200 e-scooters in Paris, for example. It’s also been testing the waters more quietly in Zurich. While Bird has its beady eye on European territory too.

The idea underpinning some very obese valuations for these fledgling startups is that scooters will be a key piece of a reworked, multi-modal transport mix for urban mobility, fueled by app-based convenience and city buy-in to greener transport options with emissions-free benefits. (Albeit scooters’ greenness depends on what they’re displacing; Great if it’s gas-guzzling cars, less compelling if it’s people walking or peddling.)

And while investors are buying in to the vision that lots of city dwellers are going to be scooting the last mile in future, and betting big on sizable value being captured by a few plucky scooter startups — more than half a billion dollars has been funneled into just two of these slimline scooter brands, Bird and Lime, since February — there are skeptical notes being sounded too.

Asking whether the scooter model really justifies such huge raises and heady valuations. Wondering if it isn’t a bit crazy for a fledgling Bird to be 2x a unicorn already.

The bear case for these slimline e-scooters says they’re really only fixing a pretty limited urban mobility problem. Too spindly and unsafe to go the distance, too sedate of pace (and challenged for sidewalk space) to feel worthwhile if you don’t have far to go anyway. And of course you’re not going to be able to cart your kids and/or much baggage on a stand-up two wheeler. So they’re useless for families.

Meanwhile scooter invasions are illegal in some places and, where they are possible, are fast inviting public and regulatory frisson and friction — by contributing to congestion and peril on already crowded pavements.

After taking one of Lime’s just-landed e-scooters for a spin in Paris this week, Willy Braun, VC at early stage European fund Daphni, came away unimpressed. “I didn’t feel I was really saving time in a short distance, since there is always many people in our narrow sidewalks,” he tells us. “And it isn’t comfortable enough for me to imagine a longer distance. Also it’s quite expensive ($1 per use and $.15/min).

“Lastly: Before renting it I read two news media that told me I had to use it only on the sidewalks and they tell us that we should only use it on the road during the onboarding — and that wearing an helmet is mandatory without providing it). As a comparison, I’d rather use e-bikes (or emoto-bikes) for longer journey without hesitation.”

“Give us Jump instead of Lime!” he adds, namechecking the electric bike startup that’s been lodged under Uber’s umbrella since April, adding a greener string to its urban mobility bow — and which is also heading over to Europe as part of the ride-hailing giant’s ongoing efforts to revitalize its regionally battered brand.

“Uber stands ready to help address some of the biggest challenges facing German cities: tackling air pollution, reducing congestion and increasing access to cleaner transportation solutions,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wheeling a bright red Jump bike on stage at the Noah conference in Berlin earlier this month. Uber’s Jump e-bikes will launch in Germany this summer.

E-bikes do seem to offer more urban mobility versatility than e-scooters. Though a scooter is arguably a more accessible type of wheeled steed vs a bike, given you can just stand on it and be moved.

But in Europe’s dense and dynamic urban environments — which, unlike the US, tend to be replete with public transit options (typically at a spectrum of price-points) — individual transport choices tend to be based firstly on economics. After which it’s essentially a matter of personal taste and/or the weather.

Urban transport horses for courses — depending on your risk, convenience and comfort thresholds, thanks to a publicly funded luxury of choice. So scooters have loads of already embedded competition.

TechCrunch’s resident Parisien, Romain Dillet — a regular user of on-demand bike services in the city (of which there are many), and prior to that the city’s own dock-based bike rental scheme — also went for a test spin on a Lime scooter this week. And also came away feeling underwhelmed.

“This is bad,” he said after his ride. “It’s slow and you need to brake constantly. BUT the worst part is that it feels waaaaaay more dangerous than a bike. Basically you can’t brake abruptly because you’re just standing there.”

Index Venture’s Martin Mignot was also in Paris this week and he took the chance to take a Lime scooter for a spin too — checking out the competition in his case, given the European VC firm is a Bird backer. So what did he think?

“The experience is pretty cool. It’s slightly faster than a bike, there’s no sweating. The weather was just amazing and very hot in Paris so it was pretty amazing in terms of speed and lack of effort,” he says, rolling out the positively spun, vested view on scooter sharing. “Especially going up hill to go to Gare du Nord.

“And the lack of friction — just to get on board and get started. So in general I think it’s a great experience and I think it feels a really interesting niche between walking and on-demand bikes… In Paris you’ve also got the mopeds. So that kind of ‘in between offering’. I think there’s a big market there. I think it’s going to work pretty well in Paris.”

Mignot is a tad disparaging about the quality of Lime’s scooters vs the model being deployed by Bird — a scooter model he also personally owns. But again, as you’d expect given his vested interests.

“Obviously I’m biased but I would say that the Xiaomi scooter/Ninebot scooter is higher quality than the one that Lime are using,” he tells us. “I thought that the Lime one, the handlebar is a little bit too high. The braking is a little bit too soft. Maybe it was the one I used, I don’t know.”

Talking generally about scooter startups, he says investors’ excitement boils down to trip frequency — thanks exactly to journeys being these itty-bitty last mile links.

But it’s also then about the potential for all that last mile hopping to be a shortcut for winning a prized slot on smartphone users’ homescreens — and thus the underlying game being played looks like a jockeying for prime position in the urban mobility race.

Lime, for example, started out with bike rentals before jumping into scooters and going multi-modal. So scooter sharing starts to look like a strategy for mobility startups to scoot to the top of the attention foodchain — where they’re then positioned to offer a full mix and capture more value.

So really scooters might mostly be a tool for catching people’s app attention. Think of that next time you see one lying on a sidewalk.

“What’s very interesting if you look at the trip distribution, most of the trips are short. So the vast majority of trips if you’re walking, obviously, are less than three miles. So that’s actually where the bulk of the mobility happens. And scooters play really well in that field. So in terms of sheer number of trips I think it’s going to dwarf any other type of transportation. And especially ride-hailing,” says Mignot.

“If you look at how often do people use Uber or Lyft or Taxify… it’s going to be much less frequent than the scooter users. And I think that’s what makes it such an interesting asset… The frequency will be much higher — and so the apps that power the scooters will tend to be on the homescreen. And kind of on top of the foodchain, so to speak. So I think that’s what makes it super interesting.”

Scooters also get a big investor tick on merit of the lack of friction standing in the way of riding vs other available urban options such as bikes (or, well, non-electric scooters, skateboards, roller blades, public transport, and so on and on) — in both onboarding (getting going) and propulsion (i.e. the lack of sweat required to ride) terms.

“That’s what’s so brilliant with these devices, you just snap the QR code and off you go,” he says. “The difference with bikes is that you don’t have to produce any effort. I think there are cases where obviously bikes are better. But I think there are a lot of cases where people will want something where you don’t sweat.

“Where you don’t wrinkle your clothes. Which goes a little bit faster. Without going all the way to the moped experience where you need to put the helmet, which is a bit more dangerous, which a lot of people, especially women, are not super familiar with. So I think what’s exciting with scooters as a form factor is it’s actually very mainstream.

“Anyone can ride them. It’s very simple to manoeuvre. It’s not super fast, it’s not too dangerous. It doesn’t require any muscular effort — so for older people or for people who just don’t want to sweat because they’re going to a meeting or something. It’s just a fantastic option.”

Index has also invested in an e-bike startup (Cowboy) and the firm is fully signed up to the notion that urban mobility will be multimodal. So if e-scooters valuations are a bit overcooked Index is not going to be too concerned. People in cities are clearly going to be riding something. And backing a mix is a smart way to hedge the risk of any one option ending up more passing fad than staple urban steed.

Mostly Index is betting that people will keep on riding robotic horses for urban courses. And whatever they ride it’s a fairly safe bet that an app is going to be involved in the process of finding (docklessness is therefore another attention play) or unlocking (scan that QR code!) the mobility device — opening up the possibility that a single app could house multiple mobility options and thus capture more overall value.

“It’s not a one-size fits all. They’re all complementing each other,” says Mignot of the urban mobility options in play. “I would say e-bikes are probably a little bit more great for little bit longer trips because you’re sitting down. But again it takes a little bit longer, because you have to adjust the saddle, you need to start peddling. There’s a bit more friction both on the onboading and on the riding. But they’re a bit better for slightly longer distances. I would say for shorter distances there’s nothing better than the scooter.”

He also points out that scooters are both cheaper and less bulky than e-bikes. And because they take up less street space they can — at least in theory — be more densely stacked, thereby generating the claimed convenience by having them sitting near enough to convince someone not to bother walking 10 minutes to the café or gym — and just scoot instead. So scooters’ slimline physique is also especially exciting to investors. (Even if, ironically, it’s being deployed to urge people to walk less.)

“I think we will end up with more density of scooters. Which is super important,” he continues. “People will, in the end, tend to take the vehicle that they can find where they are. And I think it’s more likely, eventually, that they will get a scooter than an e-bike. Just simply because they take less space and they are less expensive.”

But why wouldn’t people who do get won over to the sweatless perks of last mile scooting just buy and own their own ride — rather than shelling out on an ongoing basis to share?

Unlike bikes, scooters are mobile enough to be picked up and moved around fairly easily. Which means they can go with you into your home, office, even a restaurant — disruptively reducing theft risk. Whereas talk to any bike owner and they’ll almost invariably have at least one tale of theft woe, which is a key part of what makes bike sharing so attractive: It erases theft worry.

Add to that, you can find e-scooters on sale in European electronics shops for as little as €140. So if you’re going to be a regular scooterer, the purely economic argument to just own your own looks pretty compelling.

And people zipping around on e-scooters is a pretty common sight in another dense European city, Barcelona, which has very scooter-friendly weather but no scooter startups (yet). But unless it’s a tourist weaving along the seafront most of these riders are not shared: People just popped into their local electronics shop and walked out with a scooter in a box.

So the rides aren’t generating repeat revenue for anyone except the electricity companies.

 

Asked why people who do want to scoot won’t just buy, rather than rent Mignot talks up the hassle of ownership — undermined slightly by the fact he is also a scooter owner (despite the claimed faff from problems such as frequent flat tires and the chore of the nightly charge).

“The thing you notice very rapidly: There are two things, one is the maintenance,” he says. “The models that exist today are not super robust. Maybe in a very flat, very smooth roads, maybe Santa Monica, maybe it’s a little bit less true but I would say in Europe the maintenance that is required is fairly high… I have to do something on mine every week.

“The other thing is it takes a little bit of space. If you have to bring it to a restaurant or whatever type of crowded place, a movie theatre or wherever you’re going, to an office, to a meeting room, it’s a little bit on the heavy side, and it’s a little bit inconvenient. So certainly some people will buy them… But I also think that there are a lot of cases where you’d rather have it just on-demand.”

Unlike Mignot and Index, Tom Bradley, of UK focused VC firm Oxford Capital, is not so convinced by the on-demand scooter craze.

The firm has not made any e-scooter investments itself, though mobility is a “core theme”, with the portfolio including an on-demand coach travel startup (Sn-ap), and technology plays such as Morpheus Labs (machine learning for driverless cars) and UltraSoc (complex circuits for automotive parts, which sells to the likes of Tesla).

But it’s just not been sold on scooter startups. Bradley describes it as an “open question” whether scooters end up being “an important part of how people move around the cities of the future”. He also points to theft problems with dockless bike share schemes that have not played out well in the UK.

“We’re not convinced that this is a fundamental part of the picture,” he says of scooter sharing. “It may be a part of the picture but I personally am not yet convinced that it’s as big a part of the picture that people seem to be prepared to pay for.”

“I keep thinking of the Segway example,” he adds. “It’s an absolutely delightful product. It’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. In a way that these electric scooters are not. But obviously it was much more expensive. And it made people feel a bit weird. But it was supposed to be the answer — and it’s not the answer. Before its time, perhaps.”

Of course he also accepts that capital is “being used as a weapon”, as he puts it, to scoot full-pelt towards a future where shared electric scooters are the norm on city streets by waging a “marketing war” to get there.

“Venture capital valuations are what someone is prepared to pay. And in this case people are valuing potential rather than valuing the business… so the valuations [of Bird and Lime] are being driven more than anything by the amount of money being raised,” he says. “So you decide a rule of thumb about what is acceptable dilution, and if you’re going to raise $400M or whatever then the valuation’s got to be somewhere between $1.6BN and $2BN to make that sort of raise make sense — and leave enough equity for the previous investors and founders. So there’s an element of this where the valuations are being driven by the amount of capital being raised.”

Oxford Capital’s bearish view on scooter sharing is also bounded by the fund only investing in UK-based startups. And while Bradley says it sees lots of local mobility strengths — especially in the automotive market — he admits it’s more of a mental leap to imagine a world leading scooter startup sprouting from the country’s green and pleasant lands. Not least because it’s not legal to use them on UK public roads or pavements.

“If you look at places like Amsterdam, Berlin, they’re sort of built for bikes. London’s getting towards being built for bikes… Cycling’s been one of the big success stories in London. Is [scooter sharing] going to replace cycling? I don’t know. Not so convinced… It’s obviously easy for anyone to get on and off these things, young and old. So that’s good, it’s inclusive. But it feels a little bit like a solution looking for a problem, the sorts of journeys people talk about for these things — on campus, short urban journeys. A lot of these are walkable or cycle journeys in a lot of cities. So is there a mass need?

“Is this Segway 2 or is this bike hire 2… it’s hard to tell. And we’re coming down on the former. We’re not convinced this is going to be a fundamental part of the transport space. It will be a feature but not a huge part.”

But for Mignot the early days of the urban mobility attention wars mean there’s much to play for — and much that can be favorably reshaped to fit scooters into the mix.

“The whole thing, even on-demand bikes, it’s a two year old phenomenon really,” he says. “So I think everyone is just trying to learn and figure out and adapt to this new reality, whether it’s users or companies or cities. I think it’s very similar to when cars were first introduced. There were no parking spaces at the time and there were no rules on the road. And fast forward 100 years and it looks very different.

“If you look at the amount of infrastructure and effort and spend that has been put into making — and I would argue way more than should have — into making a city car-friendly, if you only do a 100th of the same amount of effort and spend into making some space for bicycles and light two-wheel vehicles I think we’ll be fine.

“That’s the beauty of this model. If you compare the space of the tech and if you look at the efficiency of moving people around vs the space, the scooters are simply the most efficient because their footprint on the ground is just so small.”

He even makes the case for scooters working well in London — arguing the sprawl of the city amps up the utility because there are so many tedious last mile trips that people have to make.

Even more so than in denser European cities like Paris, where he admits that hopping on a scooter might just be more of a “nice to have”, given shorter distances and all the other available options. So, really, where urban mobility is concerned, it can actually be courses for horses.

Yet, the reality is London is off-limits to the likes of Bird and Lime for now — thanks to UK laws barring this type of unlicensed personal electric vehicle from public roads and spaces.

You can buy e-scooters for use on private land in the UK but any scooter startups that tried their usual playbook in London would be scooting straight for legal hot water.

It’s not just the British weather that’s inclement.

“I’m really hoping that TfL [Transport for London] and the Department for Transport are going to make it possible,” says Mignot on that. “I think any city should welcome this with open arms. Some cities are, by the way. And I think over time once they see the success stories in other parts of the world I think they all will. But I wish London was one of those cutting edge cities that would welcome new innovation with open arms. I think right now, unfortunately, it’s not there.

“There’s a lot of talk about air quality, and so on, but actually, when push comes to shove… you have a lot of resistance and a lot of pushback… So it’s a little bit disappointing. But, you know, we’ll get there eventually.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Silicon Valley scooter wars

Posted by on Jun 9, 2018 in bird, electric scooters, lime, Lyft, ofo, skip, Spin, TC, Transportation, Uber | 0 comments

Electric scooters have become the hot new area for startups and “innovation.” For those who haven’t been keeping track, there are three main players in the Silicon Valley scooter wars: Bird, Lime and Spin. Bird first launched in Venice, Calif. before expanding into San Francisco in March. It’s worth pointing out that Bird, for now, is strictly an electric scooter company. That’s not the case for Lime and Spin, which both have their own bike-share services deployed throughout various parts of the country and world.

That same month — almost in complete lockstep — Lime and Spin deployed their own electric scooters in the city. Fast forward to June and the city of SF has placed a temporary hold on electric scooters until it can review permit applications. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in SF without a permit.

Twelve companies (Uber/JUMP, Lyft, Skip, Spin, Lime, Scoot, ofo, Skip, Razor, CycleHop, USSCooter and Ridecell) have applied for permits in SF, but the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency will issue permits for no more than five companies during the 24-month pilot program. The program would grant up to 2,500 scooters to operate in total, but it’s not yet clear how many scooters each company would be allowed to deploy.

Uber and Lyft’s entrance into the electric scooter space was expected, given that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told me in April that he had his eyes on electric scooters, and Lyft had reportedly been in talks with the SFMTA about its permitting process. But it became more official this past week when both companies applied for permits to operate in SF. Both Uber and Lyft, which have both recently announced public transit integration, are clearly vying to become the one-stop shop for all transportation needs.

The SFMTA said it’s aiming to notify companies of their permit status by the end of June. If issued a permit, companies must then pay an annual permit fee of $25,000, as well as a $10,000 public property repair and maintenance endowment. Companies must also share trip data with the city.

But the scooter moratorium in SF has little effect on the state of scooters as a whole. The last week alone has been filled with multimillion-dollar investments in electric scooter companies like Bird and Lime. Bird authorized a new $200 million funding round that could value the company at around $1 billion post-money, and Bird competitor Lime is also reportedly raising $250 million. 

Below, you can see where some of these newer players stack up in comparison to each other. This is just a look at companies that have deployed electric scooters in the United States.

Where the scooters at

California is the main hot spot for scooters in the U.S., but they have also popped up in Texas, Washington D.C., North Carolina and other states throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, regulation has proved to be an issue for many of these companies. In SF, the MTA is currently reviewing permit applications from electric scooter companies looking to operate in the city. The permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March.

Over in Austin, dockless electric scooter startup GOAT says it’s working with the city to ensure its service meets the criteria laid out by regulators. Moving forward, GOAT says it’s actively working with other cities to pursue additional operating permits. In D.C., Skip, which is trying to differentiate itself by being more heavy-duty, worked with city officials and lawmakers to ensure it had the greenlight before launching.

Here’s an overview of where you can expect to see electric scooters throughout the country.

Outside of the U.S., Bird is looking at deploying scooters throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In February, Bird brought on Patrick Studener, a former international growth product manager at Uber, to serve as head of EMEA at Bird, according to Studener LinkedIn. Earlier this week, TechCrunch also spotted a job posting for a general manager in Europe to lead market management.

Meanwhile, a source sent us a Lime on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland. It turns out Lime is working with the city around some pilot programs with private businesses.

Building scooters

Many companies aren’t actually building their own scooters. Instead, they’re slapping stickers and logos on scooters that have been around for years. Lime, Bird and Spin launched using scooters from Ninebot, a Chinese scooter company that has merged with Segway. Ninebot is backed by investors including Sequoia Capital, Xiaomi and ShunWei. But Lime, Skip, Spin and Bird are looking to change that.

In May, Lime partnered with Segway to launch its next generation of electric scooters. These Segway-powered Lime scooters are designed to be safer, longer-lasting via battery power and more durable for what the sharing economy requires, Lime CEO Toby Sun told TechCrunch last month. Now, instead of a maximum distance of 23 miles or so, Lime scooters can go up to 35 miles.

“A lot of the features in the past on scooters were made for the consumer market,” Sun said. “Not for the shared, heavy-duty markets.”

Lime scooter built in partnership w/ Segway

Bird is also experimenting with some new scooter models, but they seem to modified versions of a Segway ES2. When reached for comment, Bird said it didn’t have many details to provide. Meanwhile, Skip does have plans to build its own custom scooters but currently modifies the Speedway Mini4 63V 21Ah scooters.

Skip scooter deck

With Spin, the company does have plans to build its own scooters but isn’t ready to announce details. What Spin CEO Euwyn Poon would share with me is that the company has spun up a custom production line and supply chain.

GOAT, on the other hand, is deliberately taking the partnership route, having developed GOAT on top of a Segway scooter since the beginning.

“This decision was based not only on a superior quality scooter and the ability to maintain this quality at scale, but also our ability to work side-by-side with the Segway team in Changzhou, China and remotely here in Austin,” GOAT co-founder Jennie Whitaker told TechCrunch in an email. “We believe that it’s important to focus on what you’re the best at, which means allowing Segway to produce superior electric scooters while we focus on building technology to solve mobility problems for the world.”

A new side hustle

Just like ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft created new jobs, electric scooter companies seem to be doing the same. During some March public hearings in SF, companies touted how their respective services create jobs for people in low-income communities. Given that each player’s scooters need to be charged, they’re relying on everyday people to scoop up these scooters at night, charge them and then drop them off early the next morning.

Lime, for example, has its Juicer program. Bird has its Charger program, Spin has its Squad program and Skip has street team chargers. Spin pays $5 per scooter, Bird pays between $5 to $25 per scooter charged, depending on how hard it is to find the scooter. And Lime pays up to $12 per scooter, depending on the location.

In March, Harry Campbell over at The Rideshare Guy documented what it was like to be a charger for Bird. The TL;DR is that he had a good time and he could see how it would make sense for people looking to make some extra cash.

Scooter parking

Austin scooter parking

Moving forward, companies are looking at ways to ease some of its effects on sidewalk congestion, which has been a primary concern for city dwellers and legislators. In March, SF Supervisor Jane Kim said she didn’t envision handing out permits until the city could figure out a better way to dock the scooters. At the time, the SFMTA said the onus is on the companies to ensure proper docking and that it’s willing to work with each company around that process.

But over in Austin, the city has taken matters into its own hands. In May, the city adopted new rules that require riders to park in designated areas. This decision was inspired by some action Seattle took around dockless bicycles.

Each city will, of course, regulate in whatever way they think is best. But these designated scooter parking areas do seem like a solid way to ensure people aren’t tripping over scooters left in the middle of the street.

A fallen Bird in SF

In addition to figuring out a way to handle scooter parking, companies also have to worry about vandalism and theft. In SF, before the temporary ban, it wasn’t uncommon to see scooters with graffiti, cut wires or with dismembered parts.

Companies, of course, account for things like this and are keeping tabs. Lime told me lost scooters and vandalism affects less than one percent of its overall fleet across markets.

If you’ve made it this far in the story, I tip my hat off to you. Be sure to holler at me if you see scooters behaving badly, launching in new markets or yelling at people on the streets.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More

Uber and Lyft apply for electric scooter permits in SF

Posted by on Jun 8, 2018 in bird, electric scooters, lime, Lyft, Spin, TC, Transportation, Uber | 0 comments

Uber and Lyft have officially put their respective names into the electric scooter competition. Uber and Lyft are among the 11 companies that applied to operate an electric scooter-sharing service within San Francisco city limits. The city, however, will only offer up to five companies permits to operate as part of a one-year test program.

Uber declined to comment, but confirmed that it has applied for a permit via JUMP, the bike-share startup Uber acquired for about $200 million in April. Once Uber is cleared to operate electric scooters, the plan is to integrate them into the Uber app and continue fleshing out Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s vision for a full-fledged multi-modal transportation platform.

Lyft also confirmed to TechCrunch that the company applied for a permit, but declined to share any further details. Here’s the full list of companies that applied, via the SFMTA:

  1. Bird
  2. CycleHop
  3. JUMP via Uber
  4. Lime
  5. Lyft
  6. ofo
  7. Razor (yes, *that* Razor)
  8. Ridecell
  9. Scoot
  10. . Skip
  11.  Spin
  12.  USSCooter

San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in San Francisco without a permit. The SFMTA said it’s aiming to notify companies of their permit status by the end of June.

For more information about electric scooter regulation in San Francisco, be sure to check out my previous coverage.


Source: The Tech Crunch

Read More