Chinmay Malaviya and Charlie Depman found themselves at the center of the shared micromobility industry just as it took off, working for companies like Bird, Lime and Scoot. They experienced a rollercoaster ride of venture funding and skyrocketing demand, product pitfalls and regulatory hurdles. It was in the midst of this activity that the pair noted a shift in the industry and an opportunity.
“From our vantage point there was a massive shift happening in mobility and transportation, in terms of personal ownership,” Malaviya told TechCrunch in an interview last month. “People were looking for their own electric scooter, electric bike and electric moped.”
Malaviya and Depman, who met on LinkedIn, determined there wasn’t a suitable way to research, vet and buy e-bikes, e-mopeds or e-scooters beyond Google and Amazon searches. And Ridepanda, an online marketplace for light electric vehicles, was born.
It’s safe to call the pair “light electric vehicle” evangelists. They see Ridepanda, which raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from General Catalyst and Will Smith’s Dreamers Fund, as the best way to deliver on the mission of getting more electric bikes, scooters and mopeds in the public’s hands.
“We are all for cities that can be happier and efficient, if they run on these vehicles that are small, quiet eco-friendly and also a lot more fun,” said Malaviya, who added that light electric vehicles are particularly well-suited for the majority of trips people take, which data shows is up five miles.
The startup, which the pair launched in early 2020 and recently came out of stealth, aims to be one-stop “e-ride” shop where customers can find a curated set of expert-vetted e-rides and a customization feature that helps shoppers home in on the right product. Ridepanda launched in late September, a new site with an improved user interface, a “ridefinder quiz” that helps people find the right product as well as other support services. These support services, which are bundled and branded “pandacare,” connects users with information on insurance, home assembly, repair and maintenance plans as well as help finding the right helmet.
The Ridepanda homepage.
Visitors to Ridepanda will spot the “ridefinder quiz,” which lets users select the electric bike, moped or scooter icon, their height and weight, top uses and finally, preferences like foldable or cargo and budget. The user is then given a few results that best match their selections. Users can skip this process and just conduct searches based on the three product types or use cases such as “commute,” “adventure,” “delivery,” or “accessibility.”
Not just any electric bike, scooter or moped qualifies for Ridepanda’s site, said Depman, who is the company’s CTO.
“We’ve seen like a Cambrian explosion of different vehicle types; there are literally hundreds of options out there,” said Depman. “If you go on Amazon website, you’re going to see 150-plus in each category, and it’s really hard to sift through them. So what we’ve been building on the back end is a vetting system.”
For a product to be included on the platform, it must meet certain criteria and rating. The company rates vehicles across performance, safety, sustainability, durability and repairability, Depman said. That rating is achieved by evaluating all the different components of the vehicle, including the battery, motor and brakes.
Ridepanda is focused on the U.S. market for now, particularly cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. The company offers customers financing and it’s even looking into a subscription service, although it’s unclear when or if that will roll out.
“Basically I think we are fighting the noise and the decision fatigue,” Malaviya said.
Hello and welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.
Before we get into all the mobility news and analysis of the week I wanted to flag an upcoming event that might be of interest to the budding entrepreneurs out there. TC Disrupt, that BIG annual event we hold each fall, is virtual this year. I can’t tell you everything yet, except we put a lot of effort and tech into making this interactive and exciting. This is not going to some boring webinar.
We’re adding a bunch of new events to Disrupt this year, including something we’re calling Pitch Deck Teardown. Top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs will evaluate and suggest fixes for Disrupt 2020 attendees’ pitch decks. Investors who signed up for the Pitch Deck Teardown, include Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures, Charles Hudson with Venture Forward, Niko Bonatsos of General Catalyst, Megan Quinn with Spark Capital, Cyan Banister of Long Journey Ventures, Roelof Botha from Sequoia and Susan Lyne with BBG.
The Pitch Deck Teardown couldn’t come at a better time either. During our Early Stage event last month, Jake Saper with Emergence Capital talked about how to time your Series A fundraise. September just so happens to be a big month for investors to review pitch decks.
This summer is turning out to be a crucial period for scooter companies vying for permits in a handful of markets. Cities learned a thing or two during that first wave of electric scooters that hit the streets a couple of years ago. This time around, city leaders are placing more restrictions on e-scooters and limiting the number of companies allowed to operate in an urban area. That’s an important change, and one that raises the stakes for scooter companies.
First there was Paris, which awarded Dott, Lime and Tier permits to operate in the city. Now, Chicago has issued permits to Bird, Lime and Spin for its second pilot program. Chicago is limiting scooter use to 15 mph between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. And there are few areas, like the Lakefront Trail, where scooters are prohibited.
Each scooter company is limited to no more than 3,333 devices, 50% of which must be deployed with an equity priority area. New to the second pilot is a requirement that all e-scooters must have locks that require riders to secure the scooter to a fixed object to end their trip.
On a side note, Lyft did not apply for the scooter permit. I asked Lyft, ‘why not?’ The company said it’s focusing on its expansion of Divvy, Chicago’s bike-sharing system. The city made Lyft the exclusive operator of Divvy last year and now starting to expand. The Divvy system will eventually include 16,500 bikes and 800 stations. Here’s what Lyft had to say:
“We have spent the better part of the last year working with communities in Chicago’s South and West Sides to prepare for new stations and ebikes. In order to prioritize our work with CDOT to expand Divvy and provide the highest possible experience for Divvy members, Lyft opted out of submitting an application that mirrored requests of this year’s scooter pilot. We are dedicated to the long-term success of micromobility in Chicago, and we look forward to future opportunities to work with the City to combine the benefits of bikes and scooters into one Divvy membership.”
In other micromobbin’ news …
Bird said Friday it is launching its shared e-scooters in Yonkers, New York as an “exclusive” operator. The word “exclusive” is one of those buzzwords that is tossed around a lot so I asked what this actually means. And Bird says it is the only company that will be issued a permit to operate in Yonkers. So there you have it. The company’s fleet of next-generation Bird Two scooters will be available to rent starting August 10.
Image Credits: Bird
Revel, the shared moped startup, has shut down operations in New York City following two deaths within days of each other. The startup’ blue mopeds had become a common sight in New York City. Revel, founded in March 2018 by Frank Reig and Paul Suhey, started with a pilot program in Brooklyn and later expanded to Queens. Revel has been on a fast-paced growth track, expanding to Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C in its first 18 months of operation. In January, the company launched in Oakland and recently announced plans to expand to San Francisco this August.
The company said in a statement that is reviewing its safety measures and does plan to return to New York.
Deal of the week
Prickly relations between China and the United States, particularly around trade, has not slowed the march of Chinese companies hoping to list on American stock exchanges. Li Auto is just the latest example, Rita Liao reported this week.
Li Auto is aiming for a growing Chinese middle class that aspires to drive cleaner, smarter and larger vehicles. Its first model, sold at a subsidized price of 328,000 yuan, or $46,800, is a six-seat electric SUV that began shipping at the end of last year.
The five-year-old Chinese electric vehicle startup raised $1.1 billion through its debut on Nasdaq. Li Auto priced its IPO north of its targeted range at $11.5 per share, giving it a fully diluted market value of $10 billion. It also raised an additional $380 million in a concurrent private placement of shares to existing investors.
Image credit: Li Auto
Other deals that got my attention this week …
Argo AI is now valued at $7.5 billion, a figure that was confirmed Thursday, nearly two months after VW Group finalized its $2.6 billion investment in the autonomous vehicle technology startup. You might recall that Argo came out of nowhere in 2017 with $1 billion (to be spread over several years) in back from Ford. Last year, VW announced it was going to invest in Argo as well.
Under the deal that was finalized last month, Ford and VW have equal ownership stakes, which will be roughly 40% each over time. The remaining equity sits with Argo’s co-founders as well as employees. Argo’s board is comprised of two VW seats, two Ford seats and three Argo seats. Ford said Thursday it netted $3.5 billion in the second quarter from selling some of its Argo equity to Volkswagen.
AUTO1 Group, the European digital used-car trading platform, raised 255 million euros ($300 million) in the form of convertible notes. The round was led by Farallon Capital Management and the Baupost Group as well as existing investor Softbank Group, the NYT reported.
Cargo.one, a Berlin-based startup that runs a marketplace for booking air freight, closed an $18.6 million Series A round of funding led by Index Ventures. Other participants in the round include Next47 as well as prior backers Creandum, Lufthansa Cargo and Point Nine Capital. A number of angel investors also joined in, including Tom Stafford of DST Global and Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, the COO of GoCardless and former chief product officer of Skyscanner.
LINE MAN, the Thai food delivery platform that is a unit of Japanese chat app LINE Corp, raised $110 million from BRV Capital Management and merged with a local restaurant aggregator. LINE MAN is loading up on capital as it aims to compete with Singapore-based Grab, Indonesia’s Go-Jek and Foodpanda of Germany’s Delivery Hero SE, Reuters reported.
FreightWaves, the freight data and analytics company, raised $37 million in a round led by Kayne Partners Fund. Other investors include 8VC, Fontinalis Partners, Revolution Ventures, Hearst Ventures, Prologis Ventures, Story Ventures and Engage Ventures.
Theeb Rent-a-Car is looking into a potential initial public offering. The Saudi Arabian rental company hired Saudi Fransi Capital to advise on the IPO, Bloomberg reported.
Toyota is taking a 10% stake in BluE Nexus, a company that makes electric drive modules. The investment is part of a deepening collaboration between the two companies.
Xpeng, the Chinese electric vehicle startup and Tesla rival that just announced a $500 million Series C+ round, is reportedly in talks to raise around $300 million ahead of an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States. (back to my earlier point about interest among Chinese companies to list on U.S. stock exchanges)
Delivery and data (breaches)
Image credit: Getty
If you hadn’t noticed, delivery has been cast as one of the big success stories to emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic. I use the term “cast” because it’s not all sunshine, roses and rainbows for the delivery industry or its users.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in demand for delivery services. It has also helped propel unprecedented consolidation as companies like Uber seek profitability.
There are challenges though, including an area that perhaps deserves A LOT MORE ATTENTION. I’m talking about data and privacy. Delivery companies, which includes a growing number of autonomous and teleoperated services, collect a ton of personal data from its customers. The kind of valuable data, like home addresses and credit card numbers, that are sold on the dark web.
This week, our cybersecurity editor Zack Whittaker reported on two data breaches involving delivery companies. The first was Drizly,one of the biggest online alcohol delivery services in the U.S. and Canada, raising over $68 million to date. Drizly told customers a hacker “obtained” some customer data. The hacker took customer email addresses, date-of-birth, passwords hashed using the stronger bcrypt algorithm and, in some cases, delivery addresses.
As many as 2.5 million Drizly accounts are believed to have been stolen. Here’s something to take note of, Drizy told TechCrunch that no financial information was compromised. However, a listing on a dark web marketplace from a well-known seller of stolen data claims otherwise. TechCrunch, of course, didn’t link to it. But Whittaker did take and share a screenshot.
Meanwhile, online shopping and delivery service Instacart is blaming customers who reused passwords for a recent spate of account breaches. The data breach compromised 270,000 Instacart customers. The company published a statement late on Thursday saying its investigation showed that Instacart “was not compromised or breached,” but pointed to credential stuffing, where hackers take lists of usernames and passwords stolen from other breached sites and brute-force their way into other accounts.
Customers can’t shoulder all of the responsibility. Instacart, as Whittaker notes, still does not support two-factor authentication, which — if customers had enabled — would have prevented the account hacks to begin with.
Other delivery news …
Flipkart, which is owned by Walmart, launched a hyperlocal service in suburbs of Bangalore, four years after the e-commerce group abruptly concluded its previous foray into this category.
The new service called Flipkart Quick uses the company’s supply chain infrastructure and a new location mapping technology framework to deliver within 90 minutes to customers more than 2,000 products across grocery, perishables, smartphones, electronics accessories and stationary items.
Remember the days when electric vehicle news was relegated to Tesla, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt? Times have changed and, well, stayed the same. Tesla still dominates the headlines and this week wasn’t any different. (more on them later). But now, there are dozens of other electric vehicle models coming to market. The upshot: charging infrastructure is becoming more important. (Hey, not everyone has a garage).
This week, GM and EVgo announced plans to add more than 2,700 new fast chargers. The rollout, which will take five years, will triple the size of the EVgo network. The first of these new EVgo fast charging stations will be available to customers starting early 2021.
The companies are targeting high-traffic areas like grocery stores, retail outlets, entertainment centers, areas where people typically spend 15 to 30 minutes. The stations, which will be powered by renewable energy, will feature new charging technology with 100 to 350-kilowatt capabilities, the companies said.
The charging partnership follows a numerous announcements from GM around its electric vehicle strategy. Earlier this week, GM said steel construction has started on the nearly 3-million-square-foot factory that will mass produce Ultium battery cells and packs. The Ultium battery, along with a modular propulsion system and electric vehicle platform, is the cornerstone of GM’ strategy to bring 20 electric vehicles to market by 2023.
GM recently released a video of its upcoming GMC Hummer EV and next week plans to reveal the Cadillac LYRIQ.
Image Credits: GM/EVgo
Other electric news this week …
BMW said it will offer the all-electric versions of X1 compact SUV and the 5 Series as part of the German automaker’s plans to have 25 electrified models in its portfolio by 2023.
Electric Brands is working on a VW Bus-inspired EV called the eBussy, via The Drive.
Fisker Inc. revealed in a presentation that was filed with the SEC that a “cornerstone agreement” with Volkswagen has been delayed, the Verge reported. Fisker wants to use Volkswagen’s modular EV platform for its upcoming electric vehicles.
Kandi Technologies Group, the Chinese electric vehicle and parts manufacturer, bringing two EVs to the United States through its subsidiary Kandi America. The two models, which are priced under $30,000 before federal incentives, will be the cheapest EVs in the United States.
Lucid Motors provided new details about its upcoming electric vehicle, the Air. In short, this luxury EV sedan is loaded up with hardware — dozens of sensors, a driver monitoring system and an Ethernet-based architecture — for an advanced driver assistance system that aims to match and even surpass its rivals.
There will be 32 sensors in all, according to Lucid, which has branded its advanced driver assistance system DreamDrive. Lidar, a sensor that gets a lot of attention, will be on the vehicle. But I was struck by the number of radar sensors on the Air. There will be five radars in all, giving the vehicle 360 degrees of radar coverage.
Panasonic revealed to TechCrunch this week that it developed new battery technology for the “2170” lithium-ion cells it produces and supplies to Tesla, a change that improves energy density by 5% and reduces costly cobalt content. The new, higher energy dense 2170 cells will be produced by Panasonic at Tesla’s factory in Sparks, Nevada. Improvements on the battery tech will continue with a 20% improvement in energy density over the next five years and a goal to be cobalt free.
Rivian’s retail strategy is starting to emerge. The company has said it will try and repurpose existing buildings for its stores, when possible. This week, the company said it is pursuing the purchase of the historic Laguna Beach South Coast Cinema. The theater’s present structure, was opened in 1935 and stood as the city’s only cinema until it closed its doors in August 2015.
Tesla’s sales in China are becoming increasingly important to its bottom line. An SEC filing this week shows that revenue in China climbed 102.9% year-over-year to $1.4 billion. That means China now makes up 23.3% of Tesla’s total revenues of $6 billion in the quarter, compared to just about 11% in the same period a year before.
Tesla also revealed in the same SEC filing that it received payroll-related benefits from the government, funds that helped reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its business, Reuters reported.
Speaking of Tesla … CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday night to say that the automaker would be “open to licensing software and supplying powertrains & batteries” to other automakers. Musk added that that would even include Autopilot, the advanced driver assistance software that Tesla offers to provide intelligent cruise control in a number of different driving scenarios. No word on whether any companies are biting.
ADA and mobility
Image Credits: iStock / Getty Images
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 paved the way for decades of incremental changes to the way buildings, businesses and laws accommodate people with a wide variety of disabilities. As reporter Devin Coldewey notes, the law’s effect on tech has been profound.
There is still a lot of work to do. I’m looking at all of you autonomous vehicle engineers, designers and founders.
Here are a few stories that highlight the impact of ADA.
American micromobility startups Lime along with European competitors Dott and Tier Mobility have won permits to operate shared electric scooters in Paris, following a seven-month tender process that had as many as 16 companies vying for a spot.
Paris is one of a handful of cities in the world that have become key battlegrounds over market share in the shared micromobility market. The permits are a critical win for Dott, Lime and Tier. It conversely represents a major loss for U.S.-based Bird, which just a year ago made a big bet on the French market and announced plans to open up its biggest European office in Paris. Bird said at the time that it wanted to hire 1,000 people by mid-2021.
Other companies that applied for the permit included Bolt, Comodule, Spin, Voi and Wind.
The three operators will each be allowed to deploy 5,000 scooters in Paris for two years. The city is creating 2,500 dedicated parking spots for the devices in an effort to avoid clutter on sidewalks, a primary complaint in cities that have allowed shared scooters companies to set up shop.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo made the announcement via Twitter. A complete translation of the three tweets are below.
Congratulations to Lime, Dott and Tier, winners of the tender for scooters in Paris. Those 3 operators will be the only ones that can each deploy a maximum of 5,000 scooters in Paris.
Operators have been selected according to three criteria: environmental responsibility, user safety, scooter maintenance and charging management (edited)
I remind scooter users that they should respect pedestrians and the rules of the road during their trips and that they should park in the allocated areas: 2,500 dedicated parking spots are currently being created in Paris.
All three scooter companies have made a variety of environmental and social pledges for its operations in Paris and beyond in an effort to win over cities and shore up their business models. For instance, Lime said in a blog post Thursday that it powers its warehouses with local renewable energy, employs an extensive repair and reuse program with local labor, recycles 97% of materials at end of life, and operates a certified CarbonNeutral fleet in accordance with the CarbonNeutral Protocol.
Dott and Tier have made similar commitments. Dott said each of its scooters will be equipped with a removable battery, recharged with renewable energy and serviced entirely by its own local full-time employees. Dott said it plans to offer fixed-price tickets in Paris for access to its scooters with round-trip passes costing €3.99 and 7-day unlimited unlocking pass at €2.9. Unlocking fee usually €1/trip.
Earlier this month, Dott, Tier and Voi announced a sustainability coalition that makes 10 environmental and social pledges, including commitments to not use gig economy workers in any market, use at least 20% recycled material in all new e-scooters from 2021 and as of this year, for all new scooters to have swappable batteries.
Hello and welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.
The dog days of summer are almost upon us. Technically, we won’t enter this period until July 22. In normal times, vacation season would be well underway and the hit song of the summer would be established and a regular guest at every beach party, barbecue and dance club. That’s not exactly what’s going down this summer. However, we do have ourselves a hit financial instrument of the season. The SPAC, or Special Purpose Acquisition Company, is this summer’s “Seniorita.” Everywhere you turn, there it is.
More on the SPACs and other fun stuff below. Vamos!
We know that COVID-19 has changed the way we work and move around cities when we do leave our homes. Public transit ridership has dropped in many dense urban areas. And so did shared scooter and bike ridership, although there is evidence that these two modes of transportation are rebounding.
Micromobility company Lime looked at its ridership data the month before the lockdown began and compared it with the month after. Lime CEO Wayne Ting noted in a blog post this week a few emerging trends. People are riding scooters 34% longer and 18% farther; and they’re using them for recreation and to run errands. Lime also discovered that travel is starting in neighborhoods more often than in pre-COVID times.
And bikes, as we’ve noted here before, are back and more popular than ever. Lime said its e-bike rental service has seen record usage, with users taking longer journeys and the bikes being used more frequently. In London, Lime recorded its highest-ever usage in a single day last month, with over 4,000 new users, the company said.
While the survey by Lime might seem self serving, the data has been compelling enough to change how, and more specifically where, it operates. The company has taken the bikes and scooters out of areas typically dominated by tourists and moved them into neighborhoods. It’s also rolled out new flex passes and is finally bringing some of those Jump bikes back to cities.
Meanwhile, shared electric moped startup Revel received a permit that will allow it to operate in San Francisco, beginning in August. Revel will start with a fleet of 432 mopeds featuring a new paint scheme and a more powerful engine to help riders get up and over the city’s infamously steep hills.
Over in the bikes world, a new brand has emerged called Superstrata that hopes to standout with its 3D printed carbon fiber unibody that is based on precise measurements of each customer. Superstrata told TechCrunch that this translates into more than 250,000 unique combinations
But Superstrata is not just some new bike startup. It’s a new brand under Arevo, the Bay Area-based additive manufacturing startup. Superstrata is meant to demonstrate Arevo’s push into manufacturing as a service and composite additive manufacturing.
The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will hold its two-day summit virtually next month. Registration is $50. While many of the discussions will have a local focus, these are universal issues that cities around the U.S. and beyond face. Expect discussions on slow streets movement, equity, bikeway designs and safety.
Deal of the week
Remember way back in January when it looked like direct listings were the going to be the favored method to bringing a company public? Welp, direct listings are out and SPACs are in.
Electric car maker Fisker has become the latest example of this trend. The company, which just raised $50 million from investors, said it reached an agreement to merge with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management Inc. As a result, Fisker will become a public company with a valuation of $2.9 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
Fisker said this will provide the funding it needs to bring its first product, the all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV, to production in late 2022.
The agreement marks the latest company to turn to SPACs in lieu of a traditional IPO process. Online used car marketplace startup Shift Technologies, Velodyne Lidar and Nikola Motor have all gone public by merging with a special-purpose acquisition company.
SPACs are not new, even if you’re learning about them for the first time. Would a SPAC by any other name smell as sweet? Why yes, yes it would. These have been around for decades and have gone by different names, including “blind pools” and “clean shell companies.” These blank-check companies — see another name — is a corporation that has no defined business plan or purpose other than to raise money from public markets to acquire a private company.
Neumann’s family office, 166 2nd Financial Services, invested $10 million into GoTo Global as part of a $19 million Series B round. GoTo Global is a shared mobility company that operates in Israel and Malta and aims to expand into Europe later this year. The company is aiming to cover the entire range of shared vehicles from cars and mopeds to bicycles and electric scooters.
Neumann has a 33% stake in GoTo Global and can appoint one board member on his behalf. Existing shareholder Shagrir Group Vehicle Services, a publicly traded Israeli company, also participated in the round.
Drover, a UK startup that provides access to flexible car subscriptions for private users, raised £20.5 million ($25.7 million) in a round of funding co-led by Target Global, RTP Global (the Russian company formerly known as ru-Net) and Autotech Ventures. New investors Channel 4 Ventures and Rider Global, as well as previous backers Cherry Ventures, BP Ventures, Partech, Version One and Forward Partners also participated. Drover did not disclose its valuation. The company has raised £27.5 million to date.
Navistar and self-driving trucks startup TuSimple deepened their two-year relationship and announced plans to develop and begin producing autonomous semi trucks by 2024. Navistar also took an undisclosed stake in TuSimple. The plan is to move away from retrofitting the Navistar International commercial trucks that TuSimple currently uses and instead develop semi trucks specifically designed for autonomous operations.
Self-driving trucks startup Plus.ai is in talks to raise $60 million, The Information reported. The fundraising for the company that is based in China and the U.S., is still under negotiation. Hong Kong-based investment and securities firm Guotai Junan International is expected to lead the round that could value Plus.ai between $600 million to $1 billion.
Skydio raised $100 million in a Series C funding round led by Next47. New investors Levitate Capital and NTT DOCOMO Ventures joined the round with existing backers a16z, IVP and Playground. The funding will be used to accelerate product development efforts, expand its go-to-market strategy beyond consumer applications to enterprise and public sector drone technology.
Uberacquired Routematch, an Atlanta-based company that provides software to transit agencies as the ride-hailing company looks to offer more SaaS-related services to cities. Expect more public transit SaaS deals.
Uber did not share terms of the deal. This doesn’t appear to be a minor “acqui-hire,” in which a company is purchased to land a few talented employees. Instead, Uber is making a strategic acquisition for a company that has developed software used by more than 500 transit agencies. The operations of the 170-person company will continue and CEO Pepper Harward will remain.
More Uber news. This time the company is reportedly talking with investors about taking a stake in its Uber Freight division, Bloomberg reported. Discussions are underway to raise $500 million, a round that would give the freight business a standalone valuation of about $4 billion after the deal.
The startup spotlight is like a mini version of my “startup editions” newsletter that was sent out earlier this month. I’m not using a scientific method to pick these startups and when I do, it might not even be tied to a particular announcement. Basically, if I see something interesting I will put it here.
Which brings me to Onfleet, a SaaS company that created a platform for last-mile delivery services across a wide array of industries. The software platform handles the logistics of delivery such as route planning, dispatch, real-time tracking, analytics and communications for companies like Imperfect Foods, MedMen and Total Wine & More. As you might suspect, deliveries are hot right now. But that doesn’t mean Onfleet hasn’t had to adjust.
Image Credits: Onfleet
Co-founder and CEO Khaled Naim and I spoke awhile back about how the company has had to change in response to COVID-19. For instance, the company created a contactless signature feature that it rolled out in early May. Now its corporate customers can include a special URL in the SMS notifications that go out to recipients when a driver gets close to their destination. The user, say a person waiting for that wine or beer delivery, is then prompted to sign for the package on their phone. It has been a critical addition for regulated industries such as alcohol, cannabis and pharmaceuticals, where a signature is legally required, Naim said, noting these are significant segments for the company.
Onfleet has seen deliveries explode since March and is now averaging more than one delivery per second throughout the week, with peaks of more than three deliveries per second, Naim said.
Global delivery volume is up with notable spikes in alcohol, cannabis, grocery, pharmacy, prepared meals, meal kits and restaurants. He added that a handful of sectors like catering, laundry and dry cleaning have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19.
There are new segments emerging as well. For instance, seafood distributors and breweries, which once were delivering to restaurants, have shifted to business-to-consumer operations. Pet food deliveries are also up as local pet stores find new opportunities to generate revenue.
“A lot of our customers have been stretched and are trying to serve an increase in demand, while at the same time struggling with a shortage of drivers,” Naim said.
In response, Onfleet created a delivery driver job board to connect drivers with delivery gigs globally. And as global demand has surged, Onfleet had to add four languages to its driver app, including Italian, German, Dutch, and Arabic. French and Spanish have been available for awhile now.
If you have a mobility startup that has adjusted its business model due to COVID-19 or have some interesting data to share, email me. As always, I never promise coverage but I will take a look.
Notable reads and other tidbits
More transportation news! Let’s get to it.
AutoX, autonomous vehicle startup backed by Alibaba, has been granted a permit in California to begin driverless testing on public roads in a limited area in San Jose.
German lawmakers are preparing legislation that could commercialize driverless vehicle technology by next summer. The landmark legislation, if passed, would provide a long overdue framework that would cover both homologation and road traffic requirements for robotaxis in which the computer controls the vehicle at all times, Automotive News Europe reported.
Nuroposted a blog in Medium about food deserts and the role that autonomous delivery bots will play in providing more healthy options to underserved communities. The company calculated how many homes could theoretically be reached within 30 minutes from all major supermarkets with a self-driving delivery vehicle operating at speeds up to 45 mph. Nuro compared that data to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) data on food desert locations. The startup said it could reach 14 million low-income households in food deserts nationwide, or 70% of the total low-income population in food deserts. (Again, this is all theoretical at this point. I noted here to illustrate potential scale and the company’s ambitions.)
SAFE published a report called Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology that aimed to better understand the transportation challenges in low-income communities. The study concluded that about two-thirds of Americans live in neighborhoods that are beyond their means because of largely unseen transportation costs. SAFE, of course, sees autonomous vehicles as a way out. The hypothesizes that AV transportation could reduce household costs by as much as $5,600 per household.
Berkeley is taking police officers out of traffic enforcement and replacing them with unarmed employees of a newly formed Department of Transportation, per Streetsblog.
Silicon Valley cities San Jose, Cupertino and Santa Clara have been mulling a transit system that would connect its growing airport with major employers and other high-profile destinations along the Stevens Creek Boulevard corridor, an area that includes Apple headquarters. The group asked companies to submit proposals for innovative transit modes. A consultant, who hired to evaluate the proposals from companies that included The Boring Company, BYD and Bombardier, has released its findings. San Jose Mercury News has the breakdown of the top proposals, which included personal pod cars, hyperloop and driverless shuttles.
Dan Brouillette, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, announced $139 million in federal funding for 55 projects that will support advanced vehicle technologies. Six of these innovative projects will be led by teams in Michigan.
BMW struck a long-term deal with Swedish-based Northvolt for $2.3 billion worth of battery cells. The battery cells will be produced in Europe at the Northvolt factory that is under construction in northern Sweden.
Nissan is moving on from the Leaf. The automaker unveiled the Nissan Ariya, an all-electric SUV with an estimated 300 miles of range and a starting price tag of $40,000 that marks the beginning of a four-year plan aiming for growth and profitability. The Nissan Ariya will first be sold in Japan in mid-2021, before heading to dealerships in the U.S. and Canada later in the year, the company said in digital event in Yokohama, Japan.
Image Credits: Nissan
Tesla has secured more than $61 million of tax incentives if it builds a $1.1 billion factory near Austin, Texas. Commissioners in Travis County, home to Austin and the possible next Tesla factory, approved Tuesday property tax breaks worth at least $14.7 million — and potentially more — over 10 years. The incentives are on top of $46.6 million in property tax abatement that the Del Valle School District Board approved earlier this month.
Elon Musk disputed a German court ruling that bans the company from using on its website or other advertising terms like Autopilot or “full potential for autonomous driving.”
Ford relaunched Bronco after a 24-year hiatus. There was an abundance of coverage on the Bronco 2, Bronco 4 and Bronco Sport — including my story that looked at how the automaker leaned heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology.
Image credits: Ford
And finally, as autonomous vehicle technology companies continue the slog towards commercially deployed Level 4 trucks and robotaxis, automakers have turned to advanced driver assistance systems. It’s a trend that I first noticed back in late 2018 and into early 2019. Now, it’s at full tilt as automakers race to offer hands-free — but driver engaged — systems. Reuters examines the ramifications and challenges to this pursuit.
Hello and welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.
For all the U.S. readers here, I hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend.
I am mixing up the format this week because I am in charge here, it’s a holiday and I don’t want this newsletter to get too formulaic. So today, the newsletter will highlight a few mobility startups as well as some of their ideas that don’t typically get a lot of attention.
Image Credits: RVshare
For those who plan to road trip this summer — or perhaps you already have — I would love to hear what it’s like out there. Figures from peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace RVshare suggest it’s crowded.
Folks over at RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, told me that rental bookings are three times higher than last summer and report a 1,600% increase since early April.
“July 4th weekend is on pace to be the biggest booking period in the history of the business, by a wide margin,” CEO Jon Gray said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has crushed startups and established companies alike. Others, like Lectric eBikes have had a more fortuitous couple of quarters thanks to spiking demand for bikes during the pandemic.
The one-year-old startup based in Arizona has been swept up in the electric bike craze. The company, co-founded by 24-year-olds Levi Conlow and Robby Deziel, has generated more than $14 million in sales of its Lectric XP ebike.
Now the startup is launching a new ebike called the ‘Lectric XP Step-Thru’. Pre-orders began last week. The $899 step-thru bike folds to less than half of its size, has a top speed of 28 miles per hour, an LCD display and a 25- to 50-mile range.
Image Credits: Lectric eBikes
Meanwhile, the better-known Rad Power Bikes has unveiled a single-speed electric bike that starts at $999. The new product, called RadMission Electric Motor Bike, comes with a 500-watt motor that provides 50 pound feet of torque, a twist grip throttle, an integrated brake light that is powered using the main battery pack, 48-volt battery pack that can travel between 25 to 45-mile range.
It’s under 50 pounds, making it 30% lighter than Rad Power’s other bikes. The bike also comes with an LED control panel where riders can control lights and pedal assistance as well as view battery and assist levels. Pre-orders are open and the company says the first Rad Mission bikes will be delivered in October.
Image Credits: Rad Power Bikes
Zoov, a French electric bike-sharing platform, unveiled this week a new charging station that it says improves upon traditional docking systems. The station is designed to fit four bikes within one meter compared to other systems that can only fit one bike in the same amount of space. It can also charge bikes with or without a connection to the grid. The stations that are not tied to the grid use batteries that can be swapped out and can and be set up quickly, the company says.
One of the more interesting innovations is that the bikes create a shared power connection. As bikes are parked at the station they become connected and can deliver or receive power. The transfer of energy between the bikes is controlled by an algorithm that optimizes the bikes’ charge levels – the maximum charge range is about 45 kilometers.
Each station has the capacity for up to 15 bikes. The company said it has already installed 40 of these stations.
Image Credits: Zoov
I’ve been tracking the ideas and little inventions that have popped up in the past several months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are an abundance of little “solutions” out there, some better than others. I’ll call these out from time to time.
For instance, Nickelytics, a startup out of the latest TechStars Mobility cohort, has put a slightly modern spin on the old game of advertising on and in vehicles. The company puts ads on ride-share vehicles that travel at least 30 miles a day. It promises drivers can earn up to $500 a month. The startup’s pitch to companies is that it uses tracking technology to log each “impression,” meaning the passenger who hailed a ride. It takes that data and targets those consumers with digital ads.
The company has launched a new product that it calls “ad shield.” The idea is to protect ride-share drivers and passengers, while generating revenue. This isn’t a new idea. Anyone who has been in a taxicab in a dense urban area has certainly encountered the more permanent and robust shields set up between the front and back seats as a safety measure.
The Nickelytics ad shield is designed for ride-share, however. The plexiglass, which can be branded with a company logo or other marketing message, is flexible and can be quickly added or removed from a ride share vehicle.
Image Credits: Nickelytics
A couple of transportation-related apps that are focused on safety caught my eye recently. The first is a company called !important that launched their safety app last month. The app markets itself as protection for pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and motorcyclists from collisions with nearby connected vehicles.
Here’s the basic premise, which the app’s inventor Bastien Beauchamp, explained to me recently: the app runs in the background and acts as another sensor that will communicate with a nearby “connected car” to provide the exact location of a pedestrian or cyclist. The driver receives an alert of the approaching person. The app may even trigger the vehicle’s brakes automatically. There are a couple of catches here. The vehicle has to have an advanced driver assistance systems and the accompanying !important software for it to work. And for this to be really meaningful, Beauchamp will have to convince automakers to integrate the software into their vehicles as well as get pedestrians, cyclists and other folks to download the app.
It’s early days for !important. But Beauchamp has already made some progress. The app will be implemented starting in January 2021 in human-driven and autonomous vehicles in Reno as part of the Intelligent Mobility initiative in collaboration with the Nevada Center for Applied Research at the University of Nevada.
!Important is also in collaboration with 12 universities
Now let’s turn to the drivers. Openroad is a free app, which launched in January 2020. that detects car crashes and sends emergency responders if they’re needed. The app is only available on iOS and is coming to Android soon.
The app grew out of True Motion, a company founded in 2012 that developed a smartphone telematics platform for insurance companies. Insurance companies can use the platform to capture driving data and then offer their customers incentives for good driving behavior.
Open Road was designed as a consumer app. The app uses machine learning to detect crashes in real time and will reach out to trained responders who can send a 911 call for ambulance or police if that is needed. The data can also be used to speed up the insurance claims process for the user.
Open Road recently added an emergency contacts feature that’ll notify a couple of designated people in the event of a crash as well as a Siri Shortcut. If a user says “Hey Siri, Request Crash Assistance” one of the Open Road trained agents will call the user immediately. The app also audio alert feature where if the user is in a crash, audio alert is triggered from their phone to let them know agents are calling.
Normally, I would break each of these out into different sections and provide some analysis and even original reporting. This week, I’m providing a mini version of my typical newsletter. Keep on reading for an overview of what happened this past week.
The big micromobility news this week comes from the UK, where the Department for Transport announced that it allow e-scooter rental companies to legally operate across the country. This will be a pilot program that will start no later than August. Councils and other authorities, including across London and other major cities, are working on putting together trials that could run for as long as 12 months under guidelines provided by the government.
The regulations come into force on July 4, the DfT said, with the first trials expected to begin a week later.
European micromobility company Dott reached out to let me know that it has earned approval from UK regulators to participate in the e-scooter trial. Tier Mobility is also prepped and ready. The two-year-old startup has more than 1,000 scooters in its UK warehouse. It has also hired a general manager for the UK and a head of public policy for Northern Europe. Fred Jones is the general manager for the UK and Benjamin Bell will lead public policy for Northern Europe. Both Jones and Bell formerly worked at Uber . Jones will oversee the roll-out of TIER e-scooters in UK towns and cities. While, Bell will spearhead the company’s collaboration with central and local government in the run-up to trials.
Image Credits: Lime
Meanwhile, Jump bikes returned to London through its new owner Lime. London is the first city in Europe to see Jump bikes return since Uber offloaded the company to Lime in a complex deal that unfolded in May. Lime raised $170 million in a funding round led by Uber, along with other existing investors Alphabet, Bain Capital Ventures and GV. As part of the deal, Lime acquired Jump, the electric bike and scooter division that Uber acquired in 2018 for around $200 million.
Earlier this year, thousands of Jump bikes were pulled off the streets in European cities such as Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Malaga, Munich, Paris, Rome and Rotterdam. It’s unlikely that Lime will put Jump bikes back in all of these cities. Sources have said Lime plans to redeploy Jump scooters and bikes in London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona.
AVs and connectivity
BMW showed off what its new Operating System 7 software can do. Some of its ideas around deploying upgrades and features has been a bit controversial. The company said all cars equipped with its newest “Operating System 7” software will be able to receive over-the air updates and plans to charge customers who want to upgrade certain features like adding heated seats or advanced driver assistance systems.
Lyft’s self-driving vehicle division has restarted testing on public roads in California, several months after pausing operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of its autonomous vehicles are back on the road in Palo Alto and at its closed test track. The company has not resumed a pilot program that provided rides to Lyft employees in Palo Alto.
TuSimple laid out a plan to create a mapped network of shipping routes and terminals designed for autonomous trucking operations that will extend across the United States by 2024. UPS, which owns a minority stake in TuSimple, carrier U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and food service supply chain company McLane Inc. are the inaugural partners in this so-called autonomous freight network (AFN).
Velodyne Lidar, the leading supplier of a sensor widely considered critical to the commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles, struck a deal to merge with special-purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial Corp., with a market value of $1.8 billion. Yup, another SPAC!
Daimler deepened a strategic partnership with Chinese battery cell manufacturer Farasis Energy, a deal that includes taking an equity stake of about 3%. Daimler Greater China will investing a multi-million euro amount as part of Farasis’ IPO, as part of the agreement.
EV startups in China haven’t fared so well, Automotive News reported. In June alone, at least three startups ceased operations, including Bordrin and Byton.
Lucid Motors announced that its upcoming the Air vehicle will boast a drag coefficient of 0.21, which measures the resistance of an object moving through a fluid environment, CNET’s Roadshow reported.
Rivian released a few photos of its electric truck. I put this question to the Twitterverse: what color is this? What do you think? I think the best answer might have been Werther’s Original.
Image Credits: Rivian
Tesla has opened up reservations for its all-electric Cybertruck to customers in China, a move that will test the market’s appetite for a massive, futuristic truck. The Cybertruck, which was unveiled in November at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., isn’t expected to go into production until late 2022. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of U.S. consumers to plunk down a $100 refundable deposit for the truck. Now, Tesla is testing potential interest among Chinese consumers.
Tesla also reported its delivery and production numbers for the second quarter. Tesla delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, a 4.8% decline from the same period last year prompted by challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that included suspending production for weeks at its main U.S. factory. Tesla still managed to beat expectations despite the headwinds.
Chinese EV manufacturer Xpeng Motors has started nationwide delivery of its P7 electric sports sedan to customers. The automaker received its official production license May 19 from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for its new factory, the Zhaoqing Xpeng Motors Intelligent Industrial Park, in Xpeng’s home Guangdong Province. Production of the P7 at Xpeng’s Zhaoqing plant has an annual capacity of 100,000 units.
Daimler is looking to sell its Smart car assembly plant in Hambach, France as part of a broad restructuring plan aimed at shoring up the company’s finances amid dampening demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sale will cause negative one-time effect of about 500 million euros ($562 million) in the second quarter.
Jaguar Land Rover set up a subscription service called Pivotal, which is backed by the automaker’s venture capital and mobility services arm called InMotion. The subscription will give customers access to Jaguar and Land Rover models, including the All-electric Jaguar I-PACE and the latest plug-in hybrids Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Lincoln will end production of Continental at the end of the year.
“Lincoln is investing in growth segments and the brand will feature a full portfolio of SUVs, including a fully electric vehicle in the future,” the company said in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. “Lincoln will continue to keep its newest SUVs fresh and we will have more news to share later this year; however, as the full-size premium sedan segment continues to decline in the U.S., we plan to end production of the Lincoln Continental at the end of this year.”
To meet the needs of Chinese luxury customers, Lincoln China will offer a 2021 model year Continental next year, the company said.
Uber reportedly made an offer to buy food delivery service Postmates, reported The New York Times. Just a day after that news broke, other reports claimed that Postmates was reviving its IPO plans and possibly looking to go public with the help of a special purpose acquisition vehicle known as a SPAC.
For Postmates, a company caught somewhere between DoorDash’s cash-fueled rise and Uber’s ability to lose hundreds of millions on its Uber Eats delivery service every quarter, multiple options are likely welcome. Alex Wilhelm digs in.
New York City is on the verge of approving a shared electric scooter pilot program, opening up a potentially lucrative market and new micromobility battleground in the United States.
The New York City Council is expected Thursday to vote on a bill that will require the New York Department of Transportation to create a pilot program for the operation of shared electric scooters in the city. The proposed legislation will first be taken up by the Committee on Transportation at 10 a.m. ET before moving to the full council, which has a meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET. The committee is expected to approve the measure.
The proposed legislation would require the DOT to issue by October 15, 2020 a request for proposals to participate in a shared e-scooter pilot program. The pilot program would need to launch by March 1, 2021.
“New Yorkers need more sustainable and safe ways to commute and get around during this pandemic–and that is especially true for our essential delivery workers who deserve our gratitude and our support for keeping this city running even through the darkest days of this crisis,” New York Council speaker Corey Johnson said in an emailed statement ahead of tomorrow’s vote. “E-bikes and scooters are going to be a major part of our city’s transit future, and I’m proud of the council’s work to ensure that future arrives safely and equitably.”
Lime is among several shared electric scooter companies eager to participate in the pilot. The micromobility company has spent the past two years working with elected officials, social justice organizations and advocates to finally make scooters available to New Yorkers, Phil Jones, the senior director of government relations for Lime, told TechCrunch in an email.
“The newfound urgency to offer car-alternative transportation options seems to have gotten us to this point,” Jones said.
A recent survey conducted by the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and shared micromobility company Lime suggests there is support for electric scooters in New York City. The survey, which was administered between June 15 to June 19, found 92% of respondents would choose to use scooters as an alternative to cars during the COVID-19 crisis. (It should be noted that the survey was sent to more than 30,000 New Yorkers who are part of the NYLCV, TSTC and Lime networks; 394 people responded).
Spin confirmed that if approved, it plans to apply for a permit. Link, a new scooter startup that is the shared micromobility arm of Superpedestrian and that just officially launched about a month ago, also plans to apply. Lyft, which already is one of the operators of New York City’s bikeshare program, also confirmed plans to apply.
Link founder and CEO Assaf Biderman is aiming to sell the city on its technology.
“With some of the busiest streets in the country, New York needs micromobility operators who can keep riders moving in bike lanes and out of no-ride zones,” Biderman said.
TechCrunch also reached out to a number of other e-scooter rental companies, including Bird and Skip. The article will be updated if these companies respond.
While the proposed legislation was first introduced two years ago, a pilot program wasn’t technically feasible until this April when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to legalize the use of throttle-based electric scooters and bikes in the state. Under the state law, shared scooters will not be allowed in Manhattan and a pilot program must be approved by the NY City Council before shared scooter services can operate in the remaining boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.
The proposed local law places some requirements on how the pilot program is structured. Neighborhoods that lack access to existing bike-share programs will be given priority in determining the geographic boundaries of the pilot program. Companies that receive permits will be required to meet operating rules, such as providing accessible scooter options.
It’s not clear how many companies will be issued permits or if there will be restrictions on the number of scooters in each fleet. Jones over at Lime said that “successful scooter programs strike a careful balance that allows for competition between a handful of operators, but not so many as it becomes oversaturated and unruly.”
In Lime’s view, a successful scooter program will allow for demand to dictate fleet size, include service zones in denser communities with nearby transit options, ensure the zones are expansive enough to connect residential and commercial districts, guarantee access for lower-income neighborhoods as well as provide and capitalize on its unprecedented growth of the bike lane network, Jones added.
The committee on transportation and full council is also expected to discuss and possibly approve rules about private use of electric bikes and scooters. One proposed law would allow for privately owned scooter use in Manhattan. Shared scooters are prohibited in Manhattan in accordance with state law.
If you’ve tried to rent a Jump bike or scooter in London, Paris, Brussels or Rome over the past few days, you may have noticed that they’ve suddenly vanished, as Fluctuo reported on its Twitter account. The reason is that Lime has closed the acquisition of Uber’s micromobility subsidiary Jump in Europe today, a few weeks after the transaction closed in the U.S.
Jump bikes and scooters are now sitting in warehouses, waiting for Lime to do something with them. Some of them should be redeployed in key cities in the coming weeks. But it’s still unclear whether Lime will keep all this inventory of scooters and bikes going forward.
Uber is trying to cut costs as usage has been plummeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns around the world. In addition to two massive rounds of layoffs, the company is trying to focus on its core products and markets. For instance, Uber Eats is pulling out of several markets. While Uber invested in Lime back in May, Uber is also offloading Jump to Lime as part of the deal.
Assets and employees are joining Lime, but scooters and bikes aren’t leaving the Uber app — at least once the transition process is done. “We’re glad that our customers will continue to have access to bikes and scooters in both our apps,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said at the time.
Over the past few weeks, you may have seen some photos and videos of Jump bikes being scrapped in the U.S. Uber transferred part of its fleet of micromobility vehicles to Lime in the U.S., but still had thousands of bikes on its hands.
Sources say that Lime has acquired the full Jump fleet in Europe. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all bikes and scooters will find their way back to the streets. Lime first plans to redeploy Jump scooters and bikes in London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona first. Relaunching Jump in other cities will depend on whether it makes sense for the company.
According to a cached page on Jump’s website, the service was available in Berlin, Munich, Lisbon, Madrid, Malaga, Paris, Brussels, London, Rome and Rotterdam. If Lime has no plans to relaunch Jump in most of these cities, it makes little sense to keep bikes and scooters unused in warehouses.
The main difference between what happened in the U.S. and what’s happening in Europe is that Uber was responsible for the unused vehicles in the U.S. while Lime is in charge of the unused vehicles in Europe. Let’s hope Lime will do the right thing and sell or recycle those vehicles to avoid bad press.
Similarly, all remaining Jump employees are now Lime employees. But Uber laid off part of the Jump team before the acquisition closed. A number of Jump employees also moved to other responsibilities within Uber.
At first, Lime is going to keep the Jump brand around — Lime can leverage all Jump assets, from design to IP and branding. But the company wants to consolidate its fleet under the Lime brand, eventually.
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
In December of 2019, this column wrote an entry detailing Uber’s micro-mobility efforts. Just six months ago — a mere two quarters — Uber’s Jump team was on the record saying that its parent company wanted to “double down on micro-mobility.” At the time, before COVID-19 and the decline in human travel, it made some sense.
As Uber already has its own micro-mobility bet (recall that it bought JUMP and thus has its own scooters in-market), why would it go through the bother of repricing Lime to maybe buy it later? The Information notes that Uber’s own micro-mobility bet is expensive. But given Lime’s own persistent losses and cash burn I couldn’t make the idea square in my head. So, this morning let’s peek at Uber’s numbers ahead of earnings and see what we can learn about its 2019 in the micro-mobility world, and if that helps us understand why it might drop up to nine figures on Lime during the smaller company’s struggles.
As of this writing, nearly a million people globally have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 50,322 have died. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, consumers and profiteers are hoarding supplies and some service workers have launched strikes while many others have been let go. In the world of micromobility, we’ve …
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
While the IPO cycle reprices former unicorns and concern imbues the private market with profit warnings, it turns out that there is still appetite for scooter startups. Even more, there’s hunger for both combinations in the space (not a surprise), and for scooter startup shares (which may be).
As TechCrunch reported yesterday, Bird, an American scooter startup worth several billion dollars, consumed one of its European rivals and raised $75 million in the process. Circ, the formerly independent scooter shop, was struggling to have enough cash on hand and had undergone layoffs, despite having raised €55 million a year ago (that round was announced in January 2019).
The subsumption of Circ comes after other scooter companies underwent layoffs themselves, and in some cases, struggled to raise fresh capital. Tie all of that to the fact that 2019 brought several sharply negative financial reports from Big Scooter, and the result is a milieu that’s been hard to track from a purely financial perspective; this is all the more complicated when we take product and geography into the mix, of course. This morning we’ll fix that by racing through what’s happened since mid-2018 in Scooterdom in accounting terms.
What follows is a financial highlights reel, naturally, but one that should provide us with a good overview of the ebb and flow of the world of scooters and micromobility over the last six quarters or so: