If you don’t live in or frequently visit California, you might not know that a major trend in transportation is re-emerging.
Electric scooters, often referred to as e-scooters, have taken San Francisco by storm. Based on the successful dockless bike-share companies in China, new e-scooter startups offer city residents the ability to use a smartphone app to discover, rent and ride around on a scooter for a small fee.
These scooters have become so prevalent that the city of San Francisco recently announced a ban starting June 4 on companies that rent out shared scooters without a permit. This new legislation, which was passed in an effort to reduce the potential for accidents, will also limit the number of scooters a company can make available at any given time.
Other major cities are getting ahead of the trend, as well. Miami Beach officials recently announced plans to crackdown on e-scooters, citing the dangers for tourists who ride on the vehicles intoxicated as a major concern. Additionally, Los Angeles is mulling the idea of regulating e-scooters to reduce the sidewalk clutter that is being experienced mainly on the west side of the city.
Nonetheless, significant money is beginning to flow into space, with nearly $300 million in venture capital dispersed across a few prominent startups. Adding to the mania, Lyft just announced that it is seeking a permit to launch an e-scooter rental service in San Francisco. What’s more, Uber acquired dockless e-bike service Jump Bikes for a reported amount of $200 million. Jump Bikes currently has plans to expand to New York and could offer an opportunity for establishing e-scooter infrastructure in major cities.
Here are the major startups now competing for e-scooter dominance.
LimeBike | HQ: San Mateo, California | Total Funding: $132 Million
Perhaps the most well-known e-scooter startup, due in large part to its name-matching scooter color schemes, LimeBike expanded from bikes to scooters in February 2018, around the time it closed a $70 million funding round. Notable investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Fifth Wall Ventures, and GGV Capital.
Lime scooters cost $1 to unlock and then $0.15 per minute. There are reportedly around 200 Lime scooters in San Francisco, each with a top speed of 15 mph and a total range of 37 miles.
Bird | Santa Monica, California | $115 Million
The largest by sheer numbers, Bird reportedly gave more than 95,000 rides to 32,000 different people in just its first 30 days of service in the city. Bird operates in six cities, mostly in Southern California, as well as Washington, DC. Notable investors include Index Ventures, Tusk Ventures and Upfront Ventures.
Bird scooters cost $1 to unlock and then $0.15 per minute. There are reportedly around 1600 Bird scooters in San Francisco, each with a top speed of 15 mph and a total range of 15 miles.
Spin | San Francisco, California | $8 Million
Initially launched as a bike-share startup, Spin has since pivoted to focus on e-scooters. According to an interview conducted in early May by Wired, Spin had seen a 61 percent day over day increase in rides since it launched in San Francisco in mid-March. Notable investors include Grishin Robotics, CRCM Ventures and Exponent.
Spin scooters cost $1 to unlock and then $0.15 per minute. There are reportedly around 200 Spin scooters in San Francisco, each with a top speed of 15 mph and a total range of 15 miles.
Skip | San Francisco, California | $6 Million
A lesser-known entrant in the space, Skip is from the team that made Boosted Boards, a safety-focused electric skateboard. Skip supposedly offers stronger and longer-lasting dockless e-scooters that have been modified to be more durable than those of its competitors. Notable investors include Initialized Capital, SV Angel and A.Capital Ventures.
There is an unknown number of Skip scooters available in San Francisco, but each Skip scooter has similar unit economics as its competitors and can hit a top speed of 10 mph and a total range of 30 miles.
The e-scooter trend is quickly growing and a few major players are beginning to emerge. Given the deep pockets of rideshare companies Lyft and Uber, its more than probable that both companies will look to gain a foothold on the e-scooter market, either through acquisition or by building out their own infrastructure, as is the case for Lyft.
Interesting to note that while these startups peg themselves as technology companies, they are very much in the business of transportation infrastructure. The reliance on user-ran charging stations, the need for expansive insurance policies and the necessity for compliance with city zoning regulations make these companies far more complex than a simple app.
Time will tell whether e-scooters are truly the new form of urban transportation, or nothing more than a passing fad.