Who is behind the scooter business?
Most of the e-scooter companies arose as start-ups, some even out of other mobility service providers such as bike sharing companies (Lime) or ride hailing companies (Taxify). Nevertheless, with their growing popularity, there is a growing interest of other market players as well, such as existing ride hailing companies and even OEMs.
|The booming business of shared e-scooters|
From ride hailing to scooter trooper
Since scooter sharing services are gaining popularity, the big ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft have started showing interest in the e-scooter market as well. In both cases it started with the acquisition of bike sharing companies. JUMP was acquired by Uber while Motivate was acquired by Lyft. Now both ride hailing companies are looking to the scooter sharing market as well. Uber, for instance, is heavily investing in the Lime e-scooter services and even has plans to develop its own scooter sharing programme. This is all part of Uber's plans to go green and clean; reducing traffic congestion and air pollution by integrating bike- and scooter-sharing services to its app. Lyft, on the other hand, launched its scooters in Denver, Santa Monica, California, and in Washington, DC; where they are accessible via the Lyft app.
Uber and Lyft are not the only ride hailing companies expanding their mobility services with e-scooters. Taxify, the Estonian start-up founded by Markus Villig in 2013, is one of the few Mobility-as-a-Service platforms which includes e-scooters in its offer. Originally only offering taxi rides or private drives, Taxify launched its shared e-scooter service under the new brand ‘Bolt’ in 2018.
The company is operating in 50 cities across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Australia, serving 10 million customers globally, and working with about 500,000 drivers. For the e-scooters, Taxify has plans to expand into several European and Australian cities where the app is already established, and in new markets where it is unable to offer its ride-hailing services. At the moment, Taxify has become another unicorn, after investments of Didi Chuxing and Daimler, among others.
Since their launch, Bird and Lime have raised hundreds of millions of dollars at valuations of more than $1 billion, according to Bloomberg. As a result, investors have taken notice of the booming scooter industry, and are keen to invest in it. SoftBank Group Corp., for instance, has met with all the major scooter companies, including Lime and Bird, according to Bloomberg; which is significant since the company has already invested in the ride-sharing services of Uber.
The changing mobility market is felt by big OEMs as well. Looking to reposition themselves, some of them are expanding their core activities from car manufacturing to providing mobility. With the acquisition of scooter company Spin, Ford wants to expand its mobility offer with a special focus on short-distance transportation solutions. Considering the traffic congestion and air pollution measures in cities, a smaller, zero-emission transportation mode can provide the way out.
Yet, scooters are only part of the micromobility service of Ford, since it already offers shared bike services with its Ford Gobike in the US West Coast for example. This service is offered by other car manufacturers as well, even General Motors has announced it is launching e-bicycles in 2019.
Eventually Ford aims to launch the scooters in about 100 cities in the next year and a half, up from the 13 cities now. The car manufacturer is not planning to replace the Spin brand by its own. How many scooters the company will operate depends on local legislations, Detroit, for instance, only allowing up to 400 scooters per company.