As questions fly about whether scooter-share companies like Bird and Lime can surviveshutdowns, is there really room for another scooter company to enter the fray? If investors in a new player on the scene are any indication, the answer is a firm yes.
The company is Superpedestrian, a Boston-based mobility, engineering, and technology startup founded by urban transportation experts from MIT. Superpedestrian has announced that it closed an additional $15 million, adding to a $20 million the company raised late last year and bringing total funding to around $80 million.
Another scooter company, even as Bird is reeling from massive layoffs? Yup, and here's why.
As I wrote last November, Superpedestrian has made a study of the scooter-share landscape and believes it's identified the potential for operations and technology improvements on an order of magnitude that will give it a competitive and a real path to profitability, something the current spate of scooter shares don't have. As municipalities struggle to regulate the influx of scooters choking sidewalks and bike lanes, fleet operators have made the case even more difficult with unreliable hardware that frequently breaks down.
Aside from the liability that introduces, the economics of the model are terrible. Fleet operators must frequently repair, charge, and replace vehicles, adding significantly to operating costs.
Superpedestrian is setting out to reinvent the model, albeit in a way that will probably feel familiar to customers. That begins with purpose-built vehicles for fleet operations, community, and consumer requirements, in-house control of vehicle design, and end-to-end supply chain control. The company is also committing to engaging in proactive collaboration with government and local communities, which is a markedly different tactic than we've seen from the likes of Bird and Lime, which have focused on customer acquisitions via a guerrilla rollout strategy.
Superpedestrian also recently teamed up with Zagster, a leader in micromobility fleet management. Since December 2019, Superpedestrian, through its shared micromobility division LINK, and Zagster have partnered on a U.S e-scooter share program in Fort Pierce, Fla.
There's a lot of nuance there, and the improvements Superpedestrian is touting will ultimately require proof in the crucible of customer acquisition, which is where the competition has made impressive inroads. Does that make a new scooter company too much of a risk?
The investors don't see it that way.
"The combination of Superpedestrian with Zagster creates the first fully integrated micromobility company. One that includes product, manufacturing and supply chain as well as professional fleet operations, government and community relations," said Daniel Herscovici, Partner, Edison Partners, who led the investment and joins Superpedestrian's board. "We are excited to bring to life our vision for Micromobility 2.0. I believe there remains a significant opportunity to improve the consumer experience, the relationship with the communities we serve and deliver a world-class solution anchored in safety and compliance. Superpedestrian's LINK scooter-share will have the benefit of owner economics for the entire platform from the micromobility vehicle to on the ground operations."
COVID-19 has changed the landscape for personal mobility companies. That may have left room for a new scooter company to enter the fray, and Superpedestrian now has real money to back its engineering and mobility brainpower.