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European Startups Take On Lime And Bird In $42 Billion Battle Of The Scooters

sexta-feira, maio 31, 2019

Flash cofounder Carlos Bhola.
Flash cofounder Carlos Bhola.JENS AHNER
Bird and Lime scooters have become a common sight zipping along the streets of most major American cities but now as they expand in Europe they face competition from local startups and a bumpy road to growth.

The two California-based startups are transforming urban travel by allowing people to go from A to B on electric, and GPS-tracked, scooters but the dream has soured with residents grumbling over sidewalks heaving with discarded scooters, the sustainability of the devices and their VC-fueled business model.

European challengers like Flash, Tier, Dott and Voi have crowded into the space despite the concerns across the Atlantic. Lime has close to 10x the capital of Europe's best-funded scooter company, Voi, and the battle for control of the continent's cobblestoned streets shapes up to be a David v Goliath battle.

They may not have as much money as Lime and Bird, who have raised $765 million and $415 million respectively, but they are making the most of their local advantage and learning from the mistakes of their American rivals.


Greener by design?

"They [Lime and Bird] act irresponsibly," says Carlos Bhola, cofounder of Flash, speaking about the future of transport at the Greentech Festival, held in the halls of Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport this month.

“They raised a bunch of money to put scooters everywhere, regardless of whether municipal authorities or communities wanted them or not,” says Bhola, a serial entrepreneur comfortable rocking a suit and trainers combo — arguably natural attire for the boss of an e-scooter startup. By getting the local authorities on side, Bhola claims to have the edge.

Electric scooters.
SAM SHEAD
Lawrence Leuschner, CEO of Tier, also slammed Lime and Bird’s green credentials following a Quartz report that some Bird scooters last just a month before being scrapped. "When you place a vehicle on the street that dies after 30 days, we shouldn't talk about green technology. This is not a sustainable business." Bird disputes its scooters last 30 days. Tier's founder claims his bespoke scooter will last up to 12 times longer, making for a more economically and environmentally sustainable service than his rivals.

Despite this, Bird and Lime will continue to expand aggressively using Uber’s playbook of steamrolling complaints from rivals, residents and regulators. Lime is already in 24 countries and dozens of cities, while Bird is in around 15 countries. Meanwhile, Europe’s biggest scooter company, Voi, is in 20 cities and nine countries, although a Voi spokesperson said the service will expand to 150 cities in the next 12 months or so.

With high costs and low margins in the e-scooter industry, it's likely that there will be some consolidation in the months and years ahead. "There will be, unfortunately, some failures," says Bhola, who co-founded Flash with Lukasz Gadowski, the entrepreneur behind Berlin-based unicorn Delivery Hero.

Analyst house Grand View Research predicts that the electric scooter market will be worth $42 billion by 2030.


The war for street space

Venture capitalist Mark Tluszcz said European investors are backing electric scooter companies with an eye to them being acquired by larger rivals.

But Tluszcz doesn’t think any of the electric scooter companies we know today will be around in 20 years time. In his eyes, they’re going to go the same way as Chinese bike sharing startup Ofo, which is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy.

“Every time they’re raising they have to raise at lower valuations so they’re being diluted to shit,” says Tluszcz, whose VC firm got a $200 million return off a $2 million investment into Skype.

While Tluszcz struggles to understand the economics of scooter startups, his main gripe is the fact that they clog up pavements. "The bigger problem is more the sidewalk and what comes on it, whether it's scooters or these little delivery bots, or whatever. I think we're going to see a major war happening."

Page: Forbes

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