- the economics of scooters are great (very quick payback periods for the scooters). At a few bucks per ride and maybe a dozen rides per day, it doesn't take that long to pay off a $300 or $500 scooter.
- most people that try scooters seem to really enjoy riding them.
- an individual scooter doesn't last super long and needs to be serviced a lot and then replaced.
As an investor, the main thing I'm stuck on is what the moats could be in this business. Brand is a potential moat, but the two biggest companies in this space already have good brands so that's not helpful for me as a seed investor. And I'm not sure if brand would be enough for people to walk an extra block or two if there are closer scooters nearby.
People talk about network effects, but I am skeptical. First those network effects are local. Second, it doesn't take that much money to blanket a city with scooters and break the network effect. My napkin math for SF is that it would cost <$1.5m to put a scooter on every other block (https://twitter.com/lpolovets/status/992503477149450240). If that's accurate, then it's not going to be a big barrier against any well-funded company.
Maybe one moat could be scooter durability. If your scooters are 2x more rugged, then your margins and economics are a lot better, and you can use the additional profits to outspend your competitors on customer acquisition. We'll probably find out what moats do (or don't) exist here over the next few years.
Industries with capital expenses relatively large compared to contribution margin tend towards local monopolies. When faced with a potential new entrant the incumbent can lower prices to where the entrant's assets can't return their cost of capital. The incumbent's capital is already sunk so they can afford to bring prices close to the marginal cost of providing the service. This threat of a price war is usually enough to deter entry.
This also leads to agglomeration in local markets both to avoid duplicative assets and to add credence to the price war threat.
1) Bundling could help new entrants with existing platforms. E.g. if Uber comes into a local market and offers a free scooter ride for every car ride, that could really hurt a company like Bird -- even if Bird is the incumbent when it comes to scooters.
2) I view these capital expenses as being relatively small. If it's $1m-$2m to cover SF in scooters, and if scooter costs are similar across players, then I don't see why a new entrant couldn't also offer services at cost until the incumbent gets tired of running at break even.
3) The price points are so low here -- often $2-$3 for a ride. If that's the case, I wonder if consumers will care about someone shaving 30 or 50 cents off their price to provide scooters at their marginal cost, or if they will care more about scooter proximity or safety or comfort or something else.
On my personal ebike, i do 2-4 rides a day and it has almost entirely replaced my car.
So really, anyone in SF or NY who spends $50/month will surely consider getting his own?
3$ and even 2$ seems in fact un-sustain-ably high for mass market adoption (I live in a small European country. Salaries about 2/3 of US).
Overall, it's a really well designed product. I'm pretty concerned about the durability though. I've ridden it about 100 miles, and so far so good, but there have been several small issues with rubber coming unglued, it's starting to creak a bit, the caps on the handlebars pop out. The advertised range is also wildly overstated. It's rated at 15 miles but I had mine run out of juice at about 8.5 miles.
My hope is that the big rental companies will push Ninebot to make durability improvements, and the next version will last longer. Based on my experience so far, and what I've read online, I'm expecting maybe a 3-400 mile lifetime for this one.
If you get one, do your best not to go over any significant bumps at speed. The wheels are small, the tires are solid rubber, and the suspension has very little travel. The motor is in the front wheel. If you bottom out the suspension, the motor is going to take the hit, and it's small, high performance, and built to a low price point in China.
Every sign points to commodification here. The way car and bike rentals are commodified.
The economics leaks in many places:
1) people buy their own scooters
2) with rising scooter usage, scooters get way cheaper (see 1)
3) multiple competitors bid down rental prices
4) people figure theft/secondary part market out
5) a scooter inventory uniting meta app (a la Kayak) takes all the margin
6) turns out teenagers were only bird hunting as a novelty, gotta pay expensive 25 year olds to do it
So many issues. It's easier to see a world where electric scooters are neat novelties for tourists sometimes (as long as it's warm! with no kids! and no rain! and we're going more than 0.7 but less than 2 miles! and my wife doesn't say they're dangerous!) than a world where any one of these companies is a serious $1b technology company.
I mean: doesn't it just feel natural?: these are little novelty tourist scoot rental companies.
If a teenager can grab 20 bucks with minimal effort they're definitely going to be doing it. One big leaky part of the plan is that it doesn't seem scale to non-big-cities like Uber can/did.
Walking around sidewalks with younger kids is now dangerous from the groups of teenagers riding on these with little concern. In the same afternoon I saw a young kid get hit by a car for not following traffic rules. While its required to wear a helmet in SM no one was. These things are littered everywhere in paths just lying on the ground.
I get they are great and if we could rely on the people or the company to enforce the laws and make it a better experience I'd be in favor of them because they are convenient. I just don't believe that will happen.
We can get through this transition period and put in place reasonable rules that yes will eventually become commonly complied with. License scooter drivers and or the scooters themselves. Reserve one street parking space per block for scooters and you probably could cram 20 of them in there. Lots of things can be done.
Which isn't to say I want to regulate them more. It's just sort of pointless in a city where the populace doesn't follow the existing rules, and there's no political will for law enforcement to do anything about it.
Are you seriously saying that multiple times per week, you are knocked over by a bike?
I think you are suffering from a bit of car blindness: https://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2018/04/27/invisible-cars/
The right way to solve the problem of too many electric vehicles on the sidewalks is to charge owners rent.
I bought my own for this reason. The scooters you are renting cost $500, already if you are using it twice per day to get to work you are losing money.
There's also the option of more efficient support & operations, which is arguably the approach that Lyft took.
Uber chose to raise a ton of money and outspend their competitors in the hopes that they bleed them out via spending in acquisition and creating new products via R&D (maybe express pool is an example of this).
Lyft, however, seems to aim for profitability and stability. I assume this means investing in internal tools & processes so that they can be more efficient.
I'm not sure who wins in this situation. But I imagine Lyft isn't going away, and Uber may, truly, run the well dry at some point.
The top investors will be fine because they get right of first refusal on all good deals. It's the lower ranks of angel investing/VC that's going to suffer.
I think to be a great investor you have to be in it for the long term. Guys like Fred Wilson, they've been doing this 20-30 years and are reaping the rewards just now.
I like the idea of this playing out with 1-2 companies offering several different transportation verticals in each city. Rather than checking Uber, Lyft, Via, Bird, Lime, etc. to try to get from point A to point B, I can check an app that gives me the prices for ridesharing, scooters, e-bikes, whatever...and then I choose one of those options from the given company.
The moat here is to be the best aggregator for the entire network. Netflix has enough good shows for me that I don't pay for Hulu to watch the one show there that I'd like to see. The same idea exists here, just in the physical world.
HN Discussion of the post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17284094
Since there's no ownership, reliability and durability don't matter as long as it can complete the ride, although it does matter that it's not so crappy a scooter that it's falling apart while riding.
After that, it's just about ease of accessibility and price. I'll walk a block to use a service that is dead simple and painless to use compared to a more complicated app, but I'm not walking a block for something that's slightly nicer, or 10% cheaper.
1) The city picks a winner. This could be done fairly by auctioning off a five year contract or it could be done via corruption. Either way the scooter companies should be taking the millions they've raised and greasing officials.
2) Establish a market for docks. There's an interesting opportunity here in that scooter "stations" don't need to be the sort of big official stations that have beeen deployed for bikes where each station holds 30+ bikes. You could imagine a lot of small business, stores, etc. offering to host small stations that hold 4-5 scooters on their own private property. The scooter companies would then either race to lease as many of these stations as possible or would be forced to pay each time a scooter of theirs gets docked at the station. The winner is the company that owns the most stations. That's a real moat and the stations become real assets.
3) The simplest solution is probably to just to give people scooters. Let people "lease" a scooter and trade in these "leased" scooters at any time 24/7. Trade ins need not be a big centralized, complicated thing; you could imagine something like a scooter delivery service. In <20 minutes an Uber shows up and drops off a new scooter and collects an old one. Don't charge people if the scooter is stolen or breaks but do charge people if their scooter is left on the sidewalk and gets seized by the city. Then it would be up to individuals to make sure their scooter doesn't get left on public property. Scooters are so small -- and only getting smaller and more portable -- that you could imagine that most people won't mind stashing them under their desk/in their office.
All three of these possibilities btw lead to a single winner. At the end of the day, like with most transportation plays, you're looking at powerful economies of scale where the big guys only get bigger. It's a market to invest in if you think you can pick the winner cuz that winner probably will take all.
It's really just a parking problem. We don't want another cable company / taxis v2 and 'pick' a winner with horrible service. You mandate that these things need to be locked to something and most of the problem resolves itself.
Businesses that want it to be easier to shop where they are will install bike racks. The city will fund new bike racks with scooter permits. You could even allow scooter companies to install and pay for new bike racks themselves as they probably understand demand dynamics far better than random cities. If the scooter companies install the racks, you just have to say they can be used by everyone and are owned by the city.
We don't need heavy duty docking systems that are exclusionary to one docking company. A simple cheap metal bike rack that everyone can use will be plenty enough and more economically efficient.
You can also detect if the renter rider puts the scooter in the right area or if someone is screwing with the scooters after the fact with accelerometers. You could even detect if they are in a tipped over state or not.
You can also detect if... someone is screwing with the scooters after the fact with accelerometers
Also by locking the devices the likelihood of them falling or being in the way is low.
If you can tell the renter did the action
by locking the devices the likelihood of them falling or being in the way is low
The biggest complaint with these scooters is they are in the middle of the right of the public right of way and laying down on the street in an inefficient manner.
If they are locked to something, they would be outside of the right of way since lock points tend to be on the edges of sidewalks. If you put the lock on the correct point on the scooter, it will be fairly difficult to knock them over, vs the light tap you need today.
Locking also reduces the instances of impulsive bad acts, since now you need some sort of specialized power machinery to remove the items. And barriers to impulsiveness is a big factor in reducing crime. Did you know for example crime tends to happen more at the bottom of a hill vs the top of a hill? Because people don't want to walk up hills because it's extra effort.
On top of that, nobody has been complaining about personal bike ownership, which today follows a model of being locked to things.
JUMP bikes in SF for example follows this model, has been around before the scooter boom. I haven't heard a single complaint about them other than positive complaints such as 'why aren't there more?', and 'why are they restricted to an area?' The scooters on the other hand have had a bunch of negative complaints.
If people can move past the dockless approach and realize it doesn't scale then we might get more efficient business models that could be defended without gobs of VC money.
Anyway, cities could make parking rules and require the scooter companies to help with enforcement. E.g., to lock the scooter you have to park it properly and take a picture with the app. The city's parking enforcement gets access to the pictures and can fine people without even having to get off their chairs.
The real problem with scooters, from what I've heard, is that boomers hate them because they're new and because some people ride them on the sidewalks. But the dock solution does not help at all with that.
Fascinating idea, thanks for that analysis.
I mean, skateboards do what these do as well.
I bet the number of people riding scooters drops sharply at age 30. Heat dissipation for the mechanism and comfort for the rider are two big factors.
Try it in Dallas. It has notoriously low walkability scores and is regarded as pedestrian-hostile. The three months over 100F would make or break.
plus have any of these startups had issues with injury lawsuits?
San Francisco seems to be solving this problem for the industry. At last glance, their regulatory framework grandfathers in existing providers with a medallion.
I'm going to blanket key areas with handguns that you can unlock with an GPS-enabled app. Once you're done using them ($1 per minute and $20 per-bullet, with "surge" pricing in active-shooter situations), just leave them anywhere in the city for the next user/child to stumble across.
Anyone want to fund me?
Also appeared as an art piece,
In the same spirit, I was thinking of starting a car rental service. :)
Good! Car rental services pay taxes for each vehicle they sell and an (implied) per-mile tax from gas taxes. They are also banned from sidewalks.
Surely that's an even better comparison!
$300 - vehicle cost (based on alibaba Xiaomi m365 estimates)
$8 - average fare (unknown)
3 - rides per day (based on 90k rides in the first 30 days)
$12 - daily cost of charging per vehicle
1% - daily fleet loss (might be closer to 2%)
1% - daily maintenance required (might be closer to 2%)
After 100 days: 0 vehicles remaining
Current return on capital: -8%
Dynamic areas of the unit economics:
- Increase number of fares per vehicle (increased battery life)
- Increased average fare (increase pricing)
- Decrease vehicle charging cost (current rate could be cut by about 65% to maintain competitive hourly compensation for type of work)
- Decrease loss rate by implementing some sort of lock- tethering system
1% daily fleet loss would leave 36 - 37 vehicles remaining after 100 days.
So, back to your comment - "or both" - my interpretation is that Softbank wants to create an uneven playing field. Whereas, at the seed level, it's ok to spray and pray because expected returns are so much greater.
Fill the sidewalks with these and you could have your own startup!
Scooters go faster and have at least twice that range, I think.
I wonder what kind of wiggle room there is?
i would say the average athletic/fit person who is fairly lean (10-14% bf)  at a height of 6'0'' to 6'3'' will be anywhere from 165-205 lbs depending on frame, but very rarely more than 205 lbs
now there are definitely healthy and athletic and strong people who are at or above 220 at those heights but they will most probably be "overweight" (have excess body fat) or on exogenous hormones enabling them to gain a lot of extra muscle mass (most bodybuilders, nfl players, college football players,etc) 
Even if the motors could (they probably can), heavy people would use more battery.
By the way, literally nobody said fat until you. We were talking about heavy people.
You call it dog whistling, for some reason, when usually that term is used in an occasion to rile up bigotry. I'm actually just discussing the seemingly low weight restriction on the device. Weirdly, it as if I'm actually targeting low-weight restrictions as an issue, so you've gone and broadsided someone who might actually be an ally to your cause.
And to what end? Clearly it has something to do with being seen doing it, as you rejected my offer to have a private conversation with another unsourced ad hominem.
I took a look at your other comments, because I was curious about the sort of personality that red herrings an engineering discussion into a weird attack against an entire forum for the comments of about four people. I have seen you repeatedly post direct insults that add absolutely nothing to the discussion - calling people idiots, challenging someone's knowledge about computer functionality without any attempt to source your own argument about why they were supposedly wrong.
What is the source of the vitriol? Do you feel hatred for this forum, and the people here? If so, why are you here? Why do you relentlessly violate the as-written etiquette of this forum? What's your objective?
As before, I'm happy to talk about this over email or even over a beer if you'd like. I think we'll soon hit that comment depth limit that HN seems to have (but I can never sort when that (kicks in)
First of all, motors exist that can support more than 220 pounds, Mr. "Engineering Discussion". The conversation was absolutely not about engineering when I entered -- it was about how unhealthy anyone who weighed more than 220 pounds was -- implying they are not worth as much and/or don't deserve to have Segways. All of these sentiments were being upvoted, which means HN at large supports them.
This is bigotry, and you are even now supporting and defending it.
I'm not sure you understand how dog whistling works--the term isn't used to "rile up bigotry". In fact, it's used to call it out. You provided a classic example. You're more than happy to shit on "heavy" people, but you get upset when somebody exposes you as actually hating "fat" people. This is just like racists who openly hate on "immigrants" but will deny they have a problem with "mexicans" until they're blue in the face.
I never called anyone an idiot; how dare you lie about me. As for "direct insults", I'm not doing anything the rest of HN doesn't already do. For example, StavrosK and the guy who doesn't seem to understand resource sharing are both obliquely implying I'm an idiot quite overtly; you seem A-OK with that.
What's the source of the hypocrisy? Do you get something from bullying me, or have you somehow identified me as a low-status individual who it's ok to shit on?
I'm not interested in talking to you any further, you seem to have some moral superiority complex that results in you doing logical backflips to justify your behavior and vilify mine. I guess I'm not part of the popular crowd here -- but I'm not violating the guidelines any more than anyone else and I don't appreciate your abuse.
You'd need lean mass similar to Paulo Costa 6'1 https://i.imgur.com/ZBeIgGp.jpg to be a in a healthy body fat range if my napkin math is correct.
BMI is terrible except as a very quick "You really shouldn't be 35 on the BMI scale" sanity check.
Someone at 15% bodyfat and 6 feet, 1 inches tall can easily hit 220 pounds, if they have high muscle mass.
As another commenter pointed out, this isn't even considering the weight of clothing and carried items. My backpack usually weighs at least 15 pounds, sometimes up to 25. Clothes adds another, what, 3, 5, maybe even 8 pounds if I'm wearing boots?
At 193cm, with clothes, a backpack, laptop, i hit the 220lbs just so.
The BMI chart says someone should be 204cm tall for that weight to be the upper limit of healthy. Most charts don't bother extending this tall.
You know, the logical next step is a fleet of mechanical turk self-driving Segways. When the inconsiderate rider drops it off and blocks the sidewalk, just have someone take control over LTE+wide angle camera, and drive the Segway back to the nearest rental hotspot. Which could even have charging docks for the Segway to drive onto, like a Roomba.
Maybe now scooters actually will!
Making it communal is a potential opportunity to sidestep all that. (Though some places have still seen people screwing with the system.)
Renting means you don't have to bring it into a restaurant, figure out what to do with it when you're drunk, walk when you left it at the office the night before, etc.
I imagine the theory is that the parts aren't worth enough to really be stolen (and unless you modify them, they can't be used without the app). And of course, theft is worked into their business model.
2. Charging: You don't have to charge it/worry about it running out of power.
Lyft/Uber cars are reliable and guaranteed to come to your door in 5-10 minutes. With these scooters you have to hope that there's one around and walk a few blocks to pick it up.
In NYC people use citi bikes for their daily commute because most of us don't have space for a bike and locking one on the street is a bad idea. I see people with regular scooters, skateboards and boosted boards at coffee shops and on the subway all the time so an electric scooter shouldn't be that big of an issue.
Random trips create more random trips, they complement each other. When everybody is tied to their personal vehicle, the return leg will always be on the same mode. One-way friendly TaaS makes all other forms of one-way friendly transportation now attractive, relative to personal vehicle use.
It's not whether it would be an issue or not, it's whether I want to carry it around.
Right now these services are a novelty so a lot of people use them but they don't really pass the toothbrush test. Their top users will do the math at some point and end up buying a scooter to use for their daily commute.
Don't underestimate the power of convenience.
The bike hire system in Copenhagen is underused -- most of the business is from tourists rather than locals, since most locals own a bicycle, or quickly buy one.
If the scooters become popular, the risk of theft will drop significantly, and then there's not much reason not to own one.
Professionals that don't want to arrive at work all sweaty because it's a hot day.
People who need to be somewhere in 5-10 minutes and don't want to jog.
People who generally value their time more than the cost of the ride.
This, if you are using a scooter more than once a day renting for $1.75 a ride simply does not make any financial sense.
Now, if someone made a motorized version of those shoes with wheels in the heels...
Not in London (or, indeed, much of the UK). Not in Manhattan. Not any city where parking can take 20 minutes to find and costs $30+ a day.
Having two kids, I couldn’t imagine dragging two car seats with us Lyft to Lyft. Rather just own the car.
Whether a couple (or all) of these companies flame out remains to be seen, and is probably likely. But there's also likely to be a winner in this category. And the winner is likely to be worth a lot of money. These companies likely don't "deserve" their valuations based on current metrics like revenue, but the market potential is huge, the growth is high, and the capital requirements are large... so investors seem more than willing to make bets.
The problem, like ridesharing, is once you start raising prices, you just lost all of your customers to a new competitor that hasn't spent all of their money.
I don't see how this model can possibly work. The barrier to switching is almost 0 to the user - you can already see that by looking at the Uber & Lyft tags on every car you get in. Installing another app isn't as hard as swapping insurance providers or mobile platforms.
Of course this hasn't happened in the rideshare market yet - it's cheaper than ever before. I've found Uber Express prices to be almost unbelievably cheap recently.
Seems like there's at least some non-zero chance that these prices remain low until autonomous vehicles make them permanent and sustainable.
So, like everything else in SF then.
Also in the world...
And once you start raising prices, Aima and Niu waltz in and sell scooters for a price cheaper than a single ride
It's also not clear to me that there will be "a winner" once the VC money runs out. There's no "a winner" in the convenience store market, for example. A study lists 202 viable convenience store chains, the smallest has over 30 stores.  And that ignores the many one-off chains, and some of the places like Walgreens and CVS that clearly substitute for convenience stores for many.
Keep that very same money from getting showered on a competitor? If a large chunk of money is looking for a foot on the ground in your market, opening your hands and taking it might be the only way to survive.
I understand that when a capital-intensive business sees an opportunity to grab some cash, it can make a lot of sense. There's more constraints than the scooters for them - finding the right locations, setting up bird squads, ensuring there's a kind of natural circle of travel rather than a tide of commuting. And, of course, marketing all of that at the right time. Some of that $$$ can solve, but it doesn't feel like they're at the point they can just step on the gas.
BIRD has an edge in terms of availability but I find myself taking one to find a Lime.
For example, in Singapore it is very much illegal to ride them on the street. They're relegated to sidewalks, footpaths, and cycle paths.
If an olympic athlete who runs at 12mph did his daily run on a sidewalk, people would be really, really angry. 12mph is fast. A police officer would stop him.
I honestly didn't have a big issue with powered scooters until they turned into VC-funded litter all over my city. They were clearly in the category of "experimental vehicle", like e-bikes, the tourist GoCar things, Segways, and whatever those one-wheeled feet-wrapping things are called. They were small in number, their users were responsible participants in traffic, and it was interesting to see where they went to. And I'm a big fan of the Go Bike bike sharing program, which worked closely with the city to integrate well into the urban environment.
But suddenly, a few different startups seemed to believe that they could turn the sidewalks into their place of business, turning a lot of untrained goofs loose with a powered vehicle. Even if I were chill about the probably-illegal taking of public space for private profit (and I'm not), the sudden rise in dangerous idiots on the streets is a big deal for me.
Now my general feeling with these clowns is "Oh, fuck me? No, fuck you." I'm generally very pro-entrepreneur, but if my city bans these clowns, I will shed no tears. Let them serve as a warning to future overly entitled entrepreneurs.
The amount of land used and traffic problems caused by these scooters is nothing compared to how much public space is dedicated to moving and storing cars for personal use and is a actually a massive improvement. Additionally, if you've seen their actual use patterns in cities like Washington D.C., because of their dock-less nature and ease-of-payment they are being used by lower-income populations that don't use bike share or other similarly centrally planned options.
Scooters are hugely benign civil disobedience that are helping with what is probably the biggest problems in the world: pollution from personal transportation, whether carbon or localized exhaust. I am cheering them on completely and hope to see more similar disruptions that help the world and make investors rich.
That scooter-spam startups are a smaller problem compared to cars does not make the problems not exist. It especially does not remove the problem of entrepreneurs shifting negative externalities of their business models on to anybody who doesn't protest loudly enough.
Whoever comes up with a solution that puts both business that externalize their costs and governments with a penchant for heavy handed regulation on the losing side will get my vote.
It will take a while, and it should. Governments can't go bankrupt, and they can't just serve the easy customers. That means they can't take as many risks. But part of the reason that user-focused, iterative approaches are now so dominant in the tech world is that it's a great risk-reduction approach. Computers and digital communications make it possible to have much more nuanced regulation, and to be more experimental. Even for governments.
Also, quite a few of these people literally did just show up to my city. Some of the most hazardous users are pretty obviously tourists.
I will say that the tech community here is not great. There have been a few local "success stories" that almost no one outside of town will have heard of, and healthcare still dominates. You also don't have a lot of people experienced in the tech space - I think this is a double edged sword because people starting companies outside of SV is great, but I also think you see lots of companies not be as successful as they could be if they learned from people who have gone there before.
I now work remote and it's a pretty good compromise. I bought a few years ago and love my neighborhood. There are new restaurants and things opening all the time. There are more flights from the airport than ever because of the increased tourism. Traffic is getting worse (still nothing compared to LA, Atlanta, etc.) and it's definitely a popular place overall.
Happy to answer any other questions you have!
Edit: Oh yeah this is a technology/startup site :) If you have a good idea for disrupting the healthcare industry, Nashville is the place to be.
What happens when someone riding one of these gets killed by a driver?
I personally prefer dockless bikes over scooters, but I will admit that scooters are safer because of their lower top speed. This makes it reasonable to mix scooters with pedestrian traffic provided that the sidewalk is wide enough.
The key to making bike/scooter-sharing work is to make the infrastructure cheap, incremental, and easy. Google ran into the same problems with GBikes blocking ADA ramps and front doors that cities are seeing with scooters. One big thing that helped was converting a few parking spaces into bike parking (literally just green paint and a few signs), and putting friendly "don't block ADA parking or ramps" signs up.
If you want to prevent "deaths from drivers", the highest impact thing would be to work on self-driving cars (join the great engineers at Waymo, Cruise, or even Uber).
Respectfully, please no no no no no. People were riding scooters on the sidewalk all over San Francisco and it definitely did not feel safe to be a pedestrian. In my opinion (no data, just individual experience), no city that I've ever visited has typical sidewalks that are wide enough to mix walking traffic with ~10mph, not very maneuverable, wheeled vehicles.
If Bird has already achieved a $2B valuation, it will take massive amounts of user deaths to warrant any change in that valuation.
In such matters it would be naive and a breach of fiduciary duty of Bird’s Team not to have insurance to cover those matters.
Probably the same way they normally are. It depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking the rules that govern traffic flow have a bunch of redundancy and whoever violated more of them is at fault regardless of mode of transportation, liability depends on state law, human factors (how "sympathetic" is the victim is the big one), etc.
Generally speaking the system works fine unless you consider the normal bickering over who's at fault to be not fine (the same bickering you get when both parties have the same mode of transportation).
Risky however if cities ban them and/or roll out their own.
It's a crazy play, but if scooters 'become a thing' then it's a good deal.
Basically, it's the Uber effect -- I want to get off the plane anywhere in the world, take an Uber downtown, and then ride a scooter inside the downtown itself, and it should take less than five seconds to open my phone and start riding.
You could get to scale quickly and become the default to check. So just habit.
Regulation, as cities clamp down on scooters they will probably entrench the first entrants.
Stable oligopolies have very nice margins, you don't have to be a pure monopoly.
Also at scale you can experiment until you actually find a moat. For example Uber/Lyft don't really have that big a moat, you'd just need a couple thousand drivers to compete in a city.
But with a big market share they get to figure out Lyft line (multiple pickup for shared rides), Lyft shuttle (fixed route, shared rides), Uber express pool (gather for shared rides), Uber pool (multiple pickup for shared rides). These each need a lot of existing customers to work, so to compete you'd need 2000 drivers + 50,000 customers.
Frictionless tripstart/tripstop is a hard technical problem. Probably whoever does this right wins.
Long term, efficiently addressing theft and vandalism seems to me to be another hard problem.
1. the cost of having and maintaining a fleet of scooters
2. the network of flexible staff charging scooters
3. proprietary battery packs
4. the network of flexible staff moving the scooters to better locations
5. exclusive access to a scooter with a performance profile that the rest of the market cannot match (think tesla).
x. contractual moat
1) will not stop startups with access to funding from entering the market. Providing service will require a fleet of these lite EVs and as the economics becomes obvious, the companies will merge (so they share overhead costs) until there are only one or two fleets.
2) Is very short term, because eventually the companies will figure out that they can get their users to charge the scooters themselves - by literally bringing their own battery pack (it's pretty portable - see https://electricscooterparts.com/batteries.html) to the scooter and plugging their battery in. The scooters will validate the powersource to ensure it's safe and that will be the end of the "paying random people to charge scooters" business.
3) They can't even charge for proprietary battery packs and use that sunk cost as a moat, because with VC money, competitors will just give away their own proprietary battery packs. Maybe the switching cost will be the time it takes to receive your free battery pack in the mail, but you'd just order a free one from each competitor in your area, so this is an insignificant moat.
4) Is also relatively short term: They will also eventually tell users where they are allowed to leave the scooters, and charge people who don't comply. They may frame it as a discount, but.... In the end the hard work will be outsourced to customers, which means there will really not be lock in. Any leftover work will eventually be done by professionals, or maybe by a smaller network of people moving scooters, if they are cheaper.
5) This is the best moat, but it's similar to the moat iphone used to have. They will need patents and to basically be on the forefront of the industry, forever. Boosted Boards is likely to wind up occupying this position, though they are likely to not directly operate their scooter rental product, but instead sell the scooters in an exclusive agreement to a particular company that turns around and wins the market with lower costs and higher reliability. Boosted would use their monopoly position to extract as much profit from that partner as is possible while allowing the partner to still be cheaper than getting and maintaining other scooters. Eventually their partner will try to clone their product and get it cheaper elsewhere, unless Boosted's patent game is very strong.
x) I think there's another possible moat. A particular service provider may be able to force users to agree that they only use their own boards in order to have access to lower marginal cost. Users may get a discount for not having the competitor's app on their phone. Alternatively, a provider might allow users to buy like $500 credit up front for a significant discount to achieve similar impact.
As for battery packs. There is no way that will happen. Riding a short term over-priced rental scooter instead of walking or taking a bus or owning a cheap crappy bike is a luxury. The only people you could convince to charge the scooters for you carrying around battery packs is poor people and they aren't the target market. People here say they are into "Birding" meaning they go around bars on birds at night socializing. That's the sort of customer they have. They aren't going to carry battery packs around for the company.
FB did this with their bike shop - I was able to checkout really nice bikes for weeks at a time from the shop to ride to and from commuter vans...
I knew I should've called the hotel's moving room shuttle for that sweet A/C.
Not everyone lives in a perfect, unchanging climate. People like cars because of their utility, including the climate control that you only get because it's a "moving room."
Scooters are held to a lower standard than electric scooters which are held to a lower standard than bikes which are held to a lower standard than (fully) electric bikes which are held to a lower standard than bikes with a Chinese 2-stroke kit which are held to a lower standard than 50cc commercial mopeds which are held to a lower standard than larger commercial moped which are held to a lower standard than motorcycles and cars.
The boundaries between classes are fuzzy and there's a lot of variability in expectations and enforcement but generally speaking the more rules you have to follow the less convenient.
You can't park a motorcycle in a bike rack (well you can but you'll have to make an involuntary contribution to local government if you do so) but nobody will care if you park a moped in a bike rack. You can't blow red lights and stops in a moped but most people won't care if you do it on a bike. It's generally not considered polite to ride a bike on the sidewalks but you can get away with an electric scooter most of the time.
The trade off of being able to get away with ignoring more rules is that the smaller form factors can't travel as far or as fast.
2/ No matter how self-driving the car, in busy environments, scooters are going to get you from a) to b) faster.
Re: the non-binary, long slog to some type of self driving vehicle - I think we're already starting to see this realization sink in with the actual engineers, leaders, and investors in this space.
https://www.google.ca/search?q=mumbai+scooter+traffic (switch image)
Roughly 5x the fuel efficiency doesn't hurt either.
The scooters in Mumbai and most of South Asia are gas powered, have seats, can support more than a single individual as well as provide small storage spaces. They also have significantly higher speeds and ranges (products of their gas engine vs rechargeable electric battery)
The US scooters are larger battery powered version of scooters that kids mostly use. This of course in no way reduces their functionality - they’re simply different from the South Asian scooter.
Otherwise, we call them a kick scooter and a motor scooter.