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Scooter startup Bird is seeking a $2B valuation (axios.com)
101 points by ilamont 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 269 comments

As an investor who has looked at this space a little bit + talked to other investors who have backed some of these companies, it seems like:

- 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.

Responding solely to the 'moat' question: think railroad price wars in the late 1800s in the US.

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.

(Hi Jerry!) That is a good point. A few thoughts here:

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.

You forgot the $10m advertising campaign to get folks to install the app and register.

That’s the other beauty of the business, the scooters sitting everywhere ARE the ad campaign.

This. Was in Venice beach this past May and the Birds were everywhere, to the point where we almost felt compelled to give them a try, even though we had no need. Both wife and myself signed up and spent 30 minutes riding to Santa Monica. Great advertisement, cool factor and high word of mouth marketing.

Have they done any advertising? I saw a dozen people riding them before asking someone, never seen an ad for them.

They don't exist in my city, yet I've heard about them. Maybe a PR team?

Is $3/ride really that low ?

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).

I tried out the Bird scooters, liked them, and then bought my own. I use it to speed up the Caltrain commute from San Mateo to FiDi in San Francisco. The trip is: 0.6 mile scoot to Caltrain -> 2.0 mile scoot to FiDi -> 2.0 mile scoot to Caltrain -> 0.6 mile scoot home. If I were to use Bird, and Bird were available in San Mateo, it would cost about $12 a day for Bird, plus I would have to fire up the app and hunt down a scooter four times a day. The scooter cost $300, folds up in seconds, is easy to take on the Caltrain, and takes up very little space at home or at work.

What scooter did you buy? Where? (I've tried briefly to find the model Bird uses but couldn't)

I got the Ninebot/Segway ES1. Frys had them on sale for $300 about a month ago. Bird uses the Xiaomi/Ninebot m365, which is similar in many ways. The Xiaomi is faster, but if you want the faster speed, you can get the ES2, which Bird is also starting to use. The fold on the ES1/ES2 is superior -- it's simpler and faster, and the scooter folds up smaller, so it's more practical to put on the luggage rack on the train. It's a single lever and literally 3 seconds to fold or unfold. The ES1/ES2 also has an optional second battery pack which doubles the range and increases the speed. The ES2 has rear suspension, is 3 mph faster, and has rear and underside lighting. The extra speed and lights are nice, but the rear suspension adds weight and people say it rattles.

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.

Looks almost as big as a foldable bike

At some income level, there isn’t any difference between 1 penny and $3. It’s like getting a coffee, people can spend a lot of money on them thoughtlessly. And many people wouldn’t want to own their own scooter. I would rather not have to carry it or store it anywhere. Ride it to a store and just ditch it. If it breaks just get off and find another one.

There aren't any network effects a la Uber and Lyft because the scooter doesn't come to you, you go to it. And the scooters do not go fast/long enough to stitch different catchement areas together.

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.

> turns out teenagers were only bird hunting as a novelty

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.

Regulatory moat is a possibility, where an established player can coerce a city to impose an expensive compliance guideline that prevents upstarts from entering.

I personally wish there were more regulations on these. They are a complete nuisance. Santa Monica has tried to create more laws surrounding these, but the cops never enforce the rules.

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.

The sentiment of this argument parallels arguments made against cars when they started becoming common (suddenly over the place, dangerous, a nuisance). These complaints about scooters are a bit humerous because cars are still a nuisance, dangerous, littered all over. The difference is cars are a bigger danger, bigger nuisance, and if you think scooters are littered all over the place, have a look around at how much space all these cars are taking up! :-)

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.

I think it depends on the culture of the area. For places where people are basically law-abiding, that might happen. Where I live in Oakland, CA, there's not a chance. I get run over by cyclists on the sidewalk almost daily and the scooters is just making it worse.

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.

"I get run over by cyclists on the sidewalk almost daily"

Are you seriously saying that multiple times per week, you are knocked over by a bike?

Do you seriously think someone would exaggerate or use hyperbole here??!

This isn't even remotely close. The only way your car analogy would be relateable is if car drivers didn't follow the rules of the road and were free to drive on sidewalks and dump them in the front lawn of companies and personal homes.

They do this today along with a whole other host of bad behaviors. The difference is an enforcement regime.

I think you are suffering from a bit of car blindness: https://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2018/04/27/invisible-cars/

When cars first became available, the rules didn't exist and things like that did happen. That was my point. Here's an article I found with a bit of info and which makes the same analogy.


Also Bird has no intention to police their own users or help cities participate in the upside of their mess.

And should Hertz or Enterprise be required to operate a police force for their rental cars that their rental drivers can leave any 'ole place?

Have you ever tried one of these apps & scooters? They do tell you to drive well and give free helmets to users. They entirely have these intentions.

Wait, you saw a young kid get hit by a car and you're worried about scooters littering the sidewalks? How are those related?

these are both hazards that are brought from the lack of user policing done by Bird who doesn't care about the city or users as long as they can profit.

Couldn't you say the same thing about teenagers on skateboards, bikes or roller skates?

If you ever visit santa monica you will know exactly what I mean. The fact that anyone can pick one up and drop it off anywhere is much different. Skateboards and roller skates are anywhere near what these electric scooters are.

A suburb of Columbus Ohio is starting a review process with Lime Bike. Depending on the outcome of a trial process, they'll announce a bidding process where the winner gets exclusive access to the city.

Is it a reverse auction or one where the company agrees to gouge the user with high fees that is passes a fraction of to the municipality?

Yeah, I foresee cities picking a winner through a competitive process. What city wants 40 different scooter companies to deal with?

Sounds like a recipe to create the Comcast of electric scooters.

The right way to solve the problem of too many electric vehicles on the sidewalks is to charge owners rent.

Have painted parking spaces in appropriate areas and charge for access via audit of scooters in a given zone (city, state, etc).

A city that values the free market!

>- 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.

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.

> Maybe one moat could be scooter durability.

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.

As an investor, I would be seriously concerned with FOMO. Not on actually missing out on the next best thing - I would be worried that this phenomenon would lead me into bad investments because everyone else is doing it. In the current environment of overfunding, everyone looks like they are the next hot company. You need to look beyond the current trends and find something which matches your strategic vision of the future but has not received a huge amount of attention yet. It feels like the scooter space opportunity has already passed for seed investors.

The entire industry has FOMO. Look at valuations.

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 definitely see this from inside the VC industry: half of the investors I meet think this category is dumb and doesn't have moats, and the other half have FOMO and want to bet on the space in case an Uber- or Lyft-sized company emerges from it. A 3% chance at a $50b company makes an investment decision rational even at crazy early stage valuations.

Ben Thompson just released a great post that talks about exactly this issue, including moats in the space.[0] Essentially, there is no two-sided marketplace advantage here like there is with Uber or Lyft (the drivers -> customers -> more drivers flywheel).

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.

[0] https://stratechery.com/2018/the-scooter-economy/ HN Discussion of the post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17284094

worth noting that the Transit app already aggregates all the options you mentioned, although it redirects to each respective app for payment.

Re: moat- it's gotta be price and accessibility.

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.

I'm sure government will be providing more than plenty of moats to prevent any new entrants into this market as soon as this industry is developed.

Santa Monica is already planning on enacting a sort of moat law that would seemingly protect Bird (conveniently HQed next door in Venice).

I would be skeptical of new entrants to scooter / bike sharing. In China, ofo and mobike together captured about 95% of the market. If it were possible to challenge the companies that have reached scale, one would think one of the many dozens of failing competitors in China would have figured out it by now.

If there's no moat, there's no reason to challenge the current companies until it's proven that profit is possible.

Just looked through my apps and I’ve spent $40 riding these scooters in SF. And that’s just for fun, no commuting.

The dockless approach doesn't work. People rightfully hate the race-to-the-bottom that leads to bikes/scooters being dumped everywhere. Once you accept the dockless approach doesn't work there's three interesting possibilities:

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.

I don't think the docked approach works well either, because the heavyweight docks are never close enough to where you want them to be.

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
How does that help you? You can't do anything about it.

It's how you attribute parking tickets. If you can tell the renter did the action, then you can pass the ticket to them, which incentives them to keep it upright. It also lets you put them back up with workers:


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
But you can't, without onboard video, anyway. Anybody wanting to steal or vandalize a scooter won't do so on one for which they are (or just were) an active renter.

  by locking the devices the likelihood of them falling or being in the way is low
I don't get that at all. All locking does is prevents unpaid usage as a scooter; it doesn't prevent theft, vandalism, or bad acts with it (e.g. piling a bunch of them in the CEO's driveway as a protest).

But why as a renter would you want to only vandalize / steal the scooter that you just used, vs just stealing / vandalizing the hundreds of other scooters out there? It lets the companies collect statistics on who is more likely the doing the bad behavior, careless customers or random assholes?

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.

The entire dockless business model started in China and they're way ahead with the backlash. Shanghai has cracked down hard [1] but it's still a huge problem with bikes being dumped all over the place [2].

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.

[1] http://www.wri.org/blog/2018/01/chinese-cities-aim-rein-bike...

[2] https://news.sky.com/story/in-china-rental-bikes-have-become...

But scooters are _much_ smaller than bikes, and Americans are _much_ less likely to ride scooters or bikes than the Chinese are. I haven't seen anything close to those Chinese scenes in San Francisco while they had scooters. In fact, I haven't really seen anything that looked like much of a problem, in terms of parking.

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.

>Either way the scooter companies should be taking the millions they've raised and greasing officials.

Refreshingly honest.

4) It creates a larger market for scooters. Nobody wants to deal with docks.

It's worth noting that docks can be virtual now - as simple as a few painted lines and a rugged Bluetooth device without a screen, that shakes hands with hardware installed in the scooter.

> Establish a market for docks.

Fascinating idea, thanks for that analysis.

Probably that they aren't really useful in a long-term sense. They can't be used for transporting much, can't be used easily when sick, won't be able to transport young children, and become useless in cold/hot/rainy/and snowy weather. Same moat as any other fad that targets the single young urban knowledge worker; their needs will eventually grow beyond it.

I mean, skateboards do what these do as well.

I think the biggest threat to these businesses is municipal. Maybe they don't go dock-less but this might be cheaper than supporting under utilized bus lines at the same cost for consumer without all the waiting. Obviously this is much more applicable to warm weather climates but it seems these will put the bike shares out of business. Interesting to see how it pans out...

Demographics, geography..

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.

Just let us get through one winter season. Is anyone trying this in an area other that those with mild weather. Northern cities will have days if not weeks worth of time where the roads won't be safe.

plus have any of these startups had issues with injury lawsuits?

> I'm stuck on is what the moats could be in this business

San Francisco seems to be solving this problem for the industry. At last glance, their regulatory framework grandfathers in existing providers with a medallion.

Do you think eGolfCarts on demand might be better? >1 passenger, protection from rain and sun, safe, less likely to be stolen, cheap, ecofriendly

are you stratechery?

In the spirit of dumping potentially dangerous clutter on the streets and leaving it up to the cities to pay for the cleanup, I'm now taking seed money for my "handgun as a service" business.

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?

> In the spirit of dumping potentially dangerous clutter on the streets and leaving it up to the cities to pay for the cleanup ...

In the same spirit, I was thinking of starting a car rental service. :)

>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.

Bikes and scooters are banned from sidewalks in a lot of places too, but it doesn't seem to take.

Exactly. I am also super annoyed by all the cheap shared bikes that now clutter our city and are very often parked in the middle of the pedestrian path. Same for shared cars that more often than not are parked in a non parking zone so that people with a baby buggy (or in a wheel chair) have to walk on the street to get around. Share economy would be nice if people would not treat everything like rubbish that they don't own.

How about a nuclear bomb rental service? dockless nuclear bombs.

Surely that's an even better comparison!


After 160 hours spent operating as a "charger" in SF, for both Bird and Lime, this space is interesting. Here's my "back of the napkin math":

$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

I don't know about the accuracy of your numbers, but the fleet loss at least is wrong.

1% daily fleet loss would leave 36 - 37 vehicles remaining after 100 days.

Day 1->99% Day 2->98% Day 3->97% Day 100->0%

That's not how it works. (1-1%)^100=37%

Average fare is much more like ~$3

Lime just dumped 140 scooters in Santa Barbara and they immediately got impounded. The city is going to charge them a $100 fine for each scooter. I'm assuming that's a drop in the bucket compared to their revenue and the cost of working out adoption specifics with local government.

Could have avoided that by just asking for permission first.

Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness.

Let's see if Softbank chooses a winner in the scooter market - I wouldn't be surprised if they came in with a ~$500M investment in Bird or one of its competitors.

or both.

I'm no expert, but - from what I've read - Softbank comes in and offers the dominant player a huge amount of money for a bigger chunk of equity than you were expecting to give up. It scares away all of the other investors, who withdraw their offers and leave Softbank as the only offer. If you turn down Softbank, they go to your biggest competitor and make basically the same offer. That amount of cash doesn't guarantee a winner, but it gives one company room for a lot more mistakes, and no other VC will back other players with the same amount of cash.

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.

My thoughts exactly.

Dean Kamen must be sitting out on his private island asking himself "WTF???".

Wow, the Segway Minilite is only $300. https://www.amazon.com/Segway-miniLITE-Balancing-Transporter...

Fill the sidewalks with these and you could have your own startup!

> 11 Mile Range | 10 mph

Scooters go faster and have at least twice that range, I think.

doh, i'm over the max payload.

220lbs is a surprisingly low payload... Depending on height it's not at all difficult for even a healthy person to be that weight, let alone someone that lifts or is a bit chubby.

I wonder what kind of wiggle room there is?

very few people with low body fat percentage will be 220 lbs unless they are 99th percentile height. (6'4''+)

i would say the average athletic/fit person who is fairly lean (10-14% bf) [1] 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"[2] (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) [3]





Even if your numbers meant anything (they don't) what's your point? It's ok to discriminate against unhealthy people?

Well that's cool, I guess HN isn't above some good old-fashioned fat-hate.

Who's hating fat people? This is just reality - heavy people weigh more, the Segway motors can't handle the weight.

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.


Would you like to take this to email and talk about it then? My email is publicly available in my profile.


I disagree that I'm being bigoted. That's an extremely strong accusation to lever, when you are the only person in this entire chain bringing up fat hate.

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)

Ok bucko-

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.

it's only dwarfs who hate people above 220lbs and 6'3".

I would say it is difficult for most people unless they're quite tall.

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.

Hmm, I don’t know a lot of healthy people who weight over 220 lbs.

I have plenty of athletic friends who are at least 6 feet tall and weigh more than 220.

I am not saying there aren’t any athletic people who weight over 220lbs. I am just saying that the vast majority of humans are not 6’2” so those who weight 220lbs+ Are mostly overweight than athletic

As one person I worked with in the health area BMI isn't that helpful when it comes to large guys 6 2 and up who do sports - the example they gave was the props in a premiership rugby team.

Yeah, BMI is not always relevant if you ignore the body fat percentage.

I'm 6ft, Have a 32" waist and a BMI of 26.5 (making me 'overweight').

BMI is terrible except as a very quick "You really shouldn't be 35 on the BMI scale" sanity check.

BMI is a pretty poor indicator. Raw bodyfat is probably the best measure of "obese or not."

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?

ah, the pro. i only say the 176 of the lite.

At 193cm, with clothes, a backpack, laptop, i hit the 220lbs just so.

220lb just happens to be almost exactly 100kg, so there's probably a lot of "wiggle".

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.

Maybe in north america...

These are actually immensely popular in China (Or maybe it's a copy?)

Actually after you reach a certain point with respect to financial independence (which I am sure Dean Kamen has done), it might be more rewarding to actually generate really amazing prototypes of what could be done and then let other people put the actual money on the line to make it a reality. Then in your own mind, you get to claim thought leadership on 'high mobility carless cities' when you are reflecting back on your life without any actual financial risk and go about creating the next prototype for some completely unrelated industry.

I’ve ridden a Segway and a scooter and the scooter is MUCH more fun for me. The Segway is like “whoa this is cool” but the score is like “Wheeeee!” Makes me feel 5 years old again.


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.

Probably not that far off. The current generation of mini segways are already controllable by bluetooth through the app. You can connect to it and drive it over to the sofa where you're sitting with ease.

Ha, remember how Bezos said after seeing “it” that the Segway would transform how cities were built?

Maybe now scooters actually will!

Lime scooters are already made by Segway.

Who was actually acquired by Xiaomi a while ago... the company that makes the bird scooters.

All hail the King of North Dumpling.

I don't get it. If scooters are so great, then why doesn't everyone just buy their own? Seem much simpler than checking them in and out of special built bike racks.

Convenience of course. Coffee is easy and cheap to make, but millions of people pay for coffee every day. Lunch is easy to make, but again, millions of people outsource that to someone who specializes in making lunch. Not owning something is one less thing to worry about--no securing it, no charging it, no maintaining it, no buying it. Sign me up.

Then I have to deal with theft in the same way I would with a personal bike. And it's nice that these don't have docks. Tired of them on the sidewalk? You could mark off a parking spot every block or so and have room for a ton of scooters to park at the cost of just one car parking spot.

Making it communal is a potential opportunity to sidestep all that. (Though some places have still seen people screwing with the system.)

Most scooters don't have docks. It takes you 10 seconds to unlock it, and you just get off and walk away anywhere when you're done.

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.

You just leave them in the streets when you're done riding? How can you prevent theft?

They "lock" automatically, and beep when you try to move them. They're also GPS tagged.

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.

1. Convenience/Security: You don't have to deal with locking it up somewhere or carrying it into an office. You don't need to worry about it getting stolen.

2. Charging: You don't have to charge it/worry about it running out of power.

Same as cars and Uber. You dont need to take care of them, you don't need to take them with you when you travel. Renting a high end scooter a couple of times might make more sense than buying a cheap one.

A car is a >=$500/month headache. The "high end" scooters cost $300-500 and are small enough to fit in your closet. Anyone who plans on using one regularly will be better off buying one.

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.

I use Citibike for much the same reason that I'd be interested in rental scooters: You can just leave them parked outside and they're not your problem. If you own it, then you need to worry about it potentially getting stolen, plus you have to take it with you even if you end up using a different mode of transportation after that, like sharing a cab with friends, hopping on the subway, whatever.

You might be with a group of people. There are places that won't let me bring the scooter in, etc etc.

So they're competing with Uber/Lyft for the short random trips that you might occasionally take at almost the same price.

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.

> So they're competing with Uber/Lyft for the short random trips that you might occasionally take at almost the same price.

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 for anyone who needs to go somewhere 0.7 miles away but doesn't want to walk or get an Uber.

It's not whether it would be an issue or not, it's whether I want to carry it around.

In my experience in San Francisco (before all the scooters were taken off the streets last weekend), going ~3 miles on a scooter was much easier, more practical, and more fun than I expected. (And affordable.) I agree that 0.7m is right on the edge of whether it's worth walking versus grabbing a scooter. But 3 miles is a nice sweet spot. ~20 minutes on the scooter. ~25 minutes on the bus. ~50 minutes walking. Scooter and bus are about the same cost. And our hills make part of almost any 3 mile walk a pretty strenuous activity.

I don't doubt that there are edge cases where these are convenient. I'm really just questioning the business model.

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.

You could say the same for Starbuck's daily customers. At 2 dollars a day (the cheapest option), they should all be making coffee from home.

Don't underestimate the power of convenience.

That seems very likely.

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.

Honest question. What is this demographic which will ride a scooter but don’t want to walk less than a mile. Just seems weird to me personally. I wouldn’t think twice about walking that far given infrastructure that supports scooters.

>Honest question. What is this demographic which will ride a scooter but don’t want to walk less than a mile.

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.

> Anyone who plans on using one regularly will be better off buying one.

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.

As a counterpoint, I live SF and do not have room to spare in my closets or anywhere else in my apartment for a scooter. Urban living...

You're paying for the service of being able to leave your scooter in public somewhere and have someone else collect and recharge it. That's the service: these companies are selling the time of economically marginal collector/recharger folks.

After trying a Bird scooter once and really enjoying the experience, I came to a similar conclusion. I bought the same model electric scooter that Bird uses for around ~$500 and I've been commuting to work with it for the past couple of weeks. I love it. It's such a fun way to get around. I imagine there are others like me, who might have become regular Bird customers if owning the scooter wasn't this affordable.

If you think buying a m365 for $500 is attractive, wait till Xaiomi will sell you one for $300, the actual price, when bird isn't pushing up Long Beach port imported scooters with its vc money!

Honestly, I feel lucky to have bought one for $500 as they went out of stock the very next day and have remained out of stock for nearly a month.

There will be plenty available once this demand shock wears off but yeah you got lucky during this crunch.

If you use it to commute the same route every day then it makes sense to have your own, but if you’re using them for occasional trips around town then maybe not.

Now, if someone made a motorized version of those shoes with wheels in the heels...

They're dockless.

This is really bad logic. This is the same thing as saying, "If cars are really that great, then why doesn't everyone buy their own? Seems much simpler than using Lyft"

Almost everyone does, though.

>Almost everyone does, though.

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.

Most people where I live (Manhattan) do not own their own car. We don't all live in the suburbs. And the scooter rentals are clearly targeting cities, not suburbs.

17 million cars a year are still sold in the US, so clearly ridesharing isn’t preferred that much more over vehicle ownership (perhaps if you’re in a city and without kids).

Having two kids, I couldn’t imagine dragging two car seats with us Lyft to Lyft. Rather just own the car.

No ridesharing either if no one buys cars.

You are being downvoted bc the analogy is bad. Owning a m365 scooter provides 95% of the lime experience. Owning a car provides, like 10% to 50% of the Lyft experience, depending on many personal/geo variables.

There's almost no clearer indication that the speed of business is quickening at an amazing pace. In the scooter world, the land grab is on, and everyone is looking at ride sharing as the obvious analog, which means raise a lot of money, expand to new cities, and earn market share... quickly.

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.

This sounds exactly like the ridesharing model. Drown the market in money, kill off your competitors by undercutting on price, then jack up prices to make a business.

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.

>then jack up prices to make a business

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.

UberX prices have done nothing but increase in San Francisco for years. The minimum fare went from $5 to $7, the service fee from $1.35 to $2.20, etc.

> UberX prices have done nothing but increase in San Francisco for years

So, like everything else in SF then.


Also in the world...


Only chance I see is put cameras on them collect the visual data along with the other sensors then you have a run away data set for a set of autonomous vehicle that navigates a sidewalk.

>The problem, like ridesharing, is once you start raising prices

And once you start raising prices, Aima and Niu waltz in and sell scooters for a price cheaper than a single ride

I'm not sure this is a sign that the speed of business is really quickening all that much. VC-funded bubbles provide a local acceleration in business speed, but they also drastically increase risks and systemic waste.

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. [1] 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.

[1] http://www.cspdailynews.com/industry-news-analysis/top-conve...

That's what both Lyft and Uber thought, but instead the market has withstood two vigorous competitors, alongside strong regional competitors such as Ola, Careem, and Didi. Though margins are much higher with scooters.

I genuinely don't understand this. They can't realistically need the money, since they just raised. There's no fundamental change to their numbers or outlook in a month. There's been no obvious regulatory relaxation to take advantage of. Even if I buy the "Uber might buy us" thesis, surely it's better value for me as an existing investor to get a bigger portion of a slightly smaller check, than try to fix in an astronomical valuation by bailing more cash into the business? I really don't get the sense in this move at all.

> They can't realistically need the money, since they just raised.

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.

They've gotten significantly more press outside of San Fran in the past month.

Sure, and if they manage to fix a valuation of $1.5B or even $2B, it will drive a lot more press. Are they then going to go out in July and hoover up a bunch more cash?

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.

I wouldn't want to use a GPS tracked scooter. The company might sell my location data or get hacked. Better to buy a non-GPS tracked scooter of my own.

Better leave your phone at home while you're on a personal scooter then.

or just off its gps.

Your phone is constantly tracked by the cell towers it communicates with and in urban areas that's quite accurate location data. This data is sold to third parties.


I can put my phone in a Faraday sleeve, not so easy for a scooter.

There are a number of chips in the phone running their own OSes that you have no control over.

I hate to say it but the only actual winner is the manufacturer, Xiaomi.

Loved BIRD when they first started here in San Jose but now they're painfully slow (~12mph) while Lime has managed to keep top speed around 20mph.

BIRD has an edge in terms of availability but I find myself taking one to find a Lime.

I played around with the scooters in San Jose during WWDC last week, and I have to say that I preferred the Bird ones. While the Lime ones did have a faster top speed, they were also slower to accelerate. When driving on the sidewalks there's a lot of slowing down, so getting back up to speed quickly is more important in my opinion. Plus ~12mph is fast enough IMO, it feels dangerous to go much faster than that.

Why are you driving on the sidewalks? Please stop doing that!

Worth noting that this depends on the locality.

For example, in Singapore it is very much illegal to ride them on the street. They're relegated to sidewalks, footpaths, and cycle paths.


With a top speed of ~12mph, the scooters are way too slow for the road. It's much safer on the sidewalks. The sidewalks in downtown San Jose are also quite wide, so there's plenty of room for pedestrians and scooters to share.

I'm going about that my speed on my bicycle, much of the time. "Too slow for the road" has a meaning on the interstate highway. Someone who says that about city streets needs to go back to driver's ed. It's fine that the speed limit is 35mph. If you can drive that and safely pass slower traffic, do so. If you can't, slow down!

Perhaps the argument amounts to "driving a scooter on the road makes me feel unsafe, and I'd rather make others (pedestrians) unsafe to make myself feel safer." Seems typically selfish.

12mph is way too fast for a sidewalk. (Thus these scooter sharing startups will die.)

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 disagree. Bikes aren't much faster .

Bird slowed down their scooters to maintain battery life and because it was part of the terms of their settlement with Santa Monica. I assume they simply applied that software update fleetwide.

But, seemingly, only the newer ones with the paddles for both the acceleration and braking are limited to 12mph. The old ones still go faster in my limited experience.

Maybe they can't get OTA updates?

They hit a big setback here in Nashville. People are leaving these things all over the place. The city is looking to regulate these types of devices. Please, Bird, don't pull another Uber. This is not an existing market to be disrupted. Work with the municipalities to get a working framework in place so we will all be better off.

As far as I can tell, it is exactly the Uber "I do what I want and fuck you" model. It's really disheartening to see startups still cargo culting that.

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.

I think absolutely the opposite: this is a hugely positive disruption in North American cities. Car-centric urban design is such a disastrous problem in so many ways: land use, pollution, cost and so on, that we need massive and immediate disruption that's not going to happen from government fast enough.

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.

Car-centric urban design certainly needs a change. I haven't owned a car in 20 years, and would love to see improvement. But I don't think you can have "massive and immediate disruption" to urban design. It's literally set in concrete. And as I said, I'm all for people trying out scooters.

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.

> 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.

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.

Honestly, I have a lot of hope that heavy-handed regulation is on its way out. I was at Code for America for a while, where I got to see how leading governments are starting to adopt a lot of the user-focused, iterative techniques that are common in the tech world.

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.

The people riding these didn't just show up to your city. You likely also share the road with them when they're driving their car home from work. We don't ban cars because some people are bad at driving.

We certainly ban cars from driving and parking on sidewalks. We ban people turning sidewalks into commercial parking lots. And we have a whole evolving system of rules and customs worked out over the last 100 years around how to make sure cars interact safely with everything else, including licensing and policing.

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.

How do you like Nashville? Are you from the area or did you move there? I've been a few times and can't seem to put my finger on why I can't see myself living there.

Not the GP author, but I've been in Nashville for about 8 years total (with a couple year gap in the middle). It's got a lot to offer, but it's become such a 'hot' city for people that you've got lots of recent transplant and tourists and so it's not nearly as affordable as it used to be (still a bargain compared to SV and most coastal cities).

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!

I'm from around here. Costs are rising as people move in, and traffic is a daily issue. It's probably the same story as every other large city. The suburbs around Nashville and the pristine country between Nashville and Columbia are beautiful.

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.

To elaborate on this, Nashville seized all Bird scooters until regulations could be put in place [1]. This is after two women were seriously injured downtown while riding the scooters [2]. I haven't used a Bird scooter yet although they seem like a good idea, however I have had close encounters while driving with people using them without helmets because of poor visibility and cramped roads here in town.

1: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/06/07/bird-scoote... 2: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/05/14/women-elect...

Wow I wonder what will happen if anyone gets seriously injured in an automobile collision?

NA cities have never built high quality separated bike lane infrastructure to make it all that safe to ride a bike or scooter on the road.

What happens when someone riding one of these gets killed by a driver?

Bikes are in a no-mans land because of speed differences -- they're too slow to go on the road, and too fast to safely mix with pedestrians on sidewalks.

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).

> This makes it reasonable to mix scooters with pedestrian traffic provided that the sidewalk is wide enough.

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.

Do you know what someone running on a sidewalk at 12mph feels like? It feels fast. It feels incredibly stupid.

There are rarely reprecussions for a driver hitting/killing a single cyclist, without video evidence or multiple corroborating witnesses/victims, typically law enforcement pre emptively blames the cyclist so one would expect the same thing for scooter riders. An old editorial about this attitude: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/is-it-ok-t...

Same thing that happens now when bikers get killed - brief outrage, a meager attempt to 'improve biker infrastructure' and then..nothing.

If Bird has already achieved a $2B valuation, it will take massive amounts of user deaths to warrant any change in that valuation.

The same thing that happens in any accident. The parties involved find a settlement or go to court for a judgement.

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.

Odds are, the scooter rider won't be wearing a helmet. And in cyclist / motor vehicle collisions, that's usually enough to make it the cyclist's fault.

>What happens when someone riding one of these gets killed by a driver?

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).

At what point is a scooter considered abandoned property? What's preventing me from just taking the scooter off the street and hoarding them?

Do you just take cars that haven't been driven in a week? Why would a scooter be any different?

Mostly because a car is too heavy :p

I read a story a few weeks ago where people were actually taking the scooters. Then they would be marked as stolen, and the people would return them and collect the lost & found fee.

These scooter businesses are like studies in ways to lose money! Another one is: what happens when at scale the Chinese manufacturers can get these things into LA and NY for $200 direct to consumer, not $500? Most business do better when inputs get cheaper. But Lime will just see demand evaporate as people buy their own little scooters.

I believe property is considered to be abandoned after not being able to contact the owner for three years or so.

With these startups it seems the only barrier to entry is money. Who ever can raise more can buy more scooters.

Risky however if cities ban them and/or roll out their own.

That would be myopic - scooters are more city friendly - almost zero pollution and waste less energy. Instead they should expand the bike lanes everywhere. One serious advantage of scooters over bikes is that you don't arrive full of sweat at your destination.

If you're adding a motor to the scooter, you may as well add one to the bicycle and have better handling and a higher speed.

That's effectively what Jump Bikes are. I took one last week in SF and they go about 30 miles an hour with very little effort. They aren't fully electric though, just electric assist.

What’s the moat for a company like this? Seems like nearly no network effect.

The network effect would be fairly strong within a regions/city. Though there's nothing natural about it, there are pragmatic barriers to this that would give a deployed service provider a quasi monopoly in a city. You need to have enough of them out there, you can offer discounts to flush out competitors, brand recognition. Also things like sign ups: if someone is signed up with an incumbent, it would be easier for them to just take that Scooter as opposed to an opponent.

It's a crazy play, but if scooters 'become a thing' then it's a good deal.

There is no network effect like Uber/Lyft. Uber/Lyft traverse geographical boundaries, stitching together markets. Scooters don't. Uber/Lyft have network effect on the driver side. Scooters don't.

Installing and signing up for an app is high friction, and integrating with every country's payment providers is a pain in the ass.

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.

“I think moats are lame,” Musk told analysts on Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday. “They are like nice in a sort of quaint, vestigial way. If your only defense against invading armies is a moat, you will not last long. What matters is the pace of innovation, that is the fundamental determinant of competitiveness.”

I agree there isn't a great one, but there are some small ones.

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.

Human behavior maybe? I know it's almost no effort to install a new app, but Ofo and Lime were the first rideshare bikes in my town and since there are plenty of their bikes around I haven't bothered to install any of their newer competitors' apps.

They have a network of independent contractors (regular people) that collect scooters off the street at night, charge them, and reposition/place them in the morning. The companies that win in the dockless electric space will be the ones that can most efficiently externalize these costs, not the ones who arrive first or buy the most scooters.

You need to arrange for people to pick up and recharge your scooters for you. That takes some time.

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.

Possible moats:

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.

Scooters have actually been getting slower, not faster. Bird has been replacing 15mph models with 12mph in Santa Monica. These are no doubt cheaper, but also elicit less complaints from pedestrians and helps please the city council - who already hates them and is ordering them to remove 2/3 of their scooters.

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.

The startup I would build with these is to cater to companies - provide these as an amenity in offices where you will service and support them and the company can let employees take them to and from the office.

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...

There has been sudden glut of articles about scooter startups here on HN and elsewhere. And I am scratching my head trying to understand what exactly is the end game plan here? If self driving cars and Uber etc succeed then all commuting will be through cars, how will these scooters fit in that picture?

Lots of folks think self-driving cars are just replacing one problem with another. (A car, after all, is a really a moving room; but we don't want to move rooms, we want to move people.)


Although electric scooters aren't a great replacement for self-driving cars in a lot of places that aren't California.

You can bike in london and seattle too. Even in snowy canada.

Bikes have bigger wheels than scooters.. Try an electric scooter in a few inches of slush ;)

I walked 1/4 of a mile from work to my hotel room today. In Houston. In 95 degree, extremely humid air. In direct sunlight.

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."

You would've enjoyed being on a bike. Breeze == cooling. I bicycled in Austin, TX for a whole summer and loved every minute of it.

do you really want to wait for a self driving uber for a 0.4 commute through traffic clogged streets during rush hour? Cars aren't one size fit all solutions for all your transportation; the point of the scooters are to serve as last mile transport.

People can't just walk the 4 blocks? It would take less time than waiting for an Uber, self-driving or not.

Are people really that lazy that they can't ride bicycles anymore?

The closer your transportation form factor is to that of vehicles that we expect to be registered, insured, and not operated in a completely stupid manner the more rules you have to follow.

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.

You-drive cars haven't replaced you-drive scooters. Why would self-drive cars replace them? Sometimes you want to be out in the fresh air, they're cheaper than a car to rent/maintain, and they can get places cars can't.

I was at WWDC last week chatting with a few folks about this (San Jose had tons of Bird and Lime scooters all over the place). One of the thing that these scooter companies (and deckles bikes) are doing is canalizing short trips. There were a few times when I would have taken an Uber from one place to another, but because the scooters had effectively 0 wait time and were 1/4th the price to cover the same distance in the same time, I opted for the scooters.

1/ I think people assume that self-driving cars will "succeed" in a binary sense. I do not think that is how it plays out. I think there is a long, slow process of self-driving cars working a little better in a little more places. In busy, urban centers, self-driving cars are going to be a long time coming.

2/ No matter how self-driving the car, in busy environments, scooters are going to get you from a) to b) faster.

You are correct, sir!

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.

If you dare to venture outside the US you might come across the answer:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=mumbai+scooter+traffic (switch image)

Roughly 5x the fuel efficiency doesn't hurt either.

The scooters in Mumbai are very different from the scooters being introduced in the US. Other than sharing the name and being a two wheel vehicle, they have very little in common.

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.

In usual British usage of English, it's previously been easy to infer what type of scooter was meant simply from the age of the user.

Otherwise, we call them a kick scooter and a motor scooter.

cough cough Italian mate and a nice murdered out Vespa GTS Notte is what I might end up with for my next commute - not some kids toy

All the eggs in one basket.


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