All posts in “Lime”

Shared scooters barely last a month, report says. But that could change.

It’s tough out there for an e-scooter.

The battery-powered vehicles used by most scooter-sharing companies weren’t intended for such heavy use. The first generation of shared scooters were mainly from Xioami, and not made with the type of usage scooter rental companies like Bird put the vehicle through. 

Alison Griswold in her Overshare newsletter about the sharing economy crunched the numbers this week from Louisville, Kentucky’s scooter-share program. It’s based mostly on Bird rides and found between August and December the average lifespan of a scooter there was 28 days.

As the scooter companies grow and stick around, they’ve learned quickly that the vehicles need to be more durable. A month turnover does not make for a lasting business model as Griswold goes into. Nor does it sound very green, especially for companies like Bird that tout the millions of pounds of carbon emissions its scooters eliminate.

Most of the e-scooter companies I reached out to didn’t want to release specific numbers about scooter lifespans or cycles. Bird wouldn’t comment directly on the 28-days finding. But the companies did emphasize their new models are designed with heavy usage in mind.

Lime last year introduced its Gen. 3 scooter with a wider base and wheels and the company expects it to last longer than previous scooter models as it comes into more markets this year. At the end of last year Lime was struggling with combusting scooters, and more recently a braking bug.

Segway-Ninebot’s Model Max was introduced at CES in January as the new fleet scooter for companies like Bird and Lyft. A fact sheet about the new model plainly states, “From their learnings being at the center of the growing scooter-sharing market, Segway-Ninebot found that there tends to be a lot of wear and tear on shared scooters, which results in costly product maintenance, as well as short product life span.” Without any specific numbers, the newer product claims to “last longer” with a more robust design. 

Goat, the Austin-based scooter company that lets you operate your own scooter business, put out this week that it would be offering the new Segway scooters. It has a current offer for would-be scooter empires to buy the scooters for $599.

Meanwhile, electric bicycles part of a shared fleet like Uber-owned Jump are “designed to last years,” a company spokesperson said in an email. Yes, parts will need to be replaced like tires, but the bike itself can roll on much longer. Same with the Lyft-owned Motivate bike-sharing company that runs Ford GoBike in the Bay Area or Citi Bike in New York City. A spokesperson also said the e-bikes are designed to last for years.

These e-scooters are supposed to last longer.

These e-scooters are supposed to last longer.

Image: superpedestrian

Superpedestrian released what it calls a “smart” scooter last year, built for the hard-riding street life of a rental scooter. It’s supposed to last in a shared fleet for nine to 18 months. CEO Assaf Biderman said in an email standard fleet technology used by other operators to monitor, track, and repair scooters means “much shorter vehicle lifespan” compared to the more involved system used for his scooters. He cited industry reports with as quick as 11 days of use in Austin, Texas, before a new vehicle is brought in.

Another built-to-last scooter for fleets comes from Acton (its fleet vehicle is billed as a an “urban warrior“). Company co-founder Peter Treadway said in a Mashable interview last year, “It’s built like a vehicle, not a toy, to withstand the everyday wear and tear of commercial use.”

It’s time for e-scooters to toughen up.

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Lime scooter bug sees riders injured thanks to ‘sudden excessive braking’

If there’s one thing you don’t want while you’re cruising downhill on a scooter, it’s sudden braking.

Lime has rolled out firmware updates after the detection of a bug within its fleet of electric scooters, which could “under rare circumstances could cause sudden excessive braking.”

According to a company blog post, Lime commissioned “extensive analysis” of the problem by its internal team and other experts, and found that although the issue was rare, it was indeed happening.

“We diagnosed the issue in a laboratory environment and determined that in very rare cases — usually riding downhill at top speed while hitting a pothole or other obstacle — excessive brake force on the front wheel can occur, resulting in a scooter stopping unexpectedly,” read its statement, published Feb. 23. 

Lime noted the issue affected less than 0.0045 percent of all rides, but confirmed that “some riders have been injured, and, although most have been bumps and bruises, any injury is one too many.”

The company said it has developed updates for the firmware, some of which have already been rolled out, and that the company is “confident in their efficacy.”

“A final update is now being dispatched to every Lime scooter in the market and will be complete shortly,” the post added. 

“We are also proactively working with consumer protection agencies around the world to ensure we meet their rigorous safety expectations.”

If you’re thinking of riding, Lime recommended doing a visual inspection of the scooter you’re about to hop on to make sure the hardware looks in good condition, and report it to customer service if not. 

Once you’re off and away, Lime said to give the brake a good squeeze, and if it doesn’t work, hop off the scooter, end the trip, and report the issue. If it does work, Lime recommends not going full speed when going downhill, as that seemed to be the circumstance when most “sudden excessive braking” has occurred.

Some countries aren’t satisfied with Lime’s solution, however. One South Australian lawmaker asked for a halt to the trial in Adelaide following a braking incident, while New Zealand councils implemented a ban on the scooters due to safety concerns related to the braking issues. 

Lime had reportedly advised Auckland Council of 155 reported incidents in the country involved “irregular braking” possibly “caused by the unexpected locking issue,” with 30 of these leading to injury.

According to the New Zealand Herald, 1,300 scooter-related injuries have been reported since their introduction to the country in Oct. 2018. That seems a particularly high number for New Zealand, as a study by the Consumer Reports watchdog indicated that 1,500 scooter related incidents have occurred in the U.S. in 2017, when Lime launched and rival company Bird was founded.

Be safe out there, riders.

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Lime loses appeal to operate electric scooters in SF

Lime, similar to its competitors Spin and JUMP, just got word that while its appeal to operate electric scooters in phase one of San Francisco’s pilot program was denied, it may be able to deploy scooters during phase two. This comes following San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Neutral Hearing Officer James Doyle’s decision regarding Ford’s Spin, Uber’s JUMP and now, Lime’s appeals of the permitting process.

Currently, Skip and Scoot are the only two companies permitted to operate shared electric scooter services in the city. After the first six months of the program, in April, the SFMTA can potentially increase the number of scooters from the current max of 625 to 2,500. This juncture, Doyle said, should be able to accommodate the addition of other operators.

“As a well-experienced and well-qualified vendor, I would expect that Lime’s entry into the city’s Pilot Program should result not only in increased services on our streets, but allowing additional capable operators in the Pilot Program can only enhance the probability of an eventual success of the powered scooter share program in San Francisco,” Doyle wrote in his decision.

Moving forward, it’s unclear if the SFMTA will take the recommendation, but Jose previously told TechCrunch, “The SFMTA will be consulting with the City Attorney’s Office to determine next steps as we near the second half of the pilot.

Lime has been one of the more outspoken companies following the SFMTA’s electric scooter decision. When, in October, the SFMTA selected Skip and Scoot as the only two electric scooter companies permitted to operate in the city, competitor Lime took legal steps to attempt to prevent Skip and Scoot from deploying. A San Francisco judge, however, promptly denied Lime’s request for a temporary restraining order. Then, in December, Lime held a protest on the steps of SF City Hall to challenge the decision.

In its appeal, Lime argued the SFMTA was biased against it, as well as Spin and Bird, for deploying its scooters without explicit permission back in March. In Doyle’s decision, he said there was no credible evidence to show the SFMTA was biased against Lime.

“My review of Lime’s application proposals, when compared side-by-side with those of Scoot and Skip, confirms my opinion that an even-handed evaluation of Lime’s written descriptions in its application of its planned scooter rollout was conducted by the SFMTA scorers,” he said.

I’ve reached out to Lime and will update this story if I hear back.

Startups Weekly: Spotify gets acquisitive and Instacart screws up

Did anyone else listen to season one of StartUp, Alex Blumberg’s OG Gimlet podcast? I did, and I felt like a proud mom this week reading stories of the major, first-of-its-kind Spotify acquisition of his podcast production company, Gimlet. Spotify also bought Anchor, a podcast monetization platform, signaling a new era for the podcasting industry.

On top of that, Himalaya, a free podcast app I’d never heard of until this week, raised a whopping $100 million in venture capital funding to “establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space,” per Variety.

The podcasting business definitely took center stage, but Lime and Bird made headlines, as usual, a new unicorn emerged in the mental health space and Instacart, it turns out, has been screwing its independent contractors.

As mentioned, Spotify, or shall we say Spodify, gobbled up Gimlet and Anchor. More on that here and a full analysis of the deal here. Key takeaway: it’s the dawn of podcasting; expect a whole lot more venture investment and M&A activity in the next few years.

This week’s biggest “yikes” moment was when reports emerged that Instacart was offsetting its wages with tips from customers. An independent contractor has filed a class-action lawsuit against the food delivery business, claiming it “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers.” TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey has the full story here, as well as Instacart CEO’s apology here.

Slack confidentially filed to go public this week, its first public step toward either an IPO or a direct listing. If it chooses the latter, like Spotify did in 2018, it won’t issue any new shares. Instead, it will sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors, a move that will allow it to bypass a roadshow and some of Wall Street’s exorbitant IPO fees. Postmates confidentially filed, too. The 8-year-old company has tapped JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its upcoming float.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Horacio Villalobos-Corbis/Contributor)

It was particularly tough to decide which deal was the most notable this week… But the winner is Reddit, the online platform for chit-chatting about niche topics — r/ProgMetal if you’re Crunchbase editor Alex Wilhelm . The company is raising up to $300 million at a $3 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine. Reddit has been around since 2005 and has raised a total of $250 million in equity funding. The forthcoming Series D round is said to be led by Chinese tech giant Tencent at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation.

Runner up for deal of the week is Calm, the app that helps users reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier. The startup brought in an $88 million Series B at a $1 billion valuation. With 40 million downloads worldwide and more than one million paying subscribers, the company says it quadrupled revenue in 2018 from $20 million to $80 million and is now profitable — not a word you hear every day in Silicon Valley.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

I listened to the Bird CEO’s chat with Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster last week and wrote down some key takeaways, including the challenges of seasonality and safety in the scooter business. I also wrote about an investigation by Consumer Reports that found electric scooters to be the cause of more than 1,500 accidents in the U.S. I’m also required to mention that e-scooter unicorn Lime finally closed its highly anticipated round at a $2.4 billion valuation. The news came just a few days after the company beefed up its executive team with a CTO and CMO hire.

Databricks raises $250M at a $2.75B valuation for its analytics platform
Retail technology platform Relex raises $200M from TCV
Raisin raises $114M for its pan-European marketplace for savings and investment products
Self-driving truck startup Ike raises $52M
Signal Sciences secures $35M to protect web apps
Ritual raises $25M for its subscription-based women’s daily vitamin
Little Spoon gets $7M for its organic baby food delivery service
By Humankind picks up $4M to rid your morning routine of single-use plastic

We don’t spend a ton of time talking about the growing, venture-funded, tech-enabled logistics sector, but one startup in the space garnered significant attention this week. Turvo poached three key Uber Freight employees, including two of the unit’s co-founders. What’s that mean for Uber Freight? Well, probably not a ton… Based on my conversation with Turvo’s newest employees, Uber Freight is a rocket ship waiting to take off.

Who knew that investing in female-focused brands could turn a profit for investors? Just kidding, I knew that and this week I have even more proof! This is L., a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based retailer of pads, tampons and condoms made with organic materials sold to P&G for $100 million. The company, founded by Talia Frenkel, launched out of Y Combinator in August 2015. According to PitchBook, it was backed by Halogen Ventures, 500 Startups, Fusion Fund and a few others.

Speaking of ladies getting stuff done, Bessemer Venture Partners promoted Talia Goldberg to partner this week, making the 28-year-old one of the youngest investing partners at the Silicon Valley venture fund. Plus, Palo Alto’s Eclipse Ventures, hot off the heels of a $500 million fundraise, added two general partners: former Flex CEO Mike McNamara and former Global Foundries CEO Sanjay Jha.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the expanding podcast industry, Reddit’s big round and scooter accidents.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

E-scooter injuries keep piling up

E-scooters can cause way more than a few scrapes and bruises.

A UC Los Angeles study from last month looked at two Southern California hospitals and the number of electric scooter injuries reported there for about a year. It totaled 250 people sent to the ER and 100 with head injuries. Now Consumer Reports has found throughout the country more than 1,500 scooter-related injuries that can be blamed on the two-wheeled vehicles.

In a report released this week looking at e-scooter crashes since the end of 2017 when the motorized scooters started arriving en masse, CR found 1,545 patients treated for scooter-related injuries. This number was determined by contacting 110 hospitals and five transportation agencies. Sixty medical centers and other police, city, and transportation agencies responded. All cities had a major e-scooter-sharing company like Lime or Bird introduced to the area in the past year.

The publication conceded this isn’t a complete picture of scooter-sharing and crashes. 

CR’s analysis is limited, to be sure. Without average trip lengths in each city, for example, it’s impossible to calculate the rate of incidents,” the report read.

Insurance and risk management specialist Thom Rickert at Argo Group emphasized that comparing scooter crashes to motorcycle or bicycles crashes is too early and not a fair match-up. If you take CR‘s limited number of injuries reported, it’s nothing compared to the millions of trips on the e-scooters.

In a $310 million funding announcement Wednesday, Lime said it counted 34 million trips on its scooters. Bird back in September reported 10 million rides.

Paul Steely White, Bird director of safety policy and advocacy, said in an email last month in response to the UCLA injury study, “it fails to take into account the sheer number of e-scooter trips taken—the number of injuries reported would amount to a fraction of one percent of the total number of e-scooter rides.”

Rickert predicts if scooter injury data continues to show more and more skull fractures, bleeding brains, and broken shoulders, “people will be afraid to use them.”

That’s why companies like Lime and Bird continue to emphasize their safety campaigns and helmet giveaways. But as New York City looks into the possibility of e-scooters in the city, the more injuries reported won’t help persuade politicians, residents, and other critics worried about the dangers of scooting.

Ultimately, “the person riding it has to take responsibility for their own safety,” Rickert said. So put on a helmet.

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