Choosing any of these options would “stunt Lime’s growth and threaten the survival of its existing services.”
Over the last two years, a wave of scooter-sharing companies have emerged, based on the belief that American urbanites are hungry for alternatives to car travel. Their business models also relied on another assumption: that they’d always be able to import large numbers of low-cost vehicles from China.
For the San Francisco-based Lime, the Chinese connections ran particularly deep. Brad Bao and Toby Sun, its co-founders, were both born in China, and they sold the startup to investors as a company that maintained a foot in their home country. Having two Chinese founders “who had the relationships, and can set up that operation quickly, was a real advantage,” said Joe Kraus, who invested in Lime in 2018 as a partner at GV, then became Lime’s Chief Operating Officer four months later.
President Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policies complicate that story. Countless American companies find themselves stuck in the middle of the competition between the U.S. and China. Markets plummeted after the president indicated he was inclined not to make a trade deal soon —then recovered the following day on signs that a deal could come before American tariffs are set to rise on Dec. 15.
Companies have filed about 44,000 requests for tariff exemptions, and about 5,000 have been approved. The U.S. Trade Representative rejected Lime’s request, along with similar ones from Bird Rides and Uber Technologies.
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