Startups like Bird and Lime have built an international presence and now have private valuations that exceed $2 billion. Ride-sharing heavyweights Lyft and Uber (the latter through its own micro-mobility vertical, Jump) have also entered the game, as has automotive giant Ford Motor Company, which entered the sector via its $100 million acquisition of bike- and scooter-sharing startup Spin last year.
This flurry of investment is happening even as doubts loom whether these startups can build a long-term, sustainable business model (last week, it emerged that San Francisco-based Bird had laid off up to two dozen employees). There's also been ample criticism from local officials over the congestion created by e-scooters; in some markets, “rogue launches” left city planners ill-equipped to deal with a new, unregulated industry.
Yet the entrepreneurs and investors who have spurred the micromobility sector’s rapid growth believe they’re working at the forefront of urban transportation in the 21st century. With public transit infrastructure across the U.S. feeling the strain of age and underfunding, they think they’re well-positioned to provide more connectivity in a rapidly urbanizing world.
“It’s really about urban design, and how we should be thinking about what the future of our cities look like,” says Ryan Foutty, Global Head of Business Development at Lime.
To achieve that vision, some of these startups are now making new friends whose business strategies align with their own—in particular, the real estate landlords who own and operate properties in urban centers.
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