“Electric scooters have invaded the world's cities. They whiz down streets and lie abandoned in the middle of sidewalks, bringing both convenience and annoyance to city-dwellers. There are now dozens of scooter-sharing companies, and the two biggest, Bird and Lime, are the fastest startups to reach a valuation of $1 billion in U.S. history. Each company is now valued at over $2 billion. Scooteristas claim it's a sign that they're revolutionizing transportation, but... really,” asks Greg Rosalsky in their recent NPR article entitled “Will Scootermania End With A Crash?”
According to Rosalsky’s article, “Big Scooter argues that technology — electric motors, better batteries, GPS, and smartphones — has produced a system of shareable scooters that can solve infrastructure problems, decongest commutes, limit climate change, and make investors buckets of money. They're calling it the ‘micro mobility revolution.’ Last year, there were 38.5 million trips on shareable e-scooters in the U.S., which is more than double the year before.”
“The business model of these companies is pretty simple: flood a city with hundreds of scooters for passersby to rent. You can locate and pay for them using your smartphone, and they typically cost $1 plus 15 cents per minute. Then leave them wherever you want,” the NPR piece explains.
Later in the article, Rosalsky shares, “Scootermania isn't just about scooters. It's about this entire bubbly era of tech. Tech watchers have come to call startups worth over a billion a ‘unicorn.’ At first, it was because they were hard to find. Today, there are four times more unicorns than there were in 2013. Last year, VC funding for private companies hit a high of $131 billion, which is past the heights of the 1990s that ended in a crash in nominal terms and close to it in real ones. The percentage of companies going public — despite being unprofitable — has hit a similar peak. Uber, which remains unprofitable, became one of those companies last week.”
Rosalsky’s article left us with a burning question.