The Station: DoorDash snags $400M, Bolt Mobility deploys self-cleaning tech, and disappearing Jump bikes
Hi friends and first-time readers. Welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B. I’m your host Kirsten Korosec
Micromobbin’ is typically the scooting ground of Megan Rose Dickey. This week, you’ll have to deal with me.
A few micromobility stories got my attention this week largely because they bring up two themes that have developed in 2020: consolidation and the development and deployment of technology aimed at solving challenges with unit economics, regulations and market share.
First up is Bird, which launched a new standalone app called Bird Maps, in Paris and Tel Aviv. Bird Maps, which was created using navigation software from Israeli startup Trailze, will provide turn-by-turn navigation for riders who want to use bike or micromobility lanes for their entire trip. The app is a just a pilot for now. But it could stick around and become available in other cities if it succeeds in attracting more customers and placating cities that are sick of the chaos and sidewalk congestion caused by the misuse of scooters.
Speaking of scooter chaos, micromobility docking startup Swiftmile and remote-controlled scooter repositioning startup Tortoise have partnered to solve two pain points: sidewalk congestion and keeping devices charged.
Swiftmile and Tortoise share many of the same customers. The idea is for Tortoise’s repositioning tech to be used to direct scooters (from companies it has deals with) to a Swiftmile docking station. The system could keep scooters on roads longer and in better shape (they tend to suffer more wear and tear when companies rely on gig workers to charge the products). It could also ease tensions with cities seeking a solution to the unsightly scene of discarded scooters littering sidewalks.
One more tech-centric story worth mentioning is about Bolt Mobility, a company I’ve become more interested in because of how they’ve tweaked their business model. The startup was co-founded by Olympic gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt and is now led by Julia Steyn, who was formerly the CEO of GM’s now defunct car-sharing service Maven.
Bolt recently expanded to Japan and New York City. This week, it relaunched in Portland with Bolt One, a scooter equipped with front-facing footrests, dual brakes, 10-inch wheels, LED lights and swappable batteries with 25 miles of range.
Two items popped out at me. First, the company has installed NanoSeptic surfaces to its handlebars and brake levers, the two main contact points on a scooter. NanoSeptic has self-cleaning technology that is activated by light to rid surfaces of germs and bacteria.
And in Portland, it is partnering with local entrepreneur Timothy Robinson to run its local operations. Robinson will employ a local team to rebalance, recharge and when necessary, repair scooters to ensure availability all around the city.
Bolt Mobility tells me that partnering with a local business owner is a new approach. “With their local knowledge, we believe they can best serve cities and their unique transportation needs,” the company told me in an email.
Finally, we turn to Jump, which Uber offloaded to Lime as part of a complex fundraising deal. You might remember that Uber sent thousands of Jump bikes and scooters in the U.S. to the scrap yard for recycling. The word from several sources was that Lime would only accept unused Jump bikes.
Attention then turned to Europe and industry watchers and competitors waited to see if Jump bikes in those markets would suffer the same fate. This week, Lime closed the acquisition of Uber’s micromobility subsidiary Jump in Europe. And as we saw in the U.S. Jump bikes and scooters have disappeared from the streets of London, Paris, Brussels, Rome and other European cities.
Jump bikes and scooters are now sitting in warehouses, waiting for Lime to either redeploy or trash them.