For a while now, one of the hottest stories in tech from the US has been the arrival of e-scooters, a phenomenon which has spread from California to municipalities across the country, led by micro-mobility companies like Bird and Lime. Clean, convenient and cost-effective, they speed up commutes, ease congestion on public transport, take cars/taxis off the street and reduce the demand for parking spaces. Without a doubt they are going to be a major part of urban transport infrastructure in the years to come. Now they’re about to take Europe by storm too.
Bird and Lime have in effect validated the market in the US – both startups have rolled their scooters out to over 100 cities including university campuses. At the time of its Series A round early this year, Bird had reportedly deployed some 1,000 scooters on the streets of its first location, Santa Monica, with 50,000 users taking 250,000 rides over the course of its first six months of operations.
VOI Technologies, the Stockholm-based smart mobility startup, whose $50m Series A round we are leading, are moving even faster than that. In less than three months since they launched in August, they have over 1,000 scooters on the streets of Stockholm, Madrid, Malaga and Zaragoza, Spain and, as of today, Gothenburg in Sweden too, with 120,000 users, travelling a total of 350,000km. Not since my time at Uber have I seen revenue cohorts on a par with VOI’s; over the last month, they’ve doubled their revenues, and are on course to - at least - double them again in the coming month.
All of which explains why the category of transportation is one of the most exciting I’ve looked into since returning from the Valley to become a VC in Europe three years ago. And that’s despite a number of issues, which would individually - under normal circumstances – have been a red flag for us as investors. These include: the capital required to deploy the scooters; the fierce nature of the competition; the sheer number of competitors; and question marks over what is the correct hardware strategy.