The micro-mobility segment in North America has been characterized by companies that exploited city regulations, which neither ban or allow the use of those vehicles on streets, to push their e-scooters across sidewalks and public spaces overnight. Nonetheless, these aggressive techniques did help the micro-mobility segment’s fortunes, as e-scooter startups like Bird and Lime soared to billion-dollar valuations in record time.
Amongst the current crop of market leaders within the e-scooter space is San Francisco-based Spin, an e-scooter sharing company, which rolls out its e-scooters only across markets with sensible permit programs. “We were the first micro-mobility company in North America, launching in early 2017. The way we differ from our competitors is that we’ve always believed in innovation through policy,” said Euwyn Poon, co-founder and president of Spin.
The Ford Motor Company acquired Spin in late 2018, and since then, the company has grown from 24 employees to over 600 employees in North America today. Spin recently announced that it is expanding outside North America to Cologne, Germany, in the spring – the first of many markets it is targeting in Europe.
In addition to its expansion into Germany, Spin is applying for an e-scooter share permit in France and is also exploring possibilities in the U.K., including private partnerships and pending e-scooter share trials.
Poon explained that it is vital for Spin to work with local governments through policy changes to make sure the company has a strong foothold in the markets it enters. “We don’t believe in launching without permission. And we are focused on creating a sustainable business – both from a unit economics perspective, as well as from a sustainability standpoint,” he said.
The company runs a ‘Partnership Promise’ program, in which it works closely with local governments for permission and also scales up its fleet responsibly. Spin also engages with private companies, advocacy and local community groups to brainstorm alternative mass mobility solutions that address existing challenges.
Poon contended that the micro-mobility market is witnessing explosive growth, showing impressive gains especially across urban areas. The traditional auto industry has taken note, understanding the impact mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) will have on the future of transit. Ford’s acquisition of Spin and cab-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft investing in micro-mobility startups and spin-offs bear testament to evolving consumer mobility preferences.
“Micro-mobility is about vehicles that can carry one or two passengers up to five miles, while the traditional auto industry is made of heavy vehicles that can seat five passengers or more and travel long distances,” said Poon. “Judging by consumer demand, there’s plenty for a product that solves the micro-mobility problem – we are seeing new business models and new vehicles attack this segment, and we’re far from done.”
Since its inception, Spin has continued to experiment with its vehicle solutions. Though it started with regular pedal bicycles in 2017, Spin’s fleet is now primarily concentrated in the e-scooter segment because e-scooters are preferred in the North American and European markets.
As micro-mobility goes mainstream, it may set off a corresponding need for more infrastructure – not just bike and scooter lanes, but also charging stations similar to the ones serving the electric vehicle industry.
“Charging is a big component of our industry. Spin is a leading provider of charging stations, having rolled them out across North America,” said Poon. “If users can pick up and drop off e-scooters at the charging station, it will save a lot of effort for the operations team to move the devices to the warehouse and back.”