This post is by Mark Suster from Both Sides of the Table - Medium
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The Truth About the Scooter Economy — An Insider’s Perspective
There is a story arc of the electric scooter market that took the world by storm in 2018, was second-guessed late in the year and has quietly re-emerged as a powerful force of growth where few really appreciate the speed and scale of what has happened. I’d like to share some insights with you.
- Act I was the invasion of scooters that seemed to be taking over many urban environments in 2018 and literally seemed to come out of nowhere. This led to massive funding rounds at Bird, Lime and others. It became such a quick part of popular culture that Jim Carrey rode a Bird in an opening segment of the Jimmy Kimmel show (hilarious if you haven’t seen it).
- Act II was “revenge of the luddites” in which some local governments banned them and some annoyed citizens stole them or broke them. (luddite is literally the term for the people in England who put wrenches in the machinery in the industrial revolution and broke things to prevent progress).
- Act III was the “I told you so” comeuppance of anybody who was sure that the electric scooter market would fail. The valuations were too high! There was seasonality, theft, tough unit economics and slowing funding rounds.
We are now in Act IV. As an insider I thought I’d offer some views of where I believe we’re at in Act IV and maybe some perspective of the future.
Invisibility & Acceptance
The adoption of Bird was so rapid in 2018 that we went from cities that one day had never seen a scooter to thousands of people riding them daily. They were new, they were strange, they were ridden mostly by young people — they were highly visible. The company started the year with no revenue and at its peak had a run rate well in excessive of $100 million / year. Pause to think about how remarkable that truly is.
The world all around us is filled with invisible things that don’t disturb us because they’ve always been there. If our streets were clear and uncrowded we might be outraged to suddenly have cars along our sidewalks, emitting carbon in our air, honking horns or crashing into pedestrians. But they’ve always been there. We’ve come to accept them as a fact of life and we let ourselves be inconvenienced by their presence and pollution without much thought. They’re invisible. They’re acceptable.
Year two in the life of electric scooters is just that — invisible. They are no longer remarkable in Santa Monica or Venice or in many cities in America, Europe or South America. As drivers we look out for them, as