Everybody in the mobility industry talks about kick scooters. In 2019, kick scooters have been, and to some extent still are, the talk of the hour. The market is very dynamic. This article is evaluates the status quo of the market as well as recent developments.
Status quo: The fastest growing market in the shared mobility world
The sector is big. Big in terms of invested money, big in number of vehicles, big in global media attention and aspiration. Let’s look at the facts. When looking at micromobility, 2019 was the year of the kick scooter. A brief look at the history confirms that no shared mobility sector has been so dynamic in the past three years. Before 2017, electric kick scooters were a rare sight. The first massive expansion in the US started in 2018. In 2019, we have seen many global markets catching up, including the European market, but also markets in Latin America and Southeast and East Asia. The innovation diffusion process can be described as extraordinarily fast. The time to achieve the first million, 10 million and 100 million rides was faster than in the case of the disruptive integration of ride sharing services.1
The number of deployed vehicles itself is a little harder to measure. In Germany alone, operators brought 10s of thousands of scooters to the streets. Major players such as Lime, Bird, TIER, VOI and others are battling for market share and investor trust.
What has been outstanding is the ability to attract major investments to the industry. Lime and Bird raised major sums in the early phase of the industry (close to 1.4 billion USD) and TIER and VOI have also been attracting major sums.
The market consists of many more operators such as Jump, Spin, Grin, Neuron Mobility and Dott.
The majority of the investments into the micro mobility market (including bike and moped sharing), were raised in 2017 and 2018.
The market changes fast
It is not only the number of vehicles, served cities and investments which is changing fast. The landscape of involved stakeholders is constantly evolving too. Lime & Bird have been the big players from the beginning. At least VOI and TIER achieved market-relevant positions in Europe as well. Locally, other stakeholders play important roles.
The market is still young, and the dynamics express themself not only in terms of growth. For instance, Lime recently pulled their offer out of 12 markets and reduced staff.2 Another example is the recent acquisition of the European kick scooter operator Circ by competitor Bird. These examples can be seen as a sign of market maturation.
The year 2020 will most likely see more acquisitions, newly added cities and more formalised regulation (as in the case of the current Paris kick scooter tender).
(Mode) integration, (service) integration, (partner) integration
Industry stakeholders are constantly introducing new innovations. Innovations can be seen on the hardware side, such as longer-lasting and sturdier vehicles and the introduction of swappable batteries. Moreover, a big trend seems to be the product-related integration depth. Integration with vehicle modes (car, bike and moped), services and partners. Here are some examples:
- Lime bets on an integration of (e)bike and kick scooter since early on.
- Bird bought Scoot in 2019, the first company to offer moped sharing services in 2012.
- TIER just bought the recently disused COUP fleet of Gogoro mopeds. By doing so, they will own approximately five percent of the global moped sharing fleet once the service goes live in spring 2020.
- TIER bought the British startup Pushme bike in early 2020. Pushme offers user-based battery swapping approaches.
- Availability check and booking integration to Google Maps and Uber app (e.g. Lime)
- Transit partnerships (e.g. VOI, TIER and others).
In a nutshell, kick scooter sharing added a fourth mode for individual vehicle sharing services and has shown that it is here to stay. The industry attracted major investments. However, market experts expect a consolidation in the near future, reducing the number of major operators in the industry. The year 2020 will be crucial for operators, with a lot of focus on reducing operational costs, increasing vehicle life time, winning city tenders and raising more money. It is likely that we will see a continuation of mode integration, as well as service and partner integration.
In the end, 2020 will be at least as exciting as 2019 has been.
1Dediu, Horace (2019): The Smartphone on Wheels. Keynote during Micromobility Europe. Berlin.