[LONDON] Scooter companies should be on top of the world: They have massive user growth, global adoption and investors happy to subsidise billions of dollars in losses.
But there are some major issues that plague the industry: the logistics of recharging fleets of thousands of electric vehicles every day, and city regulators considering kicking the companies out of town for clogging public thoroughfares.
A new company, GetCharged Inc, wants to tackle both problems, and has brought on some scooter heavyweights to help.
Noa Khamallah, who previously held senior posts at Lime as well as its European competitor Voi Technology, has been hired as co-founder and vice-president of government affairs and global strategy, based in Paris, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
GetCharged, which goes by the shorter name Charge, also now counts Caen Contee as a close adviser, who's assisting with recruiting and fundraising, the people said. Mr Contee was on the founding team of Lime, a scooter leader last valued at more than US$2 billion. Mr Contee and Mr Khamallah will work alongside New York-based Dan Waldman and Andrew Fox, both co-founders of year-old Charge, and who were also early investors in Lime.
A spokesman for Charge declined to provide a comment for this story. Mr Contee and Mr Khamallah's connections to the startup have not been previously reported.
Charge, which provides cities with docks for scooters, isn't the only company to tackle the complicated logistics of scooter growth. Another startup called Swiftmile also does, and Lyft Inc has tested its own version. Right now, however, most scooters remain dockless, forcing companies to deploy workers to collect the vehicles and juice them up overnight - a costly and difficult undertaking.
Charge is working with design agency Boyce Products to develop the physical docking stations, one of the people said. The structures are akin to bicycle racks in principle - scooters can be parked there when a user is finished, or when a battery needs topping up. The company will also encourage users to park scooters in pre-determined locations visible on an app, rather than leave them anywhere on the sidewalk.
Users would be incentivised to use either the docks or the parking areas, as a way of helping startups manage the battery life of their scooter fleets, as well as reducing clutter caused by dumped vehicles that draw the ire of city officials and citizens alike.
San Francisco, for instance, balked at the scooter invasion and took swift action to curb it. The city insisted operators like Lime and Bird apply for operating permits, which once denied effectively resulted in a ban (though Bird is back on the road in the city thanks to an acquisition). In June, Paris's Deputy Mayor in charge of transport, Christophe Najdovski, said the city was asking scooter companies to reduce the size of their fleets to help prevent pavement cluttering. In the UK, scooters aren't even legal to use on public roads.
The backlash has created an opportunity for a startup like Charge to unify how scooter operators handle recharging and parking in cities. Charge has had early-stage discussions with officials in Paris, Los Angeles, Lisbon and Barcelona, said one of the people who spoke to Bloomberg. It's also undertaking a limited trial of the docks in Atlanta.
Charge has funding in the low single-digit millions of dollars, one person said, including participation from Waldman and Fox. A further round is in the early stages and is expected to reach high single-digit millions, they said. A valuation was not disclosed.