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A taste of Lime: Uber invests in electric scooter company

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A Lime dockless electric scooter is parked on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. Uber said it would show Lime scooters as an option within its mobile app.

San Francisco

UBER wants to become a destination for all things transportation, no matter what you ride.

The ride-hailing company has made investments to prepare for the future of flying taxis. It acquired Jump, an electric bicycle company, for around US$200 million this year. And on Monday, Uber said it had invested in Lime, a company best known for offering rides on motorised scooters.

As part of a US$335 million fundraising round that values Lime at US$1.1 billion, the startup said it was accepting a "sizable" investment from Uber and would team up with the company. Uber said it would show Lime scooters as an option within its mobile app and put its logo on some Lime scooters. Neither Uber nor Lime disclosed the exact size of Uber's investment.

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Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as Uber's chief executive last year, has positioned the company as a hub of transportation activity. In April, it announced a pilot programme to let Uber users rent a car from the app with car-booking service Getaround, as well as a coming feature with Masabi, a ticketing service, to allow people to buy tickets for public transportation.

Uber's investment in Lime is part of a furious land grab in the transportation world. After Uber acquired Jump in April, Lyft said it was also getting into bike-sharing. Last week, Lyft said it was buying Motivate, the parent company of CitiBike and other similar programmes in US cities. The financial terms were not disclosed, but media reports said Lyft was in talks to pay about US$250 million for the company.

It is part of a convergence of various forms of transportation. Uber and Lyft are in a strong position to consolidate multiple services, because they are already widely used by consumers with registered credit cards. Adding a different service to the existing Uber app may make it easier to entice people to try something new, rather than asking someone to sign up for a new service altogether.

Electric scooters are getting into the mix. Companies like Lime and Bird, an e-scooter startup, allow customers to rent scooters by the minute, picking up and dropping off the vehicles on sidewalks around cities. While the appearance of scooters scattered everywhere has rankled city officials and residents, these services offer an in-between alternative between walking and hailing a car.

Started in June 2017, Lime said it was now operating in more than 70 markets in the United States and Europe.

Lime's investment round was led by GV, one of the venture capital arms of Google's parent company Alphabet. Lime said Joe Kraus, a general partner at GV, would become a company board member. Meanwhile, Bird, which was started by Travis VanderZanden, a former executive of Uber and Lyft, has raised US$300 million on a US$2 billion valuation. NYTIMES