Sep 18, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Scooter startup Skip raises more funding, talks strategy

Photo: Skip

As the scooter-startup wars continue to heat up across the U.S., San Francisco-based Skip claims its slow-and-steady approach has allowed it to perfect its warehouse operations and the design of its newest vehicle, the first scooter it has not purchased off-the-shelf from other vendors.

The intrigue: By some measures, the company is well behind its biggest rivals like Bird and Lime, which operate in dozens of cities while Skip is only in two, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Driving the news: Skip has also recently closed an undisclosed amount of new funding from Toyota AI Ventures as an extension to its Series A round.

What they're saying: Skip says its new scooter is made of modules that can be quickly disassembled and reassembled to make repairs as fast as possible.

  • For a simple maintenance check, a scooter can be back on the road that same day, co-founder and CEO Sanjay Dastoor told Axios during a recent tour of its San Francisco warehouse. For a more serious repair, it can be back out within a day or two.
  • Skip also argues that while its new scooter costs 25% more upfront than those from vendors like Segway-Ninebot, it expects them to last twice as long, be easier to repair, and ultimately save it more money in the long run.
  • For example, Skip says its new batteries, which cost more upfront, have 60% more range and last through 5,000 to 10,000 trips, with 50% less in weekly charging costs than the firm's previous battery. They also last about 20 trips in a hilly city like San Francisco before needing to be charged, according to Skip.

By the numbers, provided by the company:

  • 1,500 scooters (old and new) currently across San Francisco and D.C.
  • 3- 5 trips per scooter per day in the winter, and 7 to 9 trips per scooter per day in the summer, with a total of 1.5 annual million trips in each city during their respective pilot programs.
  • On average, riders who are residents (as opposed to tourists) take 2 trips per week, with nearly 50% monthly retention.
  • 60% of SF rides are from local residents, compared to 48% in D.C.
  • For every 100 scooters Skip has on the road, about 10 to 15 are off the road every month because of theft or normal wear and tear.

Yes, but: It remains to be seen how Skip's new scooters will fare in the long run — and ultimately if they'll help the company get to profitability.

The big picture: More than a year since scooter rental companies burst onto U.S. streets, they're all now focused on shifting to sturdier vehicles in the hopes they'll be safer and more cost-effective.

  • Lime, one of Skip's main rivals, has reportedly been having problems with its newest scooter, which it unveiled in January, The Information reported in June.
  • Another rival, Bird, has also recently begun rolling out a new custom-designed scooter, which has a positive contribution margin — meaning that the company is making money on those rides (the calculation includes depreciation), it told Axios in May. However, it declined to provide more specific metrics.

The bottom line: Like the much bigger and more mature ride-hailing companies, scooter companies have to show investors they can make their business math add up.

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