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Photo: Kia Kokalitcheva / Axios

South by Southwest is no longer the preferred launchpad for social apps, but it may be for others like Blue Duck, a San Antonio-based transportation company debuting its scooter service this weekend.

Context: Between Twitter's big breakout moment in 2007 and Meerkat's in 2015, SXSW has served as a great marketing opportunity for social apps. But that's ended as consumer trends have shifted and Hollywood and other consumer companies have taken over the festival.

More about Blue Duck:

  • Standing outside the Austin Convention Center, co-founder Eric Bell tells me that he came up with the idea out of frustration with his local public transit.
  • The company is currently using Xiaomi m365 scooters, though Bell says that his team has built tracking hardware it mounts on the scooters and modifies a range of the scooter parts.
  • For now, the company is self-funded, but he expects to soon raise outside funding.
  • Outside of SXSW, the company will start with college campuses in the South. It has a partnership with Hooked, a mobile app that provides deals from local food and services for college students.
  • Electric scooters are a growing trend: Bird, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based electric scooter startup raised $100 million this week, while dockless bike startups Spin and LimeBike are planning or have launched similar services. Though Bird settled with local lawmakers a suit over permitting, its scooters can now be impounded if left in hazardous places. Bell says his company hasn't had problems with law enforcement during SXSW so far.

The story has been updated to include more details about the company's scooters and clarify that LimeBike has already deployed its scooters in some cities.

Go deeper

Students vandalize and steal from schools for viral TikTok challenge

TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A viral TikTok challenge is leading students nationwide to shatter mirrors, steal fire alarms and intentionally clog toilets, The Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: Dubbed the the “Devious Licks challenge, students are showing off their "devious licks" on TikTok — with a sped-up version of "Ski Ski BasedGod" by rapper Lil’ B playing in the background.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

18 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

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