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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

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Expand chart
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.

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