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Electric-scooter companies conquer with a simple strategy: Act first, answer questions later

Electric-scooter companies conquer with a simple strategy: Act first, answer questions later

2018-06-25

Electric-scooter companies conquer with a simple strategy: Act first, answer questions later

At first glance, it looked like a painful defeat.

Mere weeks after they had blanketed Miami streets, electric scooters disappeared overnight, their companies sent packing by city attorneys with cease-and-desist letters in hand.

The scooter rental companies` preemptive approach in some ways resembles Uber`s [disruptive" playbook: Bumrush new markets, ignore local regulations, turn riders into voters - act first and apologize later.

From their critics` perspective, electric-scooter-rental companies arrive in virgin territory overnight, unleashing chaos and fear before eventually recruiting amenable locals to their ranks, filling their coffers and moving on to the next conquest.

However bullish it seems, the strategy of act first, answer questions later seems to be working. After companies deposited 2,000 scooters on San Francisco streets in March, furious public officials responded by impounding the scooters and issuing cease-and-desist orders. The city is now considering a pilot program that would allow companies to put 2,500 scooters for rent on city streets beginning in July, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority.

During the scooter rental company`s first 30 days in San Francisco, Bird says, 32,000 riders took 95,418 rides, traveling 143,725 total miles.

Lime is operating in more than 70 cities around the country.

Darren Weingard, head of government relations for Skip Scooters, told USA Today that his company decided not to launch after they learned San Francisco was planning to regulate the new form of transportation. His rivals went ahead, he noted, unleashing a preemptive strategy that looks awfully familiar.

[Some of what we were seeing [with rivals] seemed out of the old Uber playbook," Weingard told USA Today. [We didn`t want to follow that."

Similar struggles have played out in Denver; Santa Monica, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Nashville and Austin, where scooter rental companies have swooped into town with little warning before seeking constructive talks with city officials who had pushed back. After being pulled from the streets, scooter rental companies say they often expect to be back in the market in a few weeks - sometimes earlier, as cities rush through permits to meet the sudden demand for their services.

[This is just something that can prove to the world that Memphis is ready, that Memphis is open to business, and that Memphis makes accommodations for things we want," council chairman Berlin F. Boyd told the paper.

Memphis leaders said they decided to get ahead of the scooter wave after watching it crash into Nashville. After scooters appeared on sidewalks in the state capital, city officials threatened to impound them, arguing that they represented illegal obstructions of rights of way, according to the Commercial Appeal.


Bird`s attorney initially pushed back in Nashville, arguing that the city was [grossly exceeding" the parameters of the city code, before the company decided to remove its scooters and work with city officials on permitting, the paper reported.

Dockless vehicles are a good, new transportation option for Nashville, and I look forward to integrating them into our city. We have to write regulations that maximize safety and ensure the proper use of Metro's right of way, which belongs to the public.

If Bird continues operating, it will be the bad actor of their industry because it isn't willing to wait on regs. As of right now, all other dockless companies are waiting for Metro to pass regs. I will only work with good actors as we move forward and craft the regs.

Even if Nashville had refused to negotiate with Bird, the question is how long they could`ve held out before incurring public pressure to bring back the scooter rentals. The city is home to music festivals and sporting events, the paper noted, ideal venues for alternative forms of transportation.

Hundreds of rental scooters had already been deposited across town, giving the public a taste of cheap, electric mobility.

[It goes viral very quickly," Baer said. [People like it. It solves a problem for them, and it`s fun."


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