Tech giants Uber and Google-parent Alphabet offered their blessing to the red-hot electric scooter industry this week. The companies announced on Monday that they are leading a group of investors pumping $335 million into scooter-sharing startup Lime in a fundraising round that values Lime at a whopping $1.1 billion.
The news came on the same day as reports that rival scooter startup Bird had raised roughly $300 million, for a valuation north of $2 billion. Another scooter company, San Francisco-based Spin, is reportedly raising $125 million in blockchain-based funds.
Between those massive valuations and a deluge of recent media attention, Lime and Bird are two of the biggest names in the burgeoning scooter market. But are these buzzy startups really worth billions of dollars?
Lime, Bird and Spin all offer similar services, with users paying anywhere from 15 cents to $1 per minute to rent electric scooters that are distributed throughout an urban area and travel at speeds up to 15 MPH. The three California-based startups have apps that allow users to activate any stray scooter nearby and pay to ride it for as long as needed (or as long as the scooter’s battery lasts, which can be anywhere from 18 to 37 miles per charge, depending on the scooter). The scooters are "dockless," which means they can be picked up and dropped off pretty much anywhere.
Bird has put over 1,000 of its scooters on the streets throughout 18 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington, D.C. In April, Bird said its scooters had already been taken for over 1 million rides since launching in September 2017.