Lime lays off 13% of staff as coronavirus batters scooter-sharing start-ups

Key Points
  • About 80 employees are being let go as a result of the cuts, Lime CEO Brad Bao said.
  • Competitors such as Bird and Voi have also laid off workers in recent weeks.
  • Investors were gushing over e-scooter companies like Lime back in 2018.
A man riding a Lime e-scooter in Berlin, Germany on June 21, 2019.
Thomas Trutschel | Photothek via Getty Images

Scooter-sharing firm Lime is laying off 13% of its global workforce, as the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out demand for on-demand transportation services.

About 80 employees are being let go as a result of the cuts, Lime CEO Brad Bao said in a letter to staff Thursday. They will receive an email and meeting invitation to talk through the departure process and exit package, he added.

"Almost overnight, our company went from being on the eve of accomplishing an unprecedented milestone — the first next-generation micromobility company to reach profitability — to one where we had to pause operations in 99% of our markets worldwide to support cities' efforts at social distancing," said Bao.

"Needless to say, while we thought we had planned for all possibilities this year, we did not anticipate a global pandemic."

At the start of the year, Lime said it would let go roughly 100 employees and close operations in 12 markets in a bid to achieve profitability this year. Further cuts suggest the company will struggle to meet that target as global lockdown restrictions heavily disrupt the nascent "micromobility" space.

"While we certainly can't predict what comes next, we remain confident that Lime will emerge stronger than ever once we get to the other side of this pandemic," the company said.

Layoffs in the scooter space haven't been limited to Lime. U.S. peer Bird recently laid off 406 employees over a Zoom call — a move that drew backlash online — while Swedish rival Voi has laid off and furloughed most of its staff to survive the impact of lockdowns in Europe.

Meanwhile, others in the urban mobility space have also been affected by the pandemic. Uber is reportedly mulling plans to lay off about 20% of its staff — more than 5,400 employees — amid a sharp decline in its ride-hailing business.

In 2018, venture capital investors were gushing over electric scooter companies like Lime. Investment into e-scooter start-ups continued last year with Voi and German rival Tier raising sizable sums. But concerns over the pandemic — in addition to existing cash burn worries — will likely slow the brakes on that trend.

According to The Information, Lime has been seeking emergency funding from new investors at a valuation of just $400 million — a $2 billion drop from the $2.4 billion the company was last valued at.