Revel’s Frank Reig shares how he built his business and what he’s planning

It’s only been three years since they hit the streets and Revel’s blue electric mopeds have already become a common sight in New York, San Francisco and a growing number of U.S. cities. However, Revel founder and CEO Frank Reig has set his sights far beyond building a shared moped service.

In fact, since the beginning of 2021, Revel has launched an e-bike subscription service, an EV charging station venture and an all-electric rideshare service driven by a fleet of 50 Teslas.

So we caught up with Reig to talk about what he learned from building the company, how Revel’s business strategy has evolved, and what lies ahead.

Before we get to the good stuff, here’s some background:

The idea for Revel seems like it came from the classic entrepreneur’s guidebook: Reig had a need that no existing company addressed. He’d seen mopeds used as major, if not dominant, forms of transportation as he traveled around Europe, Asia and Latin America, and he wondered why this logical (and fun) mode of transport was largely absent from American cities in general, and in his hometown, New York City, in particular.

So in 2018, Reig quit his job, raised $1.1 million from 57 people, and launched a small pilot program involving 68 mopeds in Brooklyn. In May 2019, he raised $4 million in VC funding, which helped him expand to 1,000 electric mopeds across Brooklyn and Queens. Revel secured another $33.8 million in September 2019, in a round that included funding from Ibex Investments, Toyota Ventures, Maniv Capital, Shell and Hyundai, according to Reig. This has allowed the founder to execute a grander plan to build an electric mobility company.

The company now operates more than 3,000 e-mopeds in New York City, and has another 3,000 across Washington, D.C., Miami, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

TechCrunch: You’ve added three new business lines and told us previously that you have more on the way. That’s a lot.

Frank Reig: Yes, we have had a busy start to 2021! We began the year announcing our fast-charging stations across the city that will help fill the large gap in infrastructure to support the wide-scale adoption of EVs. We launched our e-bike subscription program to offer New Yorkers another way to navigate their city, and with our newly announced electric ride-sharing program, we are solving the “chicken and egg” problem of EV charging and demand. We are focused on building out these business lines and our moped business as well and very much looking forward to what is to come.

When shared micromobility companies expand, they often just offer different vehicles. You seem to be going, “Ok, we’ll offer a different vehicle — an e-bike, but it’s a subscription. And we’re also doing electric vehicle chargers, and let’s add an EV rideshare to the mix.” It’s pretty broad.

If we’re talking about electrifying mobility in major cities, it starts with infrastructure. And we’re the company rolling up our sleeves and doing it now by building that infrastructure and operating fleets. Because in a city like New York, the infrastructure does not exist for electric mobility.

There are a few Tesla superchargers around the city, usually behind parking paywalls, so you have to pay the garage to even use it. And, of course, you need a Tesla for that infrastructure to even be relevant. And when you think about other public fast-charging access points in the city, they are few and far between. We’re building 30 in one site and many more beyond that in 2021.

New York is a complicated city to operate in, so it’s easier for us to add e-bikes as a service because I already have the infrastructure and on-the-ground operations that we built with the mopeds. I have multiple warehouses throughout this city. I have full-time staff that I’ve employed, from field technicians to mechanics, and a fleet of over 3,000 vehicles on the streets in New York. So it’s a natural extension of the platform to be able to add another product to it, to reach a new type of user, or to supplement the use case of our current moped users. All we needed to do was finance some e-bikes, and then you have another line of business.

Uber and Arrival partner to create an EV for ride-hail drivers

Arrival, the electric vehicle manufacturer that’s attempting to do away with the assembly line in favor of highly automated microfactories, is partnering with Uber to create an EV for ride-hail drivers. 

Arrival expects to reveal the final vehicle design before the end of the year and to begin production in the third quarter of 2023. Uber drivers have been invited to contribute to the design process to ensure the vehicles are built to suit their needs.

Uber is trying to make good on a promise it made last year to become a fully electric mobility platform by 2025 in London, 2030 in North America and Europe and platform-wide by 2040. The company recently launched Uber Green, which gives passengers the opportunity to select an EV at no extra cost and drivers a chance to pay a lower service fee, part of an $800 million initiative to get more drivers in EVs

To reach its aims of doubling the number of EV drivers by the end of 2021, Uber is kicking its incentives for drivers into gear by helping them purchase or finance new vehicles. The Arrival Cars might be among those recommended to Uber drivers who want to make the switch to electric, especially drivers in London who are eligible for “EV Assistance” via the company’s Clean Air Plan, which launched in 2018, but an Uber spokesperson declined to confirm how the Arrival Cars will be made available. Last September, Uber partnered with General Motors in a similar deal to provide drivers in the United States and Canada discounted prices for the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt. 

“Uber is committed to helping every driver in London upgrade to an EV by 2025, and thanks to our Clean Air Plan more than £135m has been raised to support this ambition,” Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe said in a statement. “Our focus is now on encouraging drivers to use this money to help them upgrade to an electric vehicle, and our partnership with Arrival will help us achieve this goal.” 

London, where Arrival is based, aims for its entire transport system to be zero emission by 2050, and will create zero emissions zones in central London and town center from 2025, expanding outward to inner London by 2040 and city-wide by 2050. If Uber drivers want to be able to work in the hottest parts of the city, they’ll have no choice but to go electric. 

The partnership with Uber marks Arrival’s first foray into electric car development. Because Arrival focuses on the commercial space rather than commercial sales, its existing vehicle models are vans and buses. The British EV company already has an order from UPS for 10,000 purpose-built vehicles.

Arrival wants to change the way commercial electric vehicles are designed and manufactured. By designing its own batteries and other components in-house and building vehicles through multiple microfactories, which are much smaller than traditional manufacturing facilities, Arrival says it produces vehicles quicker, cheaper and with far fewer environmental costs.

The company began publicly trading in March following a SPAC merger with CIIG, one of many EV companies to hit the markets via the SPAC route as opposed to the traditional, and slower, IPO route.

Lime launches 100 e-mopeds in New York City as Mayor de Blasio reveals plan to fully re-open by July 1

Weeks after Lime became one of the first companies to win the bid to operate e-scooters in New York City, the micromobility giant is bringing e-mopeds to the city’s streets. This will be the first company to host multiple modes of micromobility sharing in NYC.

On Friday, Lime will release 100 electric mopeds onto the streets of Brooklyn, with planned expansions in Queens and lower Manhattan in the coming weeks. NYC is often choked and heated by smog from car pollution, but if it wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, it’ll have to get comfortable with seeing more electric micromobility crop up.

Lime will be directly competing with the only other existing dockless e-moped operator in the city, Revel, which just announced the launch of an all-EV rideshare service. Lime’s initial geographic zones of operation will more or less match Revel’s map, which includes much of north Brooklyn, from Williamsburg, to Greenpoint and Brooklyn Heights, but which will also extend southeast to the Flatlands, according to a Lime spokesperson.

Earlier this month, Lime also launched e-mopeds in Washington D.C. and Paris. With each launch, Lime has stressed its commitment to rider and road user safety with features like AI-enabled helmet detection and license verification and a liveness test, which asks the rider to make various facial expressions into the camera when signing up in order to prove they’re a real person, rather than using a static photo of someone else. A spokesperson said Lime can also use the liveness test to match the rider to their driver’s license to ensure it’s the same person.

Lime also requires a mandatory rider education curriculum designed in consultation with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and its service is covered by motor vehicle liability insurance, which provides financial protection if a rider were to harm someone else or their property while driving, but not for the rider or rider’s property.

Competitor Revel learned the hard way to include such safety features. Last summer, the company took its mopeds off the roads for a few weeks following several deaths and reports that riders weren’t wearing helmets, in order to come up with a safety plan that would assuage the city’s fears. Now Revel requires that users take a helmet selfie and requires all riders to take a 21-question safety training quiz and watch an instructional video before hopping on a moped for the first time. The app also has a community reporting tool that anyone can use to report bad behavior to Revel.

The steps Lime and Revel are taking to ensure rider safety are not dictated by the NYC Department of Transportation. Whereas the DOT engaged in a lengthy process to approve e-scooters to operate in the city, mopeds are not regulated by the city.

“We made an effort to work collaboratively with DOT, keep them informed of our plans, answer their questions and address any concerns,” a Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Lime will also offer its Lime Aid program to give discounted rates to Pell Grant recipients, job seekers and recipients of subsidy programs, as well as free rides to frontline workers, teachers, non-profit employees, artists and hospitality workers — those who have been most affected by the pandemic.

As more New Yorkers get vaccinated and the city starts to open up (with a freshly-revealed plan to fully re-open the city by July 1) , Lime wants to entrench itself as a leading micromobility vessel, and they couldn’t ask for a better time than a post-pandemic summer.

“The pandemic has pushed New Yorkers to look for new ways to get around that are safe, sustainable and car-free,” said Lime CEO Wayne Ting in a statement. “Now, as New York emerges from a difficult year, we are eager to support an economic comeback driven not by cars, but by sustainable options that reduce congestion and allow for open-air, socially-distanced travel.”

Revel launches an all-electric, rideshare service with a fleet of 50 Teslas

Revel started out in 2018 with shared, dockless e-mopeds in Brooklyn, which later expanded to  Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and a handful of other U.S. cities. This year, the company launched a monthly e-bike subscription in New York City and announced plans to build an electric vehicle charging hub in Bed-Stuy. Now, Revel is introducing an all-electric — and all-Tesla — rideshare service in Manhattan.

What once seemed like a company with an identity crisis dabbling at random with different forms of mobility is starting to come together as a calculated strategy to own the electrification infrastructure of cities, starting with NYC. This has been founder and CEO Frank Reig’s war cry from the start.

“From day one, our mission has been to electrify cities,” Reig told TechCrunch. “We do that by providing electric transportation options needed in cities, as well as building the electric vehicle infrastructure needed to make that happen.”

The new rideshare venture, which will launch in late May with a fleet of 50 Revel-branded Tesla Model Ys, is the natural next step in the process of working towards “electrifying every single trip in a city,” says Reig. Customers will be able to access ride-hailing services with the same app used to book e-mopeds. The launch will begin in a zone below 42nd Street, and will expand to additional neighborhoods based on demand and data from the initial phase, according to the company.

Revel’s rideshare launch is taking a similar approach to its initial moped launch three years ago, starting in a small area and slowly growing towards an overall goal of serving the entire city, according to co-founder Paul Suhey.

The company is still in the application process to become an approved operator with NYC’s Taxi & Limousine Commission. Revel’s initial application was approved, but there are a few more steps to acquiring a fully issued license. 

“I think one reason we’re even coming out with this right now instead of waiting until everything is officially licensed and ready to go is because we’re employing drivers,” Suhey told TechCrunch. “When it comes to employing drivers, we need to get the word out. We need to be able to recruit and retain drivers now.”

Revel’s customer rates will be on par with competitors like Uber and Lyft, Reig says, but rather than relying on gig economy workers, the company intends to hire all of its drivers. 

“For the same price, you’re able to get into a fully electric vehicle with a company that actually employs New Yorkers and doesn’t push all the insurance risk and asset depreciation onto New York City residents just trying to make a living,” said Reig.

Paying workers is not just altruism for Revel. It makes more sense to employ drivers because the company needs to own the Teslas, in large part so they can be built to Revel’s specifications. The Model Ys will be painted “Revel-blue” and will include a touchscreen to control cabin conditions like temperature and music. The front passenger seat of the vehicles will be removed to both adhere to Covid-19 distancing guidelines and to allow riders to stretch their legs. 

But more importantly, Revel learned a valuable lesson from the $200 million PR campaign from the likes of Uber, Lyft and Postmates to lobby Californians to vote for Proposition 22, a ballot initiative which would make the app-based companies exempt from treating workers as employees with benefits. The initiative passed, but Reig is of the opinion that that money could have gone towards attracting and maintaining a solid workforce, rather than constantly trying to fill the funnel of drivers with a disillusioned labor pool.  

“There’s also a safety piece when you’re talking about a fleet,” said Reig. “Because it’s our fleet, we’re able to understand exactly the acceleration, the speed and the braking of the car at all times. Every single driver that we employ and train will be getting safety scores at the end of every shift so they can improve their driving. So now, we’re able to lower insurance costs and liabilities.”

As cities electrify, Revel wants to be the one scaffolding the business models going forward. Offering up a ride-hail is not just about building out a new business line. It’s also about accelerating the production of the company’s charging business. Revel’s trying to establish an electric monopoly while solving for the chicken-and-egg problem of prospective EV buyers who would buy electric if only there were charging stations and planners who would build EV infrastructure if only more people were buying EVs.

“Everything that we do as a company is about trying to drive EV adoption and access to electric mobility in cities,” said Suhey. “People think about that in terms of access to a different mode, whether that’s an electric car, an electric bike, a moped — we’re thinking more broadly about electrification in cities.”

Exyn Technologies’ drones achieve autonomy milestone with on-board mapping

Exyn Technologies announced Tuesday that it has achieved what it considers the highest level of aerial autonomy reached within the industry. The key to the achievement is that Exyn drones are immune to GPS signal loss, meaning all spatial and mapping computations are done onboard, the company said.

Under Exyn’s definitions of autonomy, which are based on a similar standard applied to automotive, the company’s drones have achieved Level 4A autonomy. This means the drones are able to explore a designated 3D area without a remote operator in the backseat, according to Exyn.

Exyn’s achievement is a major step up from the previous level 3 of autonomy, in which a human is required to be present to potentially take over, something that has prevented drones from entering spaces without ranging signals.

The Level 3 aerial autonomy landscape is also defined by point-to-point navigation, in which an operator lays out a sequence of locations for a robot to visit, and the robot does its best to get there. Autonomous aviation startup Xwing’s self-flying utility aircraft will operate on this level by following specific flight paths. However, in real-life use cases, an operator might not have intimate knowledge of the operating environment, and the robot might not be able to access existing maps to learn from and inform its movements.

“We developed an autonomous system that can take you into dark, dirty, dangerous environments,” Exyn’s CTO Jason Derenick told TechCrunch. “Place it at the edge of danger and send it off to collect the information that you need. Oftentimes the information you need is beyond the line of sight, both in terms of communications as well as visual.”

Exyn’s drones are given a capability the company calls “scoutaunomy,” which involves defining a “bounding box volume” around which the drone can fly. Using lidar sensors, the drone can identify volume between explored and unexplored spaces in order to self-navigate and create an accurate, high-resolution map of the space. The drones, which are hardware-agnostic, can also carry additional sensors that collect further information to be integrated onto the maps. 

“Think of building a three-dimensional map and then draping on top of it RGB information from the camera, so now you’ve got a photorealistic 3D representation of the space,” Nader Elm, CEO of Exyn Technologies, told TechCrunch. “If we’re carrying heat and humidity sensors, getting radiological reading, getting gas readings, checking the ventilation, et cetera. That’s going to be a very rich dataset that currently underground mining doesn’t have.”

Most of Exyn Technologies’ use cases are in the mining industry, with clients like Rupert Resources and Dundee Precious Metals, where the ability to chart the unknown can keep miners safe and inform better business decisions. The company recently announced a partnership with Swedish mining and construction giant Sandvik that will involve integrating Exyn’s mapping software with Sandvik’s mapping analytics capabilities. 

Exyn is also working with government customers for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as in nuclear energy, construction and logistics, according to the company. 

Wunder Mobility’s new lending business helps micromobility startups finance fleets

Wunder Mobility built its business selling software to shared scooter, e-bike and even short-term car rental startups. Now, it’s banking on a new — and once secret — lending division to bring in more revenue that’ll giving micromobility operators another option to access capital without having pitch venture capitalists and other investors.

The company announced the official launch of Wunder Capital, a subsidiary that provides micromobility operators with fleet financing solutions. Wunder Capital, which has been operating in stealth mode for two years, has already provided financing to more than 25 businesses, according to the company.

As shared micromobility becomes the norm, the industry has the chance to scale dramatically, Gunnar Froh, Wunder Mobility’s founder and CEO, said in a recent interview. He believes traditional VC-backed funding rounds are too slow to keep up with the level of growth required to keep up with increasing demand.

“Now you can now basically launch in a few weeks on our software platform and also get vehicles through us that are optimized for the sharing case, and then pay for them entirely through revenue share,” Froh told TechCrunch.

Wunder Capital aims to become a one-stop-shop for shared operators looking for operational software, high-quality vehicles and the money to purchase them. Froh estimates that such a package deal would cost an operator about 40% of monthly revenue. 

The founder originally saw the potential to diversify Wunder’s portfolio when he noticed how much influence his sales team had on operators’ vehicle purchasing decisions. After his team would set up new operators with an app and software, operators would inevitably ask for vehicle manufacturer recommendations.

Wunder Mobility said Tuesday it is also partnering with Yadea, a dominant manufacturer of light-duty electric vehicles in China, to co-develop an e-moped that’s been refitted for shared use. The company also intends to co-develop and finance e-bikes and kick scooters this year, but did not specify which manufacturers it would work with. 

“We put reseller agreements in place, so we would always recommend this Yadea moped and then get a margin on it,” said Froh. “Then we’d talk to Yadea and give them modifications to make the mopeds sharing ready, and then we’d have an opportunity to talk to the operators about how they’re going to finance this purchase, what limitations are you facing, and so on.”

Wunder Capital most recently added German electric moped sharing company emmy as a financing customer. Wunder Capital will finance 1,500 refitted Yadea G5L e-mopeds for emmy’s locations in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin. In contrast to Yadea’s consumer models, these mopeds will have a sturdier base, more intuitive controls, doubled range and improved battery management systems.

“Some companies go through venture capital, but it’s very costly in terms of return expectations and the control they want to have, and it’s holding people back from expanding their fleets,” Froh said. “We refinance through banks that would not usually look at a single operator and feel comfortable about the resale of these vehicles. We combine several operators into one portfolio and then we have access to a liquid secondary market.”

In order to ascertain risk and inform loan decisions, Wunder Capital uses APIs to collect anonymized trip data from operators that compares operational efficiency between companies. This data collection also allows the division to flag if an operator isn’t doing well and is at risk of coming up short on payments, in which case Wunder Capital can proactively reach out about restructuring loans. 

“If a default happens, we can take vehicles from one operator and send them to another one somewhere else in the world,” said Froh. “So with this model, we can refinance relatively cheaply.”

Tesla sees bitcoin as important financial tool to access cash quickly

Tesla’s relationship with bitcoin is not a dalliance, according to the comments made by the company’s CFO and dubbed “master of coin” Zach Kirkhorn during an earnings call Monday. Instead, the company believes in the longevity of bitcoin, despite its volatility.

Tesla invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin this quarter and then trimmed its position by 10%, Kirkhorn said during the company quarterly earnings call. That sale made a $101 million “positive impact” to the company’s profitability in the first quarter, he added. Tesla also allows customers to make vehicle deposits and final vehicle purchases using bitcoin. 

Tesla turned to bitcoin as a place to store cash and still access it immediately, all while providing a better return on investment than more traditional central bank-backed safe havens. Of course, the higher yields provided by the volatile digital currency comes with higher risk.

Tesla bucks the trend of the more cautionary Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell who noted back in March at virtual summit hosted by the Bank for International Settlements that the Fed considers crypto speculative assets that are highly volatile and therefore not useful stores of value. That matters because the basic function of currency is its ability to store value. He also noted that digital currencies are not backed by anything and compared it to gold and not the dollar.

From Kirkhorn:

Elon and I were looking for a place to store cash that wasn’t being immediately used, try to get some level of return on this, but also preserve liquidity, you know, particularly as we look forward to the launch of Austin and Berlin and uncertainty that’s happening with semiconductors and port capacity, being able to access our cash very quickly is super important to us right now.

And, you know, there aren’t many traditional opportunities to do this or at least that we found and and talking to others that we could get good feedback on, particularly with yields being so low and without taking on additional risk or sacrificing liquidity. Bitcoin seemed at the time, and so far has proven to be a good decision, a good place to place some of our cash that’s not immediately being used for daily operations or maybe not needed till the end of the year, and be able to get some return on that.

Tesla is watching the digital currency closely, Kirkhorn said, noting that there is a lot of reason to be optimistic.

“You know, thinking about it from a corporate treasury perspective, we’ve been quite pleased with how much liquidity there is in the bitcoin market,” he said. “Our ability to build our first position happened very quickly. When we did the sale later in March we also were able to execute on that very quickly. And so as we think about kind of global liquidity for the business in risk management, being able to get cash in and out of the market is something that I think is exceptionally important for us.”

While Tesla did trim its position in March, Kirkhorn added that the company’s intent is to hold what it has long term and to continue to accumulate bitcoin from transactions from its customers as they purchase vehicles. Musk, who also goes by Technoking, announced in March that Tesla would accept bitcoin as a form of payment in the United States.

Honda targets 100% EV sales in North America by 2040

Honda’s new goal is to achieve 100% EV sales in North America by 2040 as part of its broader target of being carbon neutral by 2050. CEO Toshihiro Mibe announced planned shift away from internal combustion engines at a news conference on Friday, his first since taking over executive leadership of the company in early April.

This is the latest in a stream of pledges from legacy car manufacturers to introduce high percentages of zero-emissions vehicles into their fleets and achieve carbon neutrality. General Motors plans to eliminate gas and diesel light-duty cars and SUVs by 2035 and be carbon neutral by 2040, and Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan have all said they plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Honda’s goals are also in alignment with Japan’s electrification strategy, which aims for a 46% cut in emissions by 2030.

Honda will start on this road immediately, expecting EVs to account for 40% of sales by 2030, and 80% by 2035 in all major markets. By the second half of 2020, Japan’s second-largest automaker will launch a series of new electric models in North America based on the company’s in-house e:Architecture platform, which “increases the commonality of the body and three primary EV components (battery, motor and invertor) while also featuring high space efficiency and battery mounting efficiency,” according to a Honda spokesperson.

Honda, and its subsidiary Acura, will also introduce two large-sized EV models using GM’s Ultium batteries by 2024. The company will further its collaboration with GM by using fuel cell technology for a range of vehicles and applications, like commercial trucks and power sources.

Citi Bike rival JOCO brings shared, docked e-bikes to NYC

Move over Citi Bike, there’s a new docked, shared bike service in town — only this one is all electric. Next week, JOCO will be the first shared operator in New York City to launch a network of e-bike stations on private property for public use.

The service, powered by shared mobility platform Vulog, will start with 30 stations and 300 e-bikes located around Manhattan, expanding to 100 stations and 1,000 bikes by June. This is not the first new shared operator to hit the streets of New York this year. Last week, the city announced the winning companies of the e-scooter pilot in the Bronx. But while Bird, Lime and Veo are restricted to operating in a section of the Bronx, far from any Citi Bike territory, JOCO is under no such constraints.

The company’s bikes will initially be stationed at parking garages around the city, including at Icon Parking garages, the city’s largest parking operators, but the company says it hopes to expand to residential and commercial buildings in the near future. The company essentially pays landlords to provide this amenity, while absolving them from having to operate or maintain the e-bikes.

“What differentiates us from Citi Bike is, first of all, our bikes are 100% electric, 100% premium,” co-founder Jonathan “Johnny” Cohen from New York told TechCrunch. (The two co-founders are both named Johnathan Cohen — one is from New York, the other from London. JOCO…get it?). “You can reserve our bikes in advance, and as we’re on private property, there are hand sanitizer at our stations, the bikes aren’t getting rained on every night, they’re a bit cleaner and easier to access.”

A map of JOCO's launch e-bike dock locations

A map of JOCO’s 30 launch e-bike dock locations in NYC.

Citi Bike’s fleet is about 30% electric. To charge the e-bikes, the Lyft-owned company must manually take the drained vehicles from their stations to charge them, whereas JOCO’s vehicles are charged at the stations. Like Citi Bike, each e-bike can last for about 30 miles on a charge.

“That’s enough to get around Manhattan several times,” said London Jo (another moniker for differentiating between the two John/Jon Cohens). “We expect our vehicles to always be charged and ready to go for the customer. It defeats the purpose when you’re taking a bike that’s extremely sustainable, and then come along in a gas-burning vehicle to swap the battery. We’re looking to be a truly environmentally friendly company and provide a more consistent and reliable service.”

Founded in 2019 and funded privately by a group of former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and specifically investors with technology and real estate backgrounds, JOCO offers e-bikes at a price point that’s comparable, if not directly competitive, to Citi Bike. It’ll cost riders $1 to unlock the bike and .25 cents a minute, so a 10 minute ride will come out to $3.50. If you can find an electric Citi Bike, it’ll cost a rider $3.50 to unlock and .18 cents a minute, which comes out to about $5.30.

“That’s significantly cheaper in our opinion for a brand new, gorgeous, full electric premium bike,” said NY Jo.

Neither company charges unlock fees for members. JOCO’s monthly membership is $49 per month with unlimited use, and Citi Bike’s is $20 per month, with monthly members continuing to pay 18 cents per minute, and annual members paying 12 cents per minute. Under Citi Bike’s annual membership, if a rider is averaging out about five 10-minute rides per week, the monthly spend is comparable between the two companies.

“Citi Bike has been around since 2013 and has done a tremendous job at driving cycling adoption on the streets of NYC,” Monica Wejman, Vulog’s North America managing director, told TechCrunch. “And now you have JOCO entering this space, powered by Vulog, really there to complement Citi Bike and satisfy what we’re seeing as a significant increase in demand for access to e-bikes. We’re truly empowering mobility operators to launch mobility programs at scale.”

While JOCO will not be reliant on the NYC Department of Transportation to carve out street and sidewalk space for docking stations, the operator is still taking steps to ensure a good working relationship with the city.

London Jo says JOCO’s bikes are made with safety-critical features, like hidden cables to make them less susceptible to vandalism, puncture-proof airless tires and bike-tracking, provided by Vulog’s backend.

“In addition, by operating in private spaces, we’re eliminating that problem of sidewalk clutter for the city,” said the British Cohen. “And they don’t have to worry about what has to go to fit 50 new bikes on the street. We’re taking a big headache off them, and it’s allowing us to stay in control a little bit more and not have to depend on the city.”

Micromobility’s next big business is software, not vehicles

The days of the shared, dockless micromobility model are numbered. That’s essentially the conclusion reached by Puneeth Meruva, an associate at Trucks Venture Capital who recently authored a detailed research brief on micromobility. Meruva is of the opinion that the standard for permit-capped, dockless scooter-sharing is not sustainable — the overhead is too costly, the returns too low — and that the industry could splinter.

Most companies playing to win have begun to vertically integrate their tech stacks by developing or acquiring new technology.

“Because shared services have started a cultural transition, people are more open to buying their own e-bike or e-scooter,” Meruva told TechCrunch. “Fundamentally because of how much city regulation is involved in each of these trips, it could reasonably become a transportation utility that is very useful for the end consumer, but it just hasn’t proven itself to be a profitable line of business.”

As dockless e-scooters, e-bikes and e-mopeds expand their footprint while consolidating under a few umbrella corporations, companies might develop or acquire the technology to streamline and reduce operational costs enough to achieve unit economics. One overlooked but massive factor in the micromobility space is the software that powers the vehicles — who owns it, if it’s made in-house and how well it integrates with the rest of the tech stack.

It’s the software that can determine if a company breaks out of the rideshare model into the sales or subscription model, or becomes subsidized by or absorbed into public transit, Meruva predicts.

Vehicle operating systems haven’t been top of mind for most companies in the short history of micromobility. The initial goal was making sure the hardware didn’t break down or burst into flames. When e-scooters came on the scene, they caused a ruckus. Riders without helmets zipped through city streets and many vehicles ended up in ditches or blocking sidewalk accessibility.

City officials were angry, to say the least, and branded dockless modes of transport a public nuisance. However, micromobility companies had to answer to their overeager investors — the ones who missed out on the Uber and Lyft craze and threw millions at electric mobility, hoping for swift returns. What was a Bird or a Lime to do? The only thing to do: Get back on that electric two-wheeler and start schmoozing cities.

How the fight for cities indirectly improved vehicle software

Shared, dockless operators are currently in a war of attrition, fighting to get the last remaining city permits. But as the industry seeks a business to government (B2G) model that morphs into what companies think cities want, some are inadvertently producing vehicles that will evolve beyond functional toys and into more viable transportation alternatives.

The second wave of micromobility was marked by newer companies like Superpedestrian and Voi Technology. They learned from past industry mistakes and developed business strategies that include building onboard operating systems in-house. The goal? More control over rider behavior and better compliance with city regulations.

Most companies playing to win have begun to vertically integrate their tech stacks by developing or acquiring new technology. Lime, Bird, Superpedestrian, Spin and Voi all design their own vehicles and write their own fleet management software or other operational tools. Lime writes its own firmware, which sits directly on top of the vehicle hardware primitives and helps control things like motor controllers, batteries and connected lights and locks.