Electric scooter-sharing (and bike-sharing) services have inundated West Coast cities like Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and San Francisco over the last few months. Despite some complaints and some vandalism, it’s only a matter of time before they make it out East en masse, too. One of the first companies to give that a shot launched today in Washington, DC. It’s called Skip, and it was started by Sanjay Dastoor and Matt Tran, the same pair who created the Boosted board.
The battery on Skip’s scooters lasts about 30 miles, and they have a top speed of around 18 miles per hour. Skip works like most other dockless scooter-sharing services: you find a free scooter using the Skip app, scan a code to unlock it, and take off. Skip charges a dollar per ride, and 15 cents per minute, according to a profile in TechCrunch today. You can leave the scooter anywhere within certain limits, presumably. (The company’s terms of service and privacy agreements aren’t live on its website yet.) Then, a team of volunteer “chargers” will be paid to collect ones that are running low on juice.
One way Skip will try to set itself apart from competitors like Bird or Lime is by the quality of its scooters. Where those other companies use smaller, more lithe scooters created by Xiaomi, Skip has apparently modified much bigger and sturdier ones from a Singapore company called Minimotors. They have full suspension, a wider riding area, and headlights / taillights. Eventually, Skip will make its own scooters, according to TechCrunch.
But the real point here seems to be that Skip wants its service to be all about scooters that feel safer to ride, while also using ones that are more durable than the competition’s. These are things that Boosted have become known for with its electric skateboards, so it’s not surprising to see Dastoor and Tran emphasizing the same qualities at Skip. (Dastoor left his post as Boosted’s CEO last year but remains on the board. Tran left a few months before him.)
The other way Skip is trying to distinguish itself is in how it behaves. In other words, Skip isn’t going to try the same disruptive (and somewhat unpopular) strategy employed by its competitors. Instead of just dumping a few hundred scooters and seeing what happens, Skip says it got all the necessary permits before launching in DC. It also says it plans to work closely with city regulators to grow its scooter-sharing service before expanding to San Francisco.
Dockless sharing services, whether scooter or bike variety, have drawn just about as much praise as they have rankled cities. It will be interesting to see if Skip’s more measured approach can do anything to shift that balance. While the startup boasts about $6 million in financing, thanks to an initial investment round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, that’s a far cry from the hundreds of millions of dollars Bird and Lime already have to play with. As if that’s not enough, Uber’s in this space now, too.