Vehicle-sharing and micro-mobility soon became a trend had brought tremendous success to entrepreneurs that jumped into a crazy ride by establishing a company in this field. Bird reached a $1 billion valuation in seven months, thus becoming the fastest startup ever to reach unicorn status. Lime reached unicorn status in 18 months. This year Helbiz plans to become the first micro-mobility company listed on NASDAQ. Vehicle-sharing and micro-mobility are still on the rise and it is still possible to create a successful business.
According to McKinsey & Company's "Micromobility’s 15,000-mile check-up" report, market potential by the year 2030 is:
- $200 billion to $300 billion in the United States;
- $100 billion to $150 billion in Europe;
- $30 billion to $50 billion in China.
This equals about a quarter of McKinsey & Company's forecasted global shared autonomous-driving market potential of roughly $1,600 billion in 2030. So if you are considering starting your own business with sharing, this is the right time to do it. But let's look at how leaders are doing, the milestones of their business success, and the trends they are setting for the future in the sharing business.
The fastest double unicorn ever
The company Bird attained this status soon after it was founded in September 2017 by Travis VanderZanden. He was already familiar with the market as previously he had worked as an executive at Lyft and Uber. Bird got its first round of funding in February 2018 raising $15 million. Series B round followed in March for $100 million. And the funding round of $150 million in May granted the fastest ever unicorn status. In June 2018, Bird raised an additional $300 million, valuing the company at $2 billion. Prior to Bird, this valuation had never been reached so fast by any startup. Currently, its valuation is estimated at $2.3 billion. Bird has raised $765 million in total funding across five funding rounds. It plans to reach $308 million gross profit by 2023.
Bird is a last-mile electric scooter rental service. What is important here - the company has reached its success with just one vehicle type while others have been adding several types of vehicles to their portfolio. Bird operates in 200 cities globally. Overall more than 95 million rides have been made up to date.
Bird started its business by offering customers a Xiaomi M365 scooter. With the launch of the BirdOne model, the company stopped buying and distributing Segway models.
The price for the service is €1 or $1 (depending on the country) to unlock the scooter. A one-minute ride on the scooter costs €/$0.15. There is also a monthly fee available for renting a scooter - $25. However, prices may vary depending on the country, currency, and local laws.
At the beginning of this year, Bird introduced Global Ride Pass - new pricing plans designed to save money and accelerate the shift away from cars for short-distance trips. Currently, there are four new Global Ride Pass options available:
- Daily Unlimited Rides Pass
- Monthly Unlimited Rides Pass
- Monthly Unlimited Unlocks Pass
- 3-Month Unlimited Unlocks Pass
In the second half of 2020, the company launched Bird Pay that is piloted in two California hubs. This provides users with the opportunity to pay via the Bird app for the purchase in local shops, restaurants, or food trucks as they move around on the scooter.
This year Bird announced that the company is investing $150 million in Europe. The company said that funds will be used to open safe, sustainable micro-mobility programs in over 50 new European cities. The company is also planning to go public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Switchback II. However, it is not yet clear when this could happen.
Alex Wilhelm, a journalist at TechCrunch wrote in 2018 that Bird’s gross margin is 19 percent. He explored that revenues are split as follows - 47% charging, 14% repairs, 11% credit card processing, 5% regulatory costs, and 3% customer support and insurance.
Runner up for the unicorn status
Lime is the brand of the transportation company Neutron Holdings, Inc., previously known also as LimeBike. The company is based in San Francisco, USA. In comparison with Bird, Lime’s vehicle-sharing business takes different forms: electric scooters, electric bikes, regular pedal bikes, electric mopeds, and car-sharing systems in various cities around the world. Lime operates with dockless vehicles that users find and unlock via a mobile app. It finds the location of available vehicles via GPS.
Lime was founded in January 2017 by Brad Bao and Toby Sun - former executives of the venture capital firm Fosun International. Over a period of two months, the company raised US$12 million in venture funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Lime's first location was the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and they launched with 125 bicycles. In October 2017 the company closed a Series B round. Afterward Lime announced that it was valued at $225 million. It became a unicorn in 2018 following a $335 million funding round and $1.1 billion valuations. To date, Lime has raised $935 million in total funding across five rounds.
Lime operated in more than 120 cities over 30 countries as of September 2019. It started 2020 with the announcement that it had added 11 locations to this list, including several US metropolitan areas such as Atlanta. In the first quarter of 2021 Lime announced that it has allocated $50 million to its bike-share operation, an investment that has been used to develop a new e-bike and will fund its expansion this year to another 25 cities in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
This announcement came a month after Lime announced plans to add electric mopeds to its micromobility platform. Lime is launching the effort by deploying 600 electric mopeds on its platform in Washington, D.C. The company is also working with officials to pilot the mopeds in Paris. Lime mopeds are manufactured by NIU, a Chinese company that also supplies mopeds to New York City-based mobility company Revel. NIU’s mopeds typically have a range of between 25–100 miles. Lime’s mopeds will be speed limited to 28 mph and can be controlled and monitored via wireless connectivity.
Lime uses many different manufacturers for the production of bikes and scooters. Other vehicles in Lime's fleet include:
- Lime-S electric scooters - four different models are currently in use: Lime-S Ninebot ES4, made by Segway with the extra battery attached on to the Main Pole, Lime-S Generation 1, Lime-S Generation 2, Lime-S Generation 3, Lime-S Generation 4.
- Lime-E electric-assist bikes.
- LimeBike - the classic dock-free bicycle.
- LimePod - colorfully branded Fiat 500s, a small, two-door model.
The fee to start any Lime ride is $1.00 and has to be paid no matter what. Afterwards, the user has to pay per minute to ride. Charges are rounded up to the nearest minute and rates and promotions. Users also pay $1 to unlock the car and an additional 40 cents per minute they drive.
In May 2021 Lime rolled out a new monthly subscription service for its electric scooters named Lime Prime. For $5.99 a month, users won't have to pay an initial fee. And in markets with no unlock fees, riders will receive 25 percent off the price of their ride. Subscribers will still pay the per-minute charge, but Lime says that someone who uses one of its scooters every day would save approximately $25 a month under the subscription plan.
Lime made its first quarterly profit in Q3 in 2019 according to Reuters. Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime said that the company generated positive free cash flow in the third quarter, having exited some markets where it was losing money, optimized the operation of its two-wheelers, and cut head office costs. “With these improvements, I believe we’re on track to be fully profitable in the full year 2021,” he told Reuters in an interview.
With micro-mobility to NASDAQ
The first company providing micro-mobility services and making up to NASDAQ seems to be Helbiz. It operates in North America and Europe. With more than 200 employees around the world, the company is the market leader in Italy and it operates e-scooters, e-bicycles and e-mopeds in over 20 cities around the world including Washington D.C., Alexandria, Arlington, Atlanta, Miami, Richmond, Milan and Rome. Helbiz was founded on 16 October 2015 by Italian serial entrepreneur, Salvatore Palella and was the first company to introduce the shared electric scooter model in Italy back in October 2018 through the legalization and regulation of the electric scooters in Italy.
Helbiz announced the intention to have a public offering on NASDAQ and on the Borsa Italiana AIM Italia exchange. In August 2019, the company announced it has completed the initial investment round for approximately $7.13 million. In October 2019, Forever Sharing, a China-based company producing electric smart mobility vehicles has acquired 5% of the Helbiz. This Chinese company invested 8 million dollars in Helbiz by valuing it at 160 million dollars. As a result, Forever Sharing agreed to supply Helbiz with 20,000 electric bicycles and e-scooters by the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 to deploy globally. There was no IPO.
Helbiz has raised a total of $56.9M in funding over 10 rounds. The company’s revenues reached nearly $4 million in 2020 but it plans to have $449M revenue by 2025.
Helbiz offers three vehicle types - e-scooters, e-bikes, and e-mopeds. The company offers the same payment plan for their customers as its competitors - users pay $1 to unlock the vehicle and an additional 30 cents per minute. The exception is the e-moped that charges only 26 cents per minute. Also Helbiz has an unlimited program that costs 29.99 a month.
Helbiz is planning to move forward by using penetration and user base to launch new products - public transit integration & ticketing, HelbizKitchen food delivery, and Native Wallet & Payment System. The company is in the process of obtaining its fintech license in Europe.
To sum it all up:
There is a lot we can learn from the success of these big companies. However, they usually focus on big cities with huge populations, complicated infrastructure, and a big investment required to launch there. At the same time, all over the world small cities are seeking to improve their micro-mobility capabilities. And this is the opportunity. ATOM team will take care of the software - one of the most complicated parts of this business. As we have several years of experience in the vehicle sharing business, we would also be happy to help with any other questions you might have. It is possible to start quickly and launch a vehicle-sharing business in next to no time. Here is the link to our blog. You will find a lot of helpful information there.
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With the increasing demand for shared mobility, we've seen different business models in the car market: traditional car rental, peer-to-peer car sharing, and on-demand car sharing.
In this blog post, we're going to compare these business models. We'll look at the established traditional car rental companies and how they stack up against the newer peer-to-peer and on-demand services. We'll explore how these companies are doing financially – and make some predictions about their possible future.
Traditional car rental
Traditional car rental companies like Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis operate by owning or leasing their own fleets of vehicles. They usually have rental offices and parking lots in strategic locations such as airports and city centers. Customers looking to rent a car make reservations through the company's websites, mobile apps, or by phone. Typically, customers pay a daily or weekly rate, plus additional costs for mileage and optional services like insurance.
Avis – proving that traditional car rental is going strong
Avis was founded in 1946 in Detroit, and it quickly established itself as a major player in the car rental market. Avis is best known for its "We Try Harder" slogan, which was introduced in the 1960s and became a symbol of the company's commitment to customer service. Over the years, Avis has expanded its operations globally.
Avis had a strong second quarter in 2023. They reported $3.1 billion in revenue, with a net income of $436 million. The company saw an increase in usage compared to the same period in 2022, reaching 70.5%. Avis also performed better than expected on Wall Street, with earnings of $11.01 per share – surpassing the estimated $9.79.
At the end of Q2 2023, Avis had around $1.1 billion in liquidity and an additional $1.1 billion for fleet funding. Avis CEO Joe Ferraro credited the strong results to the company's ability to capitalize on the growing travel demand, particularly during the busy summer season.
Hertz – usage and fleet growth
Hertz was founded in 1918 in Chicago. Over the years, Hertz grew into a global brand, serving both the leisure and business travel sectors. Despite various ownership changes, it has maintained a strong presence in the car rental market.
Hertz also reported a healthy second quarter in 2023. They made $2.4 billion in revenue, mainly due to high demand – rental volume increased by 12% compared to the previous year, and their average fleet grew by 9%.
Each vehicle brought in an average of $1,516 per month during the quarter, thanks to a usage rate of 82%, which was 230 basis points higher than in Q2 2022. As of June 30, 2023, Hertz had $1.4 billion in liquidity, with $682 million in unrestricted cash. Overall, Avis' old rivals Hertz are doing quite well too.
Peer-to-peer car sharing
Peer-to-peer car sharing allows private vehicle owners to offer their cars for rent through platforms like Turo and Getaround. The vehicles are distributed across various neighborhoods and residential areas, offering a decentralized and more flexible system. Customers can use these platforms to find and reserve their vehicles of choice.
Turo – promising financials, uncertain IPO plans
Turo, founded in 2009, began as RelayRides and was later rebranded. Turo offers an online platform that allows individual car owners to rent out their vehicles to other people when they are not using them. The company provides a marketplace where people can list their cars for rent, and renters can search for and book vehicles for short-term use.
Turo has gained popularity as a more flexible and often cost-effective alternative to traditional car rental services. It allows car owners to monetize their vehicles when they're not in use and provides renters with a wide selection of cars to choose from.
Turo, valued at $1.2 billion in 2019, has seen promising financials. In 2022, they earned $746.59 million, up 59% from the previous year, with 320,000 vehicle listings. They went from substantial losses in 2019 and 2020 to a net income of $154.66 million in 2022.
Turo also grew its marketplace, engaging with 160,000 active car owners and 2.9 million riders worldwide by the end of 2022. However, according to their S-1 filing, they anticipate increasing expenses in the future, which might challenge their profitability.
Turo applied for an IPO on the Nasdaq in 2022 but didn't proceed. The IPO plans were delayed, likely due to challenges like the 2022 tech downturn. However, recently, Turo revived its plan to go public and could list their shares in the fall of 2023.
Getaround – an uncertain future
Getaround is another popular peer-to-peer car-sharing platform that allows individuals to rent out their personal vehicles to others when they are not using them. It's often referred to as the "Airbnb of cars." Introduced in 2011, it is currently accessible in over 1,000 cities in the United States and Europe.
In 2022, Getaround earned $62.3 million in revenue. However, they reported an EBITDA of -$25.0 million, indicating that its operating expenses exceeded its earnings. Overall, the company experienced a net loss of -$46.8 million for the year. Getaround's total assets were valued at $217.1 million.
During its public market debut in 2022, Getaround witnessed a significant decrease in its share value, plummeting by as much as 65%.
In March 2023, the company got a notice from the New York Stock Exchange saying it didn't meet the requirements. This was because their average global market capitalization over 30 consecutive trading days fell below $50 million, and their reported stockholders' equity was also below $50 million.
Overall, Getaround's stock market troubles and weak finances make their future uncertain for now.
On-demand car sharing
On-demand car sharing services like Zipcar and Share Now (formerly Car2Go) maintain their own fleets, which are parked throughout cities in designated spots or on the streets. Customers can access these vehicles in real-time using mobile apps. The pricing structure usually includes fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
Share Now – downsizing, acquired by Stellantis
Share Now, a German carsharing firm born from the merger of Car2Go and DriveNow, now operates as a subsidiary of Stellantis' Free2Move division, offering car sharing services in European urban areas. It has over four million registered members and a fleet of 14,000+ vehicles across 18 European cities.
In late 2019, ShareNow announced the closure of its North American operations due to competition, increasing operational costs, and limited support for electric vehicles. Service in London, Brussels, and Florence was also discontinued.
On May 3, 2022, Share Now was acquired by Stellantis, with the ownership now managed by Stellantis subsidiary Free2Move, following the closure of the acquisition on July 18, 2022.
CityBee – a success story in Baltics
CityBee, founded in 2012 in Lithuania, started as a car-sharing service primarily aimed at businesses. It now operates in the whole Baltic region. Customers can choose from a variety of vehicles, including cars, vans, bikes, and electric scooters. The fleet also includes electric and hybrid cars. CityBee takes care of insurance, fuel, and parking fees in CityBee areas.
In 2022, CityBee reported a sales revenue of €33,168,028, slightly down from the previous year's €39,814,173. However, the company's profitability surged, with a profit before taxes of €2,193,820 – a substantial increase from the €968,722 in 2021. This also resulted in a higher profit margin of 6.61% in 2022, compared to 2.43% in 2021.
CityBee saw its net profit rise to €1,857,517 in 2022, a substantial increase from the €876,986 in 2021. The company's equity capital also grew to €4,688,176, indicating a stronger financial foundation. CityBee shows that on-demand car sharing can succeed with the right approach in the right market.
There's room for different business models
The shared car mobility market is large enough for different solutions to exist together – especially with car ownership costs going up. Companies like Hertz and Avis demonstrate that the traditional rental model remains relevant and holds significant profit potential.
Despite financial challenges, peer-to-peer car sharing and on-demand car sharing are attracting a fresh customer base. Peer-to-peer car sharing offers a more personal touch by letting people rent their own vehicles. On-demand car-sharing services are a great solution for urban residents, offering quick pay-as-you-go access to vehicles.
While the position of traditional car rental giants might seem unshakeable, it's a fast-moving, evolving market. Regional success stories – such as CityBee – certainly prove that challengers are not asleep.
If you own a fleet, operate a car rental business, or are looking to get into one, ATOM Mobility can equip you with an end-to-end software suite that will put you miles ahead from competition.
Running a successful shared mobility business is more than just providing rides from one place to another. It's about placing your customers at the heart of your business – making them feel valued, appreciated, and the real focus of all your efforts. In other words, it involves a customer-centric approach.
Let’s take a closer look at what a customer-centric strategy means, why it's important – and how to adopt it in a shared mobility business.
What being customer-centric means and why it's important
Customer centricity means shaping your business to deliver an excellent customer experience at every step. It's a strategy to build stronger brand loyalty and satisfaction, leading to deeper and longer-lasting customer relationships.
It involves shaping your messages and services to match what your clients want and like. Being customer-centric is about recognizing the pivotal role customers play in the success of any business.
Here are the main reasons why it’s a worthwhile strategy to consider:
- Customer satisfaction and loyalty: When you put your customers first, you're more likely to provide them with what they truly want – and satisfied customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.
- Positive reputation: Satisfied customers become your brand advocates. They share their positive experiences, enhancing your brand's reputation and attracting new customers.
- Easier to stay ahead: Talking to customers and getting their feedback can help make your services more innovative and proactive. It helps you stay ahead of the curve and meet changing customer demands.
Key aspects of a customer-centric shared mobility business
Now, let's look at the key areas in which shared mobility businesses can enhance the customer-friendliness of their services.
User-friendly and engaging software
Software is often the first point of contact for customers when they start using a shared mobility service – and it's important to ensure that this first impression is positive.
In this case, a user-centric approach is about making sure the software doesn't get in the way but rather enhances the user experience. For customers, it should be effortless to book a ride or rent a vehicle.
Consider these factors when aiming to provide a customer-centric software experience:
- Keep it simple: Make sure the software is straightforward and easy to use – especially for people who might not be tech-savvy. It's a good idea to have a clear layout – keep the interface organized with easily visible buttons for key tasks like booking rides, checking ride details, and providing feedback.
- Let customers pay as they like: Give users multiple ways to pay (cards, ApplePay, GooglePay, PayPal and more), and, if possible, show them an estimate of the service cost before they confirm it. This helps users know what to expect and makes the process more transparent and user-friendly.
- Features to drive engagement: Consider additional features that can boost user engagement and make the overall experience more enjoyable. One intriguing option to explore is gamification, which involves infusing apps with game-like elements. The idea is to offer users a feeling of achievement as they advance and complete various tasks within the app.
If you are after a white-label solution, Atom Mobility offers a user-friendly high-converting mobile app for both iOS and Android, which can be customized to match your brand. The app is regularly updated and supports various vehicle types, languages, and geographic locations.
Great customer support
When a business is all about making customers happy and putting them first, one of the key aspects is having great customer support. It’s key to better customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth.
Here are the key principles that define great customer support:
- Speed: Customers don't like waiting a long time for answers to their questions – they want quick solutions to their queries. It's a good idea to give customers various options for getting help, like phone, email, chat, and social media. You can also offer self-help tools like FAQs, chatbots, and online guides. Some customers like finding answers on their own, which can cut down on the number of questions needing human assistance.
- Knowledge: While being fast is important, it should come with knowing your stuff and giving accurate info to customers. Your support representatives should have a deep understanding of your company's services, policies, and available resources. Customers must have confidence in the information provided by your customer service team – nobody wants to call about the same problem repeatedly.
- Treating customers with care: Good customer service means treating customers with respect, courtesy, and professionalism in every interaction. Sometimes customers may feel anxious or frustrated, and it's crucial to empathize with their needs – picture yourself in their situation, and let them know you're fully committed to their problem.
Safety, feedback, and proactive solutions
Let's explore other important factors like safety, feedback, and proactive solutions that can solidify a business's role as customer-centric.
- Commitment to safety and reliability: According to a survey by McKinsey, safety is the top priority for shared mobility users worldwide. In other words, businesses should make customers confident in their ability to provide safe and reliable services. Take shared micromobility fleet vehicles as an example – they should be well-maintained in both appearance and technical condition. This ensures that customers feel confident and secure when using them. Ride-hailing businesses should find ways to promote safe driving and take strong action against drivers who don't follow the rules.
- Listen and act on feedback: You should actively engage your customers through a continuous feedback loop. Collect and analyze your customer feedback – whether it's through in-app surveys, email, or social media channels. This way, you can identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to improve the customer experience. When customers think their feedback matters, they usually feel more connected to a business.
- Stay ahead of the curve: Last but definitely not least – try to be proactive. When you see an opportunity to improve things, there's no need to wait for a customer to point it out – go ahead and do it. By staying ahead of the game, you can pleasantly surprise your customers and even exceed their expectations.
Conclusion: putting the customer first
A great shared mobility business is not just getting from point A to point B – it's an experience that customers appreciate and want to repeat. With the right tools and mindset, you can deliver this kind of experience to your customers and set the stage for your business's long-term success. A customer-centric approach simply recognizes that your customers are your business – since their satisfaction is what fuels your own success.