Solving the last mile, just not with scooters

Scooters are the craze du jour, littering the streets of our cities. Why then are VCs pumping hundreds of millions into scooter apps?

Solving the last mile, just not with scooters

Scooters are the craze du jour. They litter the streets of our cities, ridden here and there by post-hipster hipsters. Spend 5 minutes on Twitter and you'll see how much they're disliked. Or take a look in San Francisco bay.

Andrew Chen, siding on the side of "scooters are good," hit the twitters suggesting that scooters are really a "platform play".

Like a toy, a scooter seems underpowered vs other transportation options. It only takes you on short trips — a few blocks at a time. It's cheap and makes less money than a highly profitable Uber trip to the airport. They are placed all over the place in cities, annoying many.

These all seem like weaknesses, but in fact they're strengths. Because scooters are cheap, short-range, and ubiquitous, it means consumers are adopting them as an alternative to walking.

SCOOTERS COMPETE WITH WALKING! What’s the market size on that?? :)

Well, to quote Will Emerson in Margin Call, "some people like taking the long way around." I don't think scooters competing with walking is where Bird, Lime, and co win.

When we think about transport, it's mostly solved. Whether it's a bike, car, plane, boat or rocket ship. Whether owned, loaned, leased or Uber'd. While the systems supporting these modes of transport may be inefficient and still open to disruption, it's the last mile that Bird et el solve.

Driving a car 5 minutes to the local store is inefficient. Yet many of us do it. You have to get in your car, drive the car, park the car, walk to the store, rinse and repeat on the return journey.

I could walk, and since it's free and good for my health I typically do.

If the last mile isn't solved, it's the scooter ecosystem's data that contains the value. It certainly isn't the hardware, which is a commodity. Much in the way that Uber is really a mid-range logistics company, Bird looks a lot like a last-mile logistics company. They compete more with drones and autonomous delivery than walking.

Startups like Robby, Starship, and Marble think the last mile is still to be solved too. I wish them much success.