Uber: Scooter partnership with Lime

Today, Lime announced that it is raising a $335m investment round led by Google Ventures, Alphabet, and Uber. Following the announcement, Uber disclosed that the green scooters will be available through its ride-hailing app. 

This fresh round of investment brings LimeBike, a company founded in 2017, to the respected unicorn club. The company currently offers a range of last-mile solutions: Lime-S, Lime-E, and LimeBike. These correspond to Lime's electric scooters, electric bikes, and smart pedal bikes. 

The recent announcement raises a few interesting questions - and allows for some fascinating observations. 

1. As previously noted, Google Ventures and Alphabet chose to invest alongside each other in the bike/scooter-sharing company. Investments at the holding company level have ordinarily been interpreted as strategic moves hinting at the pursuit of a new direction for the Alphabet group. This could mean that Alphabet is looking to complement its autonomous vehicles / robotaxi services (Waymo) with other means of transport. 

2. Uber and Alphabet are now co-investors in Lime. Alphabet is already invested in Uber's future, as the settlement for the coveted trade secrets litigation (Waymo v Uber) saw a 0.3% ownership stake in Uber move to Alphabet. It will be interesting to see whether such proximity will pave the way for further, more direct partnering. 

3. Uber is now the owner of Jump Bikes and a partner of Lime. According to the press releases, Uber will integrate scooter-sharing into its app (no mention of bikes). Interestingly, though, Uber gains indirect access to places like Massachusetts, where JUMP is not allowed. One example is Massachusetts: Lime and Spin are the two bike-sharing operators that received authorisation to operate in a number of areas around Boston. It is worth noting that Dara Khosrowshahi did not explicitly mention scooters in his relevant tweet, but instead, mentioned "eco-friendly and traffic-friendly options". The question is: Will Uber offer access to Lime's e-bikes in places where JUMP does not operate, or will it forego the opportunity to provide MaaS-like solutions to its users? 

4. The bike-sharing space is overpopulated. Spin recently dropped out of the bicycle race and announced it will be focusing exclusively on scooters. Will the consolidation in the bike-sharing space, led by Uber (JUMP) and Lyft (Motivate), be followed by a similar tendency towards consolidation in the scooter-sharing business? Notably, Uber and Lyft have also been vying for ownership of Skedaddle, presumably in a race to control the entire spectrum of mobility products.  Is it possible that we will soon see Uber acquiring Lime, and Lyft making a similar acquisition bid for another scooter operator, such as Spin or Bird? Interestingly, Bird is now valued at approximately $2b, according to CNN.

Photo Credit: Joe Flood

Andrew Kyprianides