- Electric scooter companies like Lime, Bird, and Spin faced regulatory issues after introducing their pay-as-you-go scooter services to the streets of San Francisco earlier this year.
- Ashton Kutcher, who invested in Bird through his venture firm Sound Ventures, says that the regulatory issues facing the electric scooter companies is ‘absurd.’
- During an onstage conversation at TechCrunch Disrupt, Kutcher described these issues as “an aversion to change.”
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The first on-demand startups tended to follow a strategy of asking forgiveness, rather than permission, when it came to entering new markets.
As an early investor in both Uber and Airbnb, actor-turned-venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher is familiar with this particular playbook. Now, Bird – a red-hot scooter startup in which Kutcher’s Sound Ventures is an investor – is facing problems of its own. In the wake of a backlash from the residents of San Francisco, Bird and other startups have been barred from operating in the city; only rivals Skip and Scoot were granted the permits necessary to return.
Kutcher, for one, thinks that people who take issue with the scooters. During an onstage chat at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, Kutcher described the steep regulation facing Bird as “absurd.”
“Fundamentally…the Uber thing was very frustrating the whole way through,” said Kutcher. “The Airbnb thing- regulatory-wise – has been incredibly frustrating. To me, [the scooter issue] is the simplest of them all.”
He continued: “Nobody wakes up in the morning, opens their front door, looks outside and says, ‘God look how many cars there are parked everywhere. They’re f–king parked everywhere! … It’s ridiculous! And they’re clogging up the roads…’ But boy, we open up the door and go, ‘Man! There are just scooters all over the place. And it’s like hold on…wait a second. This is just aversion to change.'”
“If you think about it from a pure square footage perspective – how much space a scooter takes up relative to a car, this is absurd, right? And fine, I understand, maybe we need to find appropriate parking places for these and everything else, but the regulatory function on this [is] just something you’re not used to. It’s just a better world if this takes off and works.”
Bird, the fledgling Santa Monica-based electric scooter startup, has taken in a whopping $US415 million since it was founded less than one year ago.
Earlier this year, competing electric scooter startups Bird, Spin, and Lime introduced their dockless scooters on the footpaths of San Francisco. While many praised the new form of transportation for its ease and efficiency, others took issue with the number of scooters littering the city’s footpaths.
Regulation was swift: In April, San Francisco’s city attorney issued a cease-and-desist order, effectively shutting down the companies’ free range use of the city’s footpaths. Currently, the startups are embattled in a long-running permitting issue with San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency, with Skip and Scoot being granted the permits necessary to return starting in October.
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