Interviewed: Michael Keating of Scoot, the Zipcar of e-Scooters

Car sharing is a wonderful thing, helping reduce or eliminate the need to own a car, helping reduce traffic congestion and free up parking. But there’s some flaws in this model, as Michael Keating, CEO of Scoot shared in the above interview with Shareable’s Neal Gorenflo.

Scoot is, as Keating says, the Zipcar of electric scooter sharing. So why scooters? Keating says, “My concern was that I think cars aren’t a very good way to get around within cities. They’re a really awesome form of transportation if you’re leaving town or going anywhere outside of a crowded, congested city”. He goes on to say that electric cars and shared cars are fine too, but they’re still cars taking up unnecessary space for an often underutilized asset.

Scoot is launching in San Francisco, and having lived there myself, this makes complete sense. Hills and an improving but subpar road infrastructure make it somewhat unfriendly for biking. Most everybody uses the packed, often late mass transit largely because parking is scarce and prohibitively expensive. I recall being thrilled if I found parking within 5 blocks of my home.

So why not electric bikes? Scoot’s aim is to compete with cars being fast enough to move in typical city traffic flow at 30 mph, but on two wheels for a smaller footprint, increased agility, and the ability to park right in front of your destination, or slotted in between parked cars on their metered time.

Scoot is currently in beta at The Hub, the premier coworking space for social entrepreneurs in San Francisco's tech-saturated SoMa district. It’s a natural starting point as people there are already inclined to share resources. My initial thought was, will the feedback they get be skewed by the type of people drawn to such a workspace?

As it turns out, coworking spaces are a central part of their launch strategy. They plan to expand to other coworking spaces and tech companies that want to offer this service to their tenants and employees. Keating puts it well when he says, “Work is what induces most travel. Commute, business meetings, going to lunch.”

Scoot reports reduced stress as one the benefits too. Keating said one member reported being very relaxed since she didn’t have to pack herself into the train, fight traffic, or chase after parking. Others are using it as quick on-demand alternative to taxis and short distance trips in general.

Listen in for Keating’s interesting food analogies, comparing Scoot to a cup of coffee or smoothie, bicycling to a salad, and driving to steak!

Electric scooters, it turns out, are not merely some niche tech toy. According to Keating, they are the fastest growing form of personal transportation, some 20-30 million already on the road, primarily in rapidly urbanizing China, where people are leveling up in income but fuel availability can be restricted.

One surprising fact is that Scoot’s vehicles have no speedometer or odometer. Your phone is the dashboard! Placing the phone in a dock, it authenticates you, allows you to turn on the scooter, then becomes its dashboard, even serving as a mapping tool as needed.

Scoot is a promising entrant into the shared vehicle market, which could translate well in any number of urban environments, and college towns as well.

What do you think of the idea of sharing scooters? Please share in comments.

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