Scooter-sharing startup rides out pandemic as Zoomers, with a successful pivot to consumer sales

The electric scooter from Zoomers. (Zoomers Photo)

With a plan to move faster and with more innovation than traditional e-scooter rental companies, Shared hit the streets in 2019. When COVID-19 hit a year later, the Seattle-based company nearly crashed.

Now Shared is Zoomers, riding a pivot in Portland that started last May and turned the scooter-sharing startup into a direct-to-consumer and logistics hardware business. The company, which was down to less than $30,000 in the bank at its lowest point, is now cashflow positive and on track to do around $4 million in revenue in 2021 — a nearly 500% increase from 2020.

When the pandemic hit last March, Shared was asked to remove all of its scooters from the streets of Portland, where it was operating a rental program in partnership with the city.

“We put a pause on our operations and warehoused our scooters, completely cutting off the business’s revenues,” CEO and co-founder Braydon Batungbacal said. “This was also right around the time we were in the process of trying to close our next round of funding.”

Shared had previously raised $1 million from Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and other local angels.

Faced with going broke, the company started hearing from customers looking to see if they could purchase their own Zoomer while the rental business was shut down. Shared never intended to be a direct-to-consumer company, but after discussions with co-founders Alexander Mikhail and Thomas Chang, Batungbacal said they decided the best path forward was to change gears.

The rental inventory was retrofitted for consumer use with a key/lock ignition and the IoT guts were ripped out of the scooters.

“We sold out our entire retrofitted fleet to our old customers in Portland in under a month,” Batungbacal said.”The demand was so strong once we made it clear they were available for sale that we immediately took the capital generated to create a new iteration of the Zoomer exclusively focused on consumer ownership and usage.”

An old rental warehouse in Portland is now Zoomers’ HQ and fulfillment center for the DTC business. The first production order for the new consumer-built scooter was near the end of May. The all-electric Zoomer has a range of 30 miles per charge and top speed of 30 mph. They’re priced at $1,799 right now.

While they may not have seen COVID coming, the experience of running a rental business taught the founders some valuable lessons.

PREVIOUSLY: Seattle’s Shared unveils a moped-like e-vehicle for ride sharing — and plans to make it self-driving

“The rental business is definitely a difficult one,” Batungbacal said. “There’s so many moving parts that are deeply co-dependent on one another that makes it a huge challenge, as well as challenges outside of your control like vandalism and theft.”

Zoomers, with six employees, has navigated the pandemic and related manufacturing and supply chain disruptions and has inventory in stock — but they sell quickly, as month-over-month growth has been in the double-digit percentages.

The plan is to focus on one model rather than a diverse lineup of products, offering an expanding selection of plug-and-play accessories for the Zoomer.

“We want to hyper focus on building one great core product for now that yields the best customer experience,” Batungbacal said.



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