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Big Revolution - Scooting to smart growth

Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution. Today, I've been playing 'fantasy VC' and pondering what's exc
November 28 · Issue #276 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution. Today, I’ve been playing ‘fantasy VC’ and pondering what’s exciting and concerning about the current recent electric scooter boom. More on that, and much more, below.

Podcast alert!
I’m the guest on this week’s podcast. Come listen to us chew over the week’s European tech news.
Big things you need to know today
  • The controversial gene-editing Chinese scientist says he has suspended his work after public outcry. I’m not aware of any third-party verification of his claims to have produced HIV-resistant twins, however.
  • Waymo seems to be getting cold feet about a big launch of its self-driving taxi service next month. The Information reports the service in Phoenix, Arizona may be delayed and initially scaled back over safety concerns.
  • The international ‘fake news’ inquiry kicked off yesterday with a bang. The chair said he had seen evidence that Facebook first discovered unauthorised Russian activity on its platform in 2014. However, Facebook said this actually turned out to be legitimate Pinterest traffic. The question is, will people believe them this time?
  • Thinking of getting a PlayStation Classic? The speed and presentation of some of the games may disappoint.
The big thought
Credit: Bird
Scooting to smart growth
I was fascinated to see how electric scooter hire firm Bird plans to scale its business. The approach is something akin to a platform meets a franchising model, meets a white-labeling model.
Independent entrepreneurs can sign up to the Bird Platform. What happens next? TechCrunch explains:
The company will provide the independent operators with scooters, which they are given free rein to brand as they please, as well as access to the company’s marketplace of chargers and mechanics, in exchange for 20 percent of the cost of each ride. Bird says fleet managers, which may be independent entrepreneurs or local mom and pop bike rental shops, for example, can also collect and charge the scooters themselves.
Unlike the VCs throwing money at these firms, scooters don’t excite me much. They probably make sense as part of a strategically deployed transport mix in some cities, but they can be dangerous and, if left unchecked, can clutter up streets and pedestrian areas.
As such, they work best when heavily regulated – something that will impede the hockey-stick growth venture capitalists like to see. And that problem is accentuated if you factor in the slow pace at which local authorities tend to work.
Still, Bird’s scaling strategy is – on paper – an excellent way of being able to spring up where there’s demand with limited friction. It genuinely made me grin with appreciation when I read about it.
But the same problems remain. Will these ‘fleet managers’ follow the rules and give scooter hire a good reputation in their local area? Will they be held back by local laws? Will they be scared off if a customer gets badly injured?
I know VCs are encouraged to look at 'what could go right’ rather than 'what could go wrong,’ but were I investing in tech companies, my gut would keep me away from scooters entirely.
One big read
“I had to borrow money to pay my rent”: Civil’s tokenomics has left some of its journalists wondering where their salary is “I had to borrow money to pay my rent”: Civil’s tokenomics has left some of its journalists wondering where their salary is
Civil wanted to breath fresh life into journalism with a cryptocurrency based model that left many people confused as to what it actually did, and why. Now cold, hard reality is crashing into the promises it has made to newsrooms across America.
That’s all for today...
See you same place, (around the) same time tomorrow for more.
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