The biggest tech news coming out of Europe this week – at least within my wheelhouse – was the de-cloaking
of ‘micro mobility’ startup Flash, the new venture co-founded by Lukasz Gadowski of Delivery Hero and Team Europe fame.
Most recently Gadowski has been an Entrepreneur in Residence at Target Global, where he’s been eyeing up the mobility space for the past two years (including backing Grin
, the Mexico City-based electric scooter company backed by Y Combinator).
At first glance, Flash looks like nothing more than the latest e-scooter company to appear in Europe, but in a candid interview with your’s truly
, Gadowski talked up his ambitions well-beyond e-scooters. This included describing the company as “unbundling” the car, in a bid to provide last-mile transportation for increasingly congested and environmentally-bust cities.
Top of my mind, however, was the amount of VC dollars being pumped into the e-scooter rental space.
U.S.-based Lime and Bird are the best-funded competitors, including being part-backed by VCs in London (Index and Accel have backed Bird
, and Atomico has backed Lime
). However, for once, European startups and VCs seem to be more than up for the fight. For the time being, they aren’t content to see a repeat of Uber where the Silicon Valley firm rode into Europe and steamrolled many local competitors.
Recent money going into European e-scooter startups, as reported by me includes:
As part of this ongoing coverage, I’ve talked to many VCs who are bullish on e-scooters, including those that have chosen to sit out the craze. But, more fun, are the VCs that believe the whole thing is a blood bath waiting to happen.
This is based on:
a) the huge amounts of capital being bet, coupled with at least 6 or more relatively deep pocketed competitors.
b) the belief that the market cap for e-scooter rides in Europe isn’t large enough to sustain multiple multibillion dollar businesses in the long term. (In other words, are enough consumers in Europe ever going to want to ride on an e-scooter?)
The counter argument is that these companies – Gadowski’s Flash included – shouldn’t be viewed purely through the lens of e-scooters alone. Instead, they are in the business of last mile or micro mobility-as-a-service, riding the coattails of macro trends around sustainability, population growth and mega cities. What the future modes of transport will be is anybody’s guest, but e-scooters are the way to get there.
After my piece on Flash was published, Gadowski sent me a WhatsApp message with some further reading, including this piece by Yev Podgayetsky: What’s the future of electric scooters? 18 point roadmap.
It touches on many of the challenges these micro-mobility companies are going to face, while this quote sums up how I feel in the short term regarding the battle that lies ahead.
With mostly identical vehicles made on the same
factory and the same pricing policy, scooter companies are now in perfect competition. So the war will go on smoother user experience and cooperation with cities.
(As a side note, I’d never spoke to Gadowski before, despite covering Delivery Hero and Team Europe many times over the years, and having quite a few mutual contacts. I found him easy to talk to and quite candid, considering how media-trained he must be. Afterwards though I couldn’t help be reminded that I once caused his company a great deal of trouble