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Jun 11, 2019

Self-proclaimed scooter experts, Cody Thornton (Digital First AE) and Pat Forquer (Enterprise AE), give myself and Spencer Burke (VP of Growth) their views on the proliferation of e-scooters in major cities, the safety risks involved, and the competitive landscape for micro-mobility talent.






PJ: Hello again. Welcome back to Braze for Impact, your mar-tech industry discuss digest. I'm thrilled today to have with me Spencer Burke, VP of growth. Spence, how we doing?



Spencer Burke: Doing Great, thanks PJ.



PJ: Also, Patrick Forquer from our sales org here in the east. Pat?



Patrick Forquer: Oh, PJ. Doing excellent. Thanks for having me.



PJ: And first time ever having a remote guest in from LA from our sales org on the west coast. Cody Thornton. How you doing buddy?



Cody Thornton: PJ, I'm fantastic. Thanks for having me. Excited for this.



Spencer Burke: Coast to coast.



PJ: Coast to coast. It feels good. I mean, also this is the scooter episode. We have a lot of articles that we're going to digest today all around scooter sharing companies. Cody Thornton is a big scooter guy.



Cody Thornton: Big. I am so pro scooter. It's not even funny.



PJ: One of the biggest. Before we jump into the content, let's just start with a little disclaimer. The company Braze, we work with plenty of scooter sharing companies. All the comments you're going to hear today are just personal opinions. Braze does not promote or disparage any scooter app. We are advocates of all of them. So Patrick, I feel like you have a strong opinion perhaps.



Patrick Forquer: Ugh, love scooters. Like I'm so onboard with scooters. I'm fully ... I don't know how you call being on a scooter, but I'm on scooter on board.



PJ: Both.



Patrick Forquer: Both feet. Left foot, right foot, gripping tightly signaling with traffic, the whole thing. I'm onboard.



PJ: Spencer, where do you lie?



Spencer Burke: I have a confession. I've never ridden a scooter.



PJ: Wow.



Spencer Burke: Escooters are brand new to me, so I'm a blank slate. I am happy to hear PJ's perspective. Cody and pat, try and convince me. All righty. So Cody, you are a huge advocate for the scoot scoot. Am I right?



Cody Thornton: Yes. I am a major advocate. I feel like ... I'm from Los Angeles, live in San Francisco., I feel like two great markets for the scooter industry and these companies. I'm just a big fan of micro mobility from the accessibility and practicality of it to the environmental benefits. I think there's a lot of short distance transportation that is much easier and quicker with, per se, a scooter rather than using an Uber, driving your car, filling parking garages. So I will admit I think there's a lot to figure out from safety to legislation in the space, but overall I am a big fan of scooters. I think it's pretty promising.



PJ: Well, let's just kick it off. Our first article of the day, Byrd is launching a two seater electric vehicle to become more than a kick scooter startup. Byrd has just unveiled the Byrd cruiser, an electric vehicle that is essentially a blend between a bicycle and a moped. The Byrd cruiser can seat up to two people, and depending on the market, the cruiser will either be pedal assist or just have a peg. Also equipped with hydraulic disc brakes. Very exciting. They can stop. 52 volt battery, and many ebikes have it as well. It's designed to handle hills. So off-roading is an option. I mean it gets pretty hilly out in SF, so you must be thrilled about it, Cody.



Cody Thornton: The two things I'm most excited about are definitely the hills and the hydraulic disc brakes. I was in Austin last week riding a scooter that the brakes were definitely not working, so I was worried I would end up in one of our later articles about injuries, but yes. San Francisco being quite hilly., I think this is a big opportunity. Honestly, it's pretty interesting as well. I think too Byrd launching this cruiser has been able to categorize it as an ebike rather than a scooter, so they've been able to avoid a lot of the local legislation and government policies and politics around it. So, I'm personally super excited about this. I cannot wait to throw Patrick on the back of my Byrd cruiser and just launch up these SF hills man.



PJ: What a dream. It reminds me of Dumb and Dumber. I can get 70 miles to the gallon on this hog.



Cody Thornton: We are going to be the first people that take a Byrd to aspen.



PJ: We can only do it in Aspen. That's the best obviously. I mean does this open the door for like other vehicles where they're going to come out with a whole like series?



Spencer Burke: I think we will continue to see more diversity because to Cody's point right now it's scooters are fantastic for like last mile delivery of like point A to point B, you know, 10 minute ride, 15 minute ride, but you're not going to be doing your daily commute unless you live and work in Santa Monica where Byrd is located, which is my dream, just saying. It's like taking a scooter to work. I mean, [crosstalk 00:04:50].



Cody Thornton: I don't know. Once they're in New York why wouldn't you?



Spencer Burke: I mean can you imagine riding a scooter in New York? That is literally my nightmare.



Cody Thornton: Oh my gosh.



Spencer Burke: I'm so scared. I can barely ... I'm afraid to walk in New York [crosstalk 00:05:00].



Patrick Forquer: Yeah, you got to wear a helmet while you're walking in New York.



PJ: You got to wrap yourself in bubble wrap to get on that scooter. There's a lot of precautions.



Patrick Forquer: Is that a thing yet? Is there an aggressive scooting community?



PJ: In?



Patrick Forquer: Anywhere? Like you know ...



Cody Thornton: You're talking to it right now.



Spencer Burke: Yeah, I was about to say exhibit A over here. Cody I think is the president of a local advocacy groups for scooters.



PJ: Let's talk a little bit more about Byrd because Apple announced his support for Apple Pay and this is relevant to Byrd as well as Bonobos and a handful of other companies. Cody, you want to, you want to speak to this one a little bit? I know you were pretty jazzed about it.



Cody Thornton: Yeah, definitely. I thought this was really interesting. I actually recently got a new iPhone, had to go through the whole registration process for Byrd again and when I went through you buy it and pretty much the number of rides you want right now, so they have a 20 package ride. If you want to buy, that's their most popular one. You click it, you go through the checkout process, etc. I'd like to think I'm a little bit more technically savvy than the mass market out there, so just going through this process, I saw a larger opportunity for them to make this more seamless. From firsthand experience when I was in San Diego last year, I had a really interesting epiphany I guess. Because I was there around Memorial Day weekend and there was a ton of people who I'd say not your target demographic for scooter riders, older men and women, younger girls and boys, etc. But everyone was just wondering how to get onto the scooter. So I haven't had to download the app. And you know, I just saw it as a big organic growth vehicle for them. So I think partnerships like this with Apple Pay's NFC technology only lower the barrier of entry for all these people that are trying to figure out how to get on these scooters or ride and conversely in San Francisco right now, Lime and Byrd are not allowed in San Francisco. So I believe it's Spin, Jump, and Scoot are the three brands there, right? So most people, if you're an avid scooter goer like myself, Patrick, etc, you're most likely going to use a variety of different services depending on the city where you are. So I think technology like this, partnerships, just makes it way easier to get up and running and ultimately become a user of these different companies' services, or the scooter.



PJ: So Cody, what is the reason that like Byrd and Lime are barred in SF versus these other companies?



Cody Thornton: To my knowledge, it is all local legislation. So it was a pretty guerrilla-esque marketing tactic when these companies first started going. So you would just wake up one morning and there was just dozens of these scooters on the street and no one had any idea of where they came from, what to do with them. And again, these thoughts are our own and I am not entirely sure, but I'm pretty confident that Byrd and LIme were two of the first that went out to market in San Francisco specifically. So these scooters just were all over the street. And I remember it was a mess honestly. It was crazy. You all know San Francisco is a relatively condensed city. So you were just walking to work. There's scooters everywhere, scooters in trash cans, scooters all over the sidewalk, scooters leaning up against buildings. So, they wanted to put some legislation in place, one, to have a little bit more of a framework to operate in the cities specifically, but also limit the amount of sheer scooters that were there. I'm not sure exactly what the process was of how they determine the three vendors that were for the initial shared scooter rollout in San Francisco, but Scoot, Lime, and Spin were of the first three that got rolled out. So I'm speaking with various people that work at these organizations. They are extremely optimistic that they will be back in San Francisco sooner rather than later, but they're just going through the necessary to making it "more legit" if you will.



PJ: Got you. Got to make it legit.



Cody Thornton: Too legit to quit.



Spencer Burke: Obviously. I mean that does kind of speak to one of the articles we're going to talk about later, PJ, about around the consolidation and kind of like partnerships happening within the scooter industry right now. It makes sense for someone like an Apple who maybe doesn't know excel in scooter production, right, to partner with someone like Byrd, just to kind of get their foot in the door so to speak, but also lead to a better overall user experience. So I use the Apple Pay on the Byrd app as well. It works. It's incredible.



Cody Thornton: Nice.



PJ: Have any of you guys a bit the dust on a scooter yet? Pat, Cody?



Patrick Forquer: I'm clean. My record's clean so far. I'm going to LA tomorrow, so check back with me in a couple of days.



PJ: Yeah, Spencer, I know you have yet to ride. So I think we know your answer. Cody, what do you have over there?



Cody Thornton: Oh, I most definitely have. I have a few battle wounds that I'm quite proud of myself. Can't wait to tell my kids about these one day. Some pretty awesome scars. But no, in all seriousness, it happened in the time that I actually fell in Santa Monica. I'd like to think I'm ... You know, I like to snowboard, I like to skateboard, I like to surf, all that jazzy stuff. So I feel like I'm inclined to riding these things more than your average consumer, if you will. And so I was riding one morning in Santa Monica, I'm still not quite sure what happened to be completely honest, but it just beeped twice, went, "Beep, beep," real quick and just ejected me over the handlebars. And luckily I didn't get to seriously hurt, but I was honestly laughing. I looked like Gabby Douglas in the Olympics just mounting the handlebars. I had a puffy jacket on. I slid for like 20 feet. People ran over to make sure if I'm okay, I'm just laying there hysterically laughing. I'm like, "How did this just happen?" But yeah, I got a nice little raspberry on my hip, on my elbow. And so you know, I'm kind of in this weird middle ground of the injury topic we will talk about because it's inevitably dangerous. You can move quickly, very nimbly. People do not obey the sidewalk laws, the bike lane laws, random freak of nature accidents similar to the one I went through. That said, I mean I could wholeheartedly say I fell because of an issue with the scooter. I think most of the time in a lot of the injuries that are happening, they are rider induced so people are not riding responsibly. They're potentially under the influence of, say, alcohol potentially. But yeah, I guess we can get into that. But that is my story of how I really ate it on a scooter.



PJ: I mean, why don't we just get into right now? This next article here is the boom in electrical scooters leads to more injuries and even fatalities. So as stand up electric scooters have rolled into more than 100 cities worldwide, many of the people riding them are ending up in the emergency room with serious injuries. Others have been killed. There are no comprehensive statistics available. But a rough count by the Associated Press of media reports turned up at least 11 electric scooter rider deaths in the U.S. since the beginning of 2018. Nine were on rented scooters and two were on ones the victims owned. Spencer, you have some thoughts on this [crosstalk 00:12:34].



Spencer Burke: Yeah, this article is pretty frustrating for me because it doesn't add any context. They're clearly trying to sensationalize the fact that people have been hurt and killed, which is terrible. Don't want to minimize the impact of that to anyone. But I think there's a bigger picture issue here that it's really challenging to be a pedestrian, to be a cyclist, now to be a scooterist, or whatever the official term is, in really dense cities. It's not safe. In New York City, in many cities in the U.S. there's something called vision zero which is getting pedestrian deaths to zero as a result of traffic fatalities. So I've got some stats here that I pulled up, but every year 4,000 New Yorkers are injured and 250 are killed as a result of traffic crashes. And it's the leading cause of injury related death for kids under 14, so cars in cities are dangerous and people who are not in cars tend to get hurt. Even people in cars get hurt. So I would have liked to see in an article like this, and generally in the coverage, it is not just unique to this one article, more of an understanding of what it's like to be someone who's commuting not in a car and not in public transit, and how we can make that safer and more accessible.



Patrick Forquer: Yeah. I think when you look at it to this articles from the Santa Monica Daily Press, which if you've ever been to Santa Monica scooters are a very polarizing topic there. Just like they are my hometown of Atlanta. When I go home, people are either ... It's very polarizing, one side or the other. You either love them or hate them. And what I don't understand about the hate part, especially in a place like Atlanta where if you need to go half a mile, you get in your car and drive there, right? It's like, they're all over the sidewalks there, you know, people are just leaving them parked.



Spencer Burke: When was the last time you were on the sidewalk?



Patrick Forquer: Yeah, exactly. Like when was the last time you walked anywhere in Atlanta? Zero times have you walked anywhere that wasn't like your backyard. But the interesting stat to me from this article was a vast majority of the injuries were after, I think, 6:00PM or 7:00PM so I think we can all use our imagination there.



Cody Thornton: People are just super tired, just crashed on the scooter after a long day.



Patrick Forquer: Right, exactly.



Cody Thornton: Exhausted, 6:30, just exhausted. But I think we will continue to see like a maturation of the regulatory environment around this, which is probably warranted and needed, but at the same time, I think if it was kind of wild west to start, we're kind of moving towards a place that's much more controlled in a safer environment. So hopefully you get some kind of guardrails in place and people can scoot and peace.



Spencer Burke: It's the same for bicycles. Like this hate isn't unique to scooters. People get upset that they're building bike lanes in their neighborhood and it's taking away parking. So bikes have been around for a couple of hundred years. I think that the regulatory environment could maybe be improved. But I think we're just seeing the repeat of some same problems people have with making dense, urban areas less car friendly.



PJ: Do you think they're gonna start making it legal in New York City? Do you think that's going to happen?



Cody Thornton: I sure hope so.



Spencer Burke: Yeah, I feel like New York is such a interesting market because it's so crazy. Could you imagine just an onslaught of scooters just coming into Manhattan? Oh my gosh.



PJ: I mean where I live-



Spencer Burke: The Santa Monica Daily press will have a few thoughts about it.



PJ: I mean in Brooklyn where I live it would be fine, right? But like midtown Manhattan on a scooter-



Spencer Burke: Like where we work, yeah.



PJ: Yeah.



Spencer Burke: It would be a nightmare.



PJ: Like where we are right now would be tough.



Cody Thornton: Yeah. I had a interesting ... Because that was actually one of the primary storylines out of South be y Southwest this year in Austin, Texas was the number of emergency room admissions they had or scooter related injuries and it was a pretty interesting thread on Twitter that I was following about all these injuries and different people that were there covering the conference that were going into the emergency room for scooter related accidents. Yeah, I think to Spencer's point, there definitely needs to be, whether it's better onboarding ... In San Francisco there's the service, Scoot, if anyone is familiar with that. So it's similar to the Byrd scooter we talked about, but they're more moped like so I'm not sure what they top out at miles per hour, but they have a helmet in the back you get on, you can take them up hills, you can ride them across the city. It's like an electric moped. But prior to getting access to the application once you go through onboarding, it requires you to watch a 20 minute video. So I don't know if something like that will happen with these scooter companies in terms of like educating their riders more. But back to the Austin point and South by Southwest, similar to what Patrick said, 90% of the injuries were reported to be after 6:00 PM, so again, we can use our imaginations of what is happening then. Like Spencer said, bikes have been around for hundreds of years. We see the Go bikes popping up everywhere, the Jump bikes, like we're not just going to get rid of bikes. Bikes are inevitably dangerous as well, but I think we just need to have a little bit more understanding on both sides. But yeah, it's a complex issue and I don't have the answer. I'm just going to go ahead ride with my AirPods in and let my hair flow in the wind on those bad boys.



PJ: Cody. I don't have the answer. I'm just a dude.



Spencer Burke: Just a guy.



PJ: Wait, Cody, do you need to wear a helmet or is that not even a thing?



Cody Thornton: Man, you're really hitting all my scooter knowledge today. That's another a soft spot for me that you do not need to wear a helmet. I will not disclose which one, but I personally worked with one of the scooter companies to bring them on board to become a customer Braze. And the example that I gave them is last year in 2018 Memorial Day weekend in San Diego, I was riding and my friends and I around eight in the morning were ushered over to the side of the road by a group of police officers. And we were cited for not riding with helmets. We had no idea that you even had to wear a helmets when you were riding these scooters at the time. So we get our citations. It was very, you know, cordial, fine experience, frustrating to say the least. But we go away and this older woman says, "Haven't you been watching the news? They have been handing out tickets to everyone not wearing helmets on the scooters." And I'm like, "No, I'm not watching the San Diego Daily News on my vacation. I'm sorry." But so we talked about using geo-fencing technology that we have here at Braze to run a notification to these people saying, "Hey, they're issuing citations in this area. Make sure you're wearing a helmet." Since then, I believe it was January 1, 2019 a statewide law has been passed that helmets are no longer required to ride scooters in California. I don't know how I feel about that. I don't want to wear a helmet when I wear these things.



PJ: Based on personal experience.



Cody Thornton: I also want people to be safe too.



PJ: That's so California. "Hey man, you going to ride a scooter?



Spencer Burke: No helmet needed. Just a slip tank in the summer months.



Patrick Forquer: For what it's worth ... This doesn't apply to scooting since you're not doing any work, but I think there have been some studies in Australia where they looked at the net benefit between the increase to injury of not riding with a helmet and the health benefit of riding your bike every day for commuting, and on the whole it's better for you if you're every day riding a bike, getting to work, getting some exercise. So, that's been a lot of the influence for just increasing people's mobility, giving them access to these kinds of things, even if they don't require a helmet, which is the same for city bikes here in New York.



PJ: All right, well you guys one more to go left. We're tight on time, but let's get to it. So scooter sharing startups slug it out in a war for niche talent. On demand scooter sharing startups are competing to hire from one another as they struggle with a limited talent pool chasing niche skills. These startups fast emerging as alternatives to last mile mobility require people with experience around internet of things based supply chain, design, and manufacturing. These are specialized skills as the technology itself is relatively new. So, it sounds like there's just not enough people to go around that know how to do this stuff right now, especially in your-



Cody Thornton: Yeah, I mean, they know where to find me. [crosstalk 00:20:52].



Patrick Forquer: The one thing that surprised me most when I first rode a Byrd was just how like the product is great. It looks great, it works really well. The check-in process, seamless. Offline, online, the whole thing was fantastic. So, I could imagine this like this is a booming space. Five years ago, no one was talking about last mile scooter delivery. So, not surprising and it's like that's the most kind of Silicon Valley thing ever is like competing for scooter talent.



Spencer Burke: What about all those guys at Razor that were in the market 10 years ago?



PJ: Razor. Throwback.



Patrick Forquer: Getting crushed



PJ: Yeah. Where's razor and all of this? Huge missed opportunity Razor.



Patrick Forquer: Totally.



PJ: To Pat's point, I thought it was pretty interesting when working with a few of the scooter companies myself. I didn't really realize it either until like ... In all seriousness, like five years ago, no one was talking about like this mass mobility or the scooter phenomenon that is going on, right? And to Pat's point as well too, I think from the onboarding experience and signing up and aside from realizing how great of a product it was, obviously first and foremost, how liberating riding a scooter is. Like that is just the greatest feeling in the entire world. I felt like I was a 10 year old kid, again. It's interesting. They're pretty well built products honestly. And you know, they have a very functioning mobile application that's powering these things. They have the actual physical scooters themselves. A lot of these companies are poaching talent from the likes of Lyft and Uber that not only from, you know, like on the mobile side of things but also from the legal side. Like these companies have massive battles in front of them on local government, statewide government, federal government and having experience with that. So I think, one to, obviously the consolidation aspect is pretty interesting from a manufacturing and supply chain perspective as well. But also I'm sure there's going to be a lot of acqui-hires in this space as well by these companies that will emerge as the juggernauts and I guess it's yet to be determined who those companies will be. And to anyone out there looking to have a career change, maybe look into last minute mobility tech. I don't know. It sounds like there's a need. Spencer, Cody. Patrick, thanks so much for being with me, you guys.



Spencer Burke: It's my pleasure, PJ.



Patrick Forquer: Thanks, Peej.



Cody Thornton: Yeah, it's my pleasure. Be safe out there people. Don't be afraid, but be smart while being dumb.



PJ: Absolutely, and for all those first time listeners out there, we are Braze. Braze is a customer engagement platform. If you don't know what that is, go to Find out. Thanks again for being with us.