Commentary

Uber Acquiring Dockless E-Bike Startup Jump As Its Mission Expands

Uber yesterday said that it is buying Brooklyn-based Jump, a dockless, GPS-enabled bike-sharing service featuring fiery red, pedal-assisted e-bikes that riders are currently using to tool around San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for $2 a half-hour.

TechCrunch, which last week broke the news that the two companies were talking and speculated that the sale price would be north of $100 million, says a source reports the deal was done for closer to $200 million. The companies aren’t saying.

“Jump’s decision to sell to Uber came down to the ability to realize the bike-share company’s vision at a large scale, and quickly,” CEO Ryan Rzepecki tells TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey. “He also said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s leadership impacted his decision,” she writes.

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“I had a chance to spend a couple of evenings with him, and really talk through his vision for the business and our vision, and saw a lot of alignment,” Rzepecki said, while noting Uber’s rough road last year.

“‘I think it’s really on the right course now and [Khosrowshahi] believes the way we approach working with cities and our vision for partnering with cities' aligns with Uber’s mission,” Rzepecki said. 

In the first paragraph of his blog post announcing the alliance, Khosrowshahi writes: “… our ultimate goal is one we share with cities around the world: making it easier to live without owning a personal car. Achieving that goal ultimately means improving urban life by reducing congestion, pollution and the need for parking spaces.

“That’s why we’re committed to bringing together multiple modes of transportation within the Uber app — so that you can choose the fastest or most affordable way to get where you’re going, whether that’s in an Uber, on a bike, on the subway, or more.”

And that's why the auto industry is in an upheaval, although industry veteran Bob Lutz will tell you that it’s overreacting to a threat that “is not around the corner,” as he writes in a recent Road & Track piece. The result, he says after walking through the North American International Auto Show, is “an industry-wide ‘blanderizing.’”

But Detroit is not the only industry that needs to keep its eyes on the road, even if the driverless future is more distant that some believe it will be, as Geoff Nesnow recently outlined on Medium. The way he sees it, “I believe that my daughter, who is now just over 1 year old, will never have to learn to drive or own a car.”

And if individuals aren’t buying cars, companies aren’t advertising them, and media companies aren’t getting the big bucks, and …. 

Indeed, Uber’s Khosrowshahi tells the New York Times’’ Daisuke Wakabayashi that “Jump was 'a perfect fit’ for Uber’s expanding portfolio beyond its core ride-hailing service. Uber’s food delivery service, UberEats, is growing fast, and the company also aims to provide a variety of transportation options to consumers including bike sharing.”

“Since starting the pilot program a few months ago, Uber has found that the average distance of a ride on a Jump bike is about 2.6 miles — which is not much different from how far customers travel on average for an Uber car ride. Each bike is also being used six or seven times a day,” Wakabayashi reports.

“The utilization of the bikes has been higher than expected,” Khosrowshahi tells him. “People are using these bikes for multiple trips a day.”

The Washington Post’s Andrew Heining tested four dockless bike-share systems operating in D.C. last September. “Though they won’t be launching until Monday, Jump is the standout of the group,” he concluded.

Jump won San Francisco’s permission for an exclusive 18-month deal to offer bikes in the city in January, report Carolyn Said and Wendy Lee for the San Francisco Chronicle. “It started with 250 e-bikes and could add another 250 after nine months with city approval. In February, Jump started a pilot program for San Franciscans to use Uber’s app to find and rent Jump’s bikes,” they report.

“Electric bikes are exciting because they can go longer distances at higher speeds, and handle different (terrains), such as San Francisco’s hills,” Susan Shaheen, co-director of the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center tells Said and Lee. “The flexible, floating model (for bike returns) expands the geographic range of bike use. They’re creating more choices for customers.”

And creating a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs even as automakers — and other megaliths of the Industrial Age — “seem like a deer in the headlights,” as Lutz would have it, even as they try to adapt to the App Age.

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