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Micromobility in limbo: Takeaways from Paris and LA



Shared electric scooters came onto the scene five years ago with a promising vision of getting people out of cars and onto greener modes of transportation. Yet despite billions in VC money and plenty of hype, the future that micromobility companies promised still hasn’t quite arrived.

In cities like Paris, most people aren’t replacing car trips with shared e-scooter jaunts in a meaningful way; the cost of riding scooters makes them an expensive option for last-mile transit connections and equitable access; and the public disclosures of Bird and Helbiz have shown us that achieving profitability is incredibly difficult. Plus, cities that allowed shared e-scooter companies in their midsts are increasingly making it difficult for scooter companies to operate sustainably.

For the sake of traffic flow and carbon emissions, there need to be alternatives to cars. Are shared e-scooters the answer to that, or are they just another shitty option? What have we gained by introducing shared micromobility to cities?

We decided to take a look at two cities that were at the forefront of the e-scooter revolution – Los Angeles and Paris. The former has garnered a reputation of being a bit of a free-for-all, with a laissez-faire capitalist regulatory approach that allows multiple operators to compete for rides and space. The latter has some of the strictest regulations in the game, including limited operator permits, and in fact is still considering banning shared e-scooters entirely.

“From a societal perspective, I’d be more concerned about e-scooters leaving Los Angeles than Paris,” David Zipper, a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, told TechCrunch. “Paris is so dense and has a great metro. It’s possible scooters there are replacing forms of transportation that are even greener. LA is different. It’s so car dominated and hungry for alternatives to the automobile.”

Despite that apparent hunger, two scooter operators – Lyft and Spin – recently exited the Los Angeles area, blaming a lack of favorable regulations and too much competition, which apparently made it difficult to turn a profit. In total, there are still six operators in LA – Bird, Lime, Veo, Superpedestrian, Wheels (now owned by Helbiz), and Tuk Tuk, a new entrant.

The fact that both cities – one sprawling, the other dense; one under-regulated (so say the shared scooter companies) with several operators, the other highly regulated with fewer operators – still haven’t quite got it right with e-scooters raises a key question. What type of market, if any, is the right one?

Paris: To ban or not to ban?

People wearing a protective facemasks, walk or ride their electric scooter past the statue of the Marechal Joffre with the Eiffel Tower on the background, in Paris, on May 19, 2020 as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus).

People walk or ride their electric scooter past the statue of the Marechal Joffre, in Paris, on May 19, 2020. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

If ever there were a city where you’d think shared e-scooters would thrive, it’s Paris. The city is one of the most densely populated in Europe. Most households don’t own a car, and if they do, they use them rarely. And Paris is led by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, an advocate for the reclamation of public space from roads and vehicles for a more liveable, “15-minute city.” In her time in office, Hidalgo has removed parking spots, turned streets into walkable areas and opened new bike lanes.

And yet, Paris is in the midst of potentially banning its 15,000 shared e-scooters as politicians from several parties call on Hidalgo not to renew the contracts of Lime, Dott and Tier when they expire in February 2023. She is expected to make her decision any day now, and indeed there are some rumors floating around that she already has.

Paris has been an important market for the e-scooter industry at large, but the city has chafed against the vehicles, citing safety incidents, some of which were fatal.

Over the years, Paris has responded to safety issues with increasingly strict regulations. Last summer, following the death of someone who was hit by two women riding a scooter near the Seine, Paris implemented “slow zones” for scooters. A year later, the whole city turned into a slow zone, with shared e-scooter speeds capped at just over 6 miles per hour.

Despite these harsh regulations, the city is still on the verge of saying goodbye to shared scooters forever.

Shocked. Appalled. Frustrated. These are the feelings I had upon first hearing the news of the potential ban. So what if there are accidents? Car accidents happen all the time! Boohoo to your complaints about scooters on sidewalks! Build better bike lanes, then!

But looking at the scattered statistics of how scooters are used in Paris, it’s possible that scooters aren’t providing the value that cities need – namely, limiting car usage.

Lime told TechCrunch that 90% of its fleet in Paris is used everyday, and a scooter trip starts every four seconds in the city. In 2021, over 1.2 million scooter riders, 85% of whom were Parisian residents, took a total of 10 million rides across all three operators. Lime estimated that could have replaced 1.6 million car trips. Could have, but did they?

One study from 2021 found that e-scooter users in Paris are mainly men aged 18 to 29, have a high educational level, and usually jump on a scooter for travel time savings. Most riders (72%) in the study said they shifted from walking and public transportation, not cars. Another survey of French scooter riders found that shared scooters were “more likely to replace walking trips than other modes of transport.”

These results aren’t limited to Paris. A survey among customers who were registered with five different shared e-scooter apps in Norway in the fall of 2021 found that in all circumstances except for night rides, e-scooters most often replace walking. E-scooters do replace cars with longer e-scooter trips if the user is male, if the e-scooter is privately owned, and to destinations poorly served by public transport, the study showed.

What is getting in the way of the ultimate goal – to shift travelers away from cars? Perhaps most people, in Paris at least, wouldn’t use a car anyway because the city is walkable and public transportation is sufficient. Or, maybe would-be car drivers and taxi riders just need more time to get used to the concept of scooter riding as a way of life. Or, maybe scooters just aren’t reliable as forms of transport for longer journeys.

Fluctuo, an aggregator of shared mobility data, found the average scooter trip length in Paris was 2.67 kilometers in July 2022 and 2.53 kilometers in November. A long enough journey that you might prefer not to walk it, but too short to drive it in a place like Paris.

Whether scooters are getting people out of cars or not, they’re certainly popular in Paris. A September Ipsos poll commissioned by Lime, Dott and Tier (and therefore taken with a grain of salt) found that most Parisians agree e-scooters are part of the daily mobility of the city and are consistent with City Hall’s broader transport policy. Most of the respondents (68%) said they are satisfied with the number of self-service scooters on the streets of Paris, while a quarter indicated they would actually like to see more.

And in response to the potential ban, a recent petition launched by a Paris resident has garnered more than 19,000 signatures in opposition.

Hannah Landau, Lime’s communications manager for France and southern Europe, told TechCrunch a ban would make Paris a global outlier.

“No major city in the world that introduced a shared e-scooter service has permanently banned them,” she said. “In fact, the major global trend today is cities renewing their programs – such as London – or even expanding them with more vehicles or larger service areas (NYC, Chicago, Washington D.C., Rome, Madrid, Lyon).”

Lime, Dott and Tier have put forward a variety of measures to Paris’ city hall, which they say will address safety concerns and ensure a renewal of scooter licenses next year. Among the proposals are a joint campaign to raise awareness about traffic laws; a fine system that uses cameras on public roads; expanding use of scooter ADAS to prevent sidewalk riding; and equipping scooters with registration plates.

Among major cities, Paris may be unique in weighing a blanket ban, but other locales have recently shown an appetite for limiting scooters, including Stockholm, Tenerife, Spain, Boston College and Fordham University.

– Rebecca Bellan

Los Angeles: City of Autos

A shared scooter parked on a sidewalk in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

A shared scooter parked on a sidewalk in Koreatown, a neighborhood in central Los Angeles, on December 29, 2022.

Let’s add a couple more wheels back into this discussion. Yes, I’m about to get personal about the automobile. Buckle up!

Automakers rewired American cities over the last century, and if you ask me, we’re all suffering for it – especially Angelenos. Gas-powered cars, SUVs and trucks infamously clog LA’s arteries. They muck up the air, driving climate change and health issues alike. Plus, a driver in an SUV once hit me while I was standing on the sidewalk, innocently looking for a nearby ramen joint. See, I told you it was personal!

All this is to say that, as an occasional driver and grudge-bearing pedestrian (the kind who bellows, “I’m walkin’ here!” in a vaguely New York accent), my heart aches when I see micromobility operators bail on cities, as Spin, Bolt and Lyft have in LA.

This isn’t because I ride scooters regularly, and it’s not because scooters are now scarce (a block from my apartment in central LA, I can find several Limes and Links on sidewalks and in the crooks of curbs). I simply want to see cars reined in, to rebalance the city around public transit, walking, biking and even scooting — whatever it takes to free up streets and reduce fumes. But what future do scooters and the like have here, given the recent exits, and Bird’s financial struggles to boot?

That depends on who you ask. At least one operator — Lime — says things have never been better in Tinseltown. A spokesperson recently told us that Los Angeles is Lime’s biggest American market today.

While acknowledging LA’s shortcomings for scooters, including its sprawling geography, the spokesperson likened 2022 to a “wow moment” that showed how “micromobility is here to stay.” Lime credited its local staff, work with city officials and investments in hardware for the apparently strong year, but the company did not respond when TechCrunch asked if its LA operations are currently profitable. Lime is privately held, so we don’t get as much insight into it as we do Lyft and Bird.

Lime’s experience in LA may be an outlier. Both Spin and Lyft told TechCrunch that they needed to strike new, longer-term deals with municipalities here in order to return. “In a nutshell: The challenge with LA is that it is an open vendor market with no vehicle cap,” Spin’s chief executive Philip Reinckens said in an email to TechCrunch. “This had led to an imbalance of vehicle supply to rider demand as operators over-saturate the market.”

“A long-term arrangement for limited operators would be a necessary condition to consider re-entry,” Reinckens added.

Santa Monica, a coastal city in LA county, already seems to be on board with this approach. Next year, Santa Monica says it plans to limit the number of permitted scooter operators from four to just one to two.

Zooming out: Greater LA area has a mixed reputation among cyclists, but officials have shown some willingness to accommodate things other than cars lately. There are a few interesting public initiatives underway, including recently announced efforts to promote cycling in South LA, North Hollywood and San Pedro. It’s no revolution, but it could make the city a bit safer for all lightweight modes of transportation, including e-scooters.

Taken together, LA’s scooter free-for-all seems destined for consolidation, leaving fewer operators with a whole lot of ground to cover. But shared e-scooters on the whole also don’t seem to be at risk of getting the boot, much unlike Paris.

– Harri Weber


Tesla brings back European referral program as end of Q1 nears



Tesla is bringing back its referral program to Europe, a strategy that taps into the brand loyalty of customers as it seeks to preserve market share and boost sales before the first quarter of 2023 closes.

The referral program follows Tesla’s move to reduce prices in a variety of markets, including Europe, China and North America.

Starting Tuesday in Europe, new Tesla buyers can receive 100 so-called “Loot Box Credits” when referred by a current Tesla owner, who will get 2,000 credits for the referral. If the referred customer takes delivery before March 31, 2023, they’ll get a bonus of 5,000 free Supercharging kilometres, and the referrer will get 10,000 credits. Those credits can be redeemed for software upgrades, up to 10,000 kilometers of free Supercharging “and more.”

Tesla has never used traditional advertising, so the company has historically used its referral program to get its loyal customer base to promote vehicles. Those rewards have changed over the last few years. At certain points, owners could win rewards like having a photo of their choosing launched into deep space orbit, an invite to an upcoming Tesla event, or even free new Roadsters to owners who accumulated enough referrals.

Tesla realized such extravagant rewards were starting to eat into profits, so in 2019 the automaker paused the program and came back with a more reasonable one that gives the referral giver and receiver 1,000 miles of free Supercharging each.

Last November, Tesla launched a revamped referral program in the U.S., which gives out credits that can be put towards the purchase of Tesla solar products, like the Solar Roof and Solar Panels. Tesla also launched a program in China called Treasure Box, where owners get credits that can be used towards the purchase of accessories like vehicle chargers, t-shirts or shot glasses.

The move in Europe suggests that Tesla is trying to hold onto, or even grow, its market share dominance. Tesla was the most popular EV brand in Europe last year, with the Model Y and Model 3 topping the ranks at 138,373 and 91,257 sales, respectively. Following behind were the Volkswagen ID.4 with 68,409 unit sales, the Fiat 500 electric with 66,732, and the Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid EV with 55,018 sales, according to Inside EVs.

While Tesla was the most popular EV brand in Europe last year, it actually falls behind the large multi-brand OEMs. Volkswagen Group, which includes brands like Audi and VW, actually has the largest market share of plug-in EVs with 20.6%. Stellantis, BMW Group and Hyundai follow with 14.6%, 10.5% and 10.1%, respectively. Mercedes and Tesla are tied at around 9% share.

As of this week, Tesla has finally hit production capacity of 5,000 vehicles per week at its Berlin gigafactory — a milestone CEO Elon Musk had originally promised for the end of 2022. While production numbers don’t equal sales, it’s possible that the increased production in Europe could help the automaker maintain its position and gain even more market share in the future.

The referral program isn’t the only move Tesla has made to boost sales, particularly before it reports quarterly earnings. In January, Tesla cut prices for Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in the U.S. and Europe by 20%. Earlier this month, the automaker slashed Model S and Model X prices in the U.S. as well.

In December 2022, Tesla also provided up to $7,500 discounts for vehicles purchased and delivered before the end of the year in the hopes of attracting buyers who might otherwise wait for the new year when Inflation Reduction Act incentives would kick in.

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Pinterest brings shopping capabilities to Shuffles, its collage-making app



Pinterest announced today that it’s testing ways to integrate Shuffles collage content into Pinterest, starting with shopping. Shuffles, which is Pinterest’s collage-making app, launched to general public last November. To use Shuffles, users build collages using Pinterest’s own photo library or by snapping photos of objects they want to include with their iPhone’s camera. The iOS-only app is available in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Shuffles will now have all of the shopping capabilities as regular pins. Users will be able to tap individual cutouts used in collages, see the brand, price, and other product metadata along with similar products to shop.

“Unlike typical product exploration, Shuffles bring an interactivity that makes the experience inspirational and fun,” the company said in a blog post. “Gen-Z is curating fresh, relevant content alongside their peers, which is quickly making for a marketplace of trendy, shoppable ideas. The high density nature of Shuffles, which can include layers of product cutouts from multiple Pins, allows consumers to dig deeper and also connect to other Shuffles that include the same Pins. As we look ahead to how consumer behavior is evolving, we’re testing ways of integrating Shuffles collage content into Pinterest, starting with shopping.”

Although Shuffles surged to become the No. 1 Lifestyle app on the U.S. App Store in August when it was invite-only, the app’s popularity has since declined. By bringing shopping capabilities to Shuffles, Pinterest is likely looking for ways to retain users on the standalone app.

Image Credits: Pinterest

Pinterest also announced that it’s exploring a new takeover feature for advertisers called “Pinterest Premiere Spotlight” that prominently showcases a brand on search. The company says the feature is designed give advertisers a new way to reach users on Pinterest.

The company says 97% of top searches on Pinterest are unbranded, which means users typically don’t type a brand name into their searches on the platform. This gives brands the opportunity to be discovered as they help consumers go from discovery to decision to purchase, Pinterest says. In the coming months, the company planes to offer additional ways to help brands connect with shoppers.

Pinterest also shared some new stats about its Catalogs offering, which lets brands upload their full catalog to the platform and turn their products into dynamic Product Pins. The company says it has seen a 66% increase in retailers setting up shop by uploading or integrating their digital catalogs on its platform, along with 70% growth in active shopping feeds year over year globally.

As part of its most recent earnings release, Pinterest revealed that its platform now has 450 million monthly active users globally, a 4% jump year-on-year. Pinterest has been focused on enhancing the shopping experience on its platform over the past few years, and said during its earnings call that it wants to make every pin shoppable, including videos.

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The tide has shifted for solo GPs



Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

It’s hard to be proactive after the tide has already shifted. However, that’s what we’re seeing happen in the solo GP world, where investors, hearing about institutional investor risk appetite changing, are extending fundraising timelines, cutting investment vehicle targets or planning to leave venture altogether. Some have learned it the hard way, while others, like Sahil Lavingia, are telling LPs to literally cancel their checks if they feel guilty about investing in venture capital while the market rocks and interest rates boom.

It’s a shift from the fund of fund mentality that felt commonplace last year, in which investment firms cut checks to early-stage, experimental investors to de-risk and even lead first checks into a generation of new startups. Now, the idea of backing just one, feels like a harder sell — depending on which institution you’re speaking to.

For my full take on this burgeoning tension within the venture world read my TC+ column: “Are solo GPs screwed?”

I know some of us are still reeling from the SVB mess, which is still very much unfolding. My hope with this piece is to offer nuance on how the market moves on from here for a very specific subset of check writers. In other words, yes, there’s a dreary dark cloud that is now more visible than before. But umbrellas exist. Somewhere.

In the rest of this newsletter we’re talking AI, icons and demo days. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation. You can also send me tips at or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches, please.

It’s never GM; it’s only AI

Now that I apparently live in Cerebral Valley, it’s quite easy to find investors, founders or my great friends in the middle of a passionate conversation about artificial intelligence. Heck, we even screencast ChatGPT trying to explain SVB during wine night, recently.

Despite the overactive news scene, thanks to ChatGPT plug-ins, Google’s entrance and Canva’s magic, the best piece I read all week came from our own Devin Coldeway. In this analysis, Coldeway published a head-to-head comparison of top generative AI tools — asking them to create everything from a phishing email to code.

Here’s what to know: In the AI world, the compounding effect is almost impossible to encapsulate. Tech keeps beating itself, and advancement is only to be celebrated with a grain of hopeful salt. But, see it yourself if you don’t believe me!

Digital generated image of silhouette of male head with multicoloured gears inside on white background.

Image Credits: Andriy Onufriyenko (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Overheard at Techstars’ demo day

I went to an in-person demo day for the first time since 2019 this week, courtesy of 500 Global. There was a special, earnest energy in the room, partially because, as 500’s CEO Christine Tsai said, the 19 companies are sharing their vision for the future “around one of the darkest backdrops of Silicon Valley.” More to come on specific learnings, but below I thought I’d bullet point some of the tidbits I overheard while at the accelerator’s pitch session.

  • “I find it very insightful to compare your revenue growth with your team growth — I personally don’t like operations-heavy companies, I definitely want to see more investment in the R&D and product [teams],” Cindy BI, partner at CapitalX.
  • “We’re officially teenagers,” Tsai said on the accelerator’s 13th birthday.
  • “When you think of a brand, you probably think of something like Nike. But to Gen Z, some of the biggest brands are people,” Detoure founder and CEO Meghan Russell.
  • “We know how to get exits done,” Peter Wachira, CEO of Tripitaca, later adding, “We know how to get shit done.”

Image Credits: ContemporAd / Getty Images

One of venture’s most iconic duos wants to have a word with you

I published a podcast interview with Kapor Capital’s Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor, the entrepreneurial investing couple behind the top-tier impact investing outfit. The duo published a book recently, so we talk about that, their choice to step away from investing and the legacy they’re continuing to build out.

Here’s one key moment from the podcast: “It’s also worth pointing out, in the early days, there were a couple of people, white men, who were thinking about working with us and decided we weren’t going to make enough money so they went elsewhere. So I hope they’re kicking themselves and I hope they’ve learned something,” said Kapor Klein.

  • I was on comedian Alexis Gay’s podcast, Non-technical, earlier this month to talk about everything other than my day job. Come for the croissant hate; stay for the devil’s advocate advocacy.
  • Also, listen to Found, a podcast about the stories behind the startups. This week, the team published an interview with the brains behind “a genetics startup that looks to bring extinct species back to life to help with environmental conservation efforts.” Jaw = dropped.

Image Credits: Clark Studio

Etc., etc.

Seen on TechCrunch

Startup says the seaweed blobbing toward Florida has a silver lining

Hivemapper is 1M kilometers closer to goal of beating Google Maps

Twitter will kill ‘legacy’ blue checks on April 1

China reminds US that it can and will kill a forced TikTok sale

Seen on TechCrunch+

Threading the needle: Exploring 5 ideas with the founders of LGBT+ VC

Investors want best-of-the-best ESG data. Here’s how to give it to them

As TikTok and Coinbase face regulators, some questions are simpler than others

Pitch Deck Teardown:’s $1.5M seed deck

How Fellow bootstrapped for 8 years to build a coffee empire

Talk soon,


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