An electric scooter company vying for a place in New York City’s ride-share pilot program has secured $60 million in funding from investors, including the sponsor of the city’s popular bike-share program. Citigroup Inc. joined venture capital firm OurCrowd, private-equity firm Winthrop Square Capital, and others to invest in Superpedestrian, a firm that has been awarded contracts in 12 cities since launching at the beginning of this year.
Ed Skyler, executive vice president of global public affairs at Citi, declined to disclose the size of the bank’s investment in Superpedestrian. But he said Citi believes the firm has a good leadership team and a well-designed product. The funding was made through Citi’s $200 million impact fund, which is designed to generate returns while tackling societal problems.
Citi is synonymous in New York City with its sponsorship of Citi Bike, the docked bike share system that is run by Lyft Inc. Mr. Skyler said he doesn’t fear that Superpedestrian, if it is successful, will compete with Citi Bike bicycles in New York. “People should have options and we believe that there’s more than enough room for both,” he said.
Superpedestrian is among more than 25 companies that expressed interest in the pilot program that the city expects to launch in March. It will operate only in the outer-boroughs because scooter shares remain illegal in Manhattan. The company believes its diagnostic and other technologies will be invaluable in the scooter market, where firms struggle to turn a profit because of equipment, maintenance, and repair costs. “Everybody is losing their pants in this business,” said Assaf Biderman, Superpedestrian CEO. Mr. Biderman said Superpedestrian has solutions for some of the challenges and is working on fixes for others. Its scooters use a geofencing technology that can tell in under a second if the rider is in a prohibited area and stop the ride. They can also tell if a person is riding the wrong way or is regularly braking hard and will send the user a notification that the company doesn’t tolerate unsafe behavior.
The company has also developed sensors that can tell if two people are attempting to ride the same scooter. It hopes to introduce a feature in the spring that will prevent such a scooter from moving. The company launched its LINK scooter in Fort Pierce, Fla., in January. Since then, it has expanded to 11 other cities, including Seattle, Madrid, and Rome. Mr. Biderman said this latest round of funding will allow Superpedestrian to expand to dozens more cities in the next year.