Ford buys e-scooter startup Spin to beef up mobility business

November 09, 2018 08:30
The US automaker Ford has bought electric scooter sharing company Spin, adding the startup to its portfolio of alternative transportation offerings. Photo: Spin/Reuters

Ford, one of America's pioneering car manufacturers, has acquired e-scooter and bike-sharing startup Spin as part of efforts to beef up its mobility business.

Financial terms were not disclosed in the announcement, but Reuters reported that the No. 2 US automaker will invest about US$200 million in Spin, citing a source familiar with the acquisition. Another report, by US news website Axios, said the deal is worth close to US$100 million.

Ford plans to expand Spin over the next 18 months, from 32 markets to more than 100 in North America, Reuters said, citing Sundeep Madra, head of the automaker's Ford X startup incubator.

Spin is one of the three US-based major scooter-sharing companies, along with Bird and Lime. It entered the electric scooter sharing space in February, after having only operated a bike-sharing platform in the past.

Spin was founded by tech veterans Derrick Ko, Euwyn Poon and Zaizhuang Cheng in November 2016. Its station-less e-scooter sharing service is now available in nine cities and on five college campuses across the country.

However, it has been locked out of several key markets, such as San Francisco, after its service sparked occasional conflicts with local pedestrians and drivers.

The San Francisco-based startup was valued at about US$40 million after a Series A funding round in November last year. It raised US$8 million in the latest funding round led by Grishin Robotics with the participation of Exponent.VC, CRCM and angel investors Matt Brezina and Charlie Cheever.

Spin has also announced plans for an initial coin offering in order to build a blockchain-based reputation and a rewards protocol for its shared bike network.

Ford, on the other hand, wants to expand its business from simply selling automobiles. It has been ramping up efforts to provide alternative means of transportation via its tech-focused subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility, which was spun off from Ford Motor in 2016. In January this year, the unit acquired US-based transportation software technology startups Autonomic and TransLoc.

And last month, Ford Smart Mobility launched its scooter service project, Jelly, on the campus of Purdue University.

In an interview with Reuters, Marcy Klevorn, president of Ford’s mobility unit, said the acquisition of Spin “fills a gap in our mobility portfolio” while providing “accessible and affordable transportation” in cities and on college campuses.

Automakers and ride-sharing companies are rushing to embrace scooters and bikes to diversify their business and avoid disruptions. Ride-hailing giant Uber acquired JUMP in April and its rival Lyft began deploying electric scooters in a sharing program in Denver in September.

Also last week, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said his company might make an electric bike.

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