Electric scooters; hate them or love them, it is inevitable that a dockless scooter company arrives on our shores in the not so distant future. You’ll likely have seen them zooming around in our cities. Zipp Mobility, founded by Charlie Gleeson, a recent UCD Commerce graduate, is racing to be at the forefront of this exciting industry. Myself and Charlie had a great discussion on this exciting venture and the trials and tribulations of his involvement in this nascent domain.
Zipp Mobility was founded in 2019, originally baptised as Blue Scooters. The name change arose due to several factors, but mainly to reflect the company’s value proposition and convenience. “I also like the way it can be used as a verb”, Charlie tells me; “I won’t take the car, I’ll just Zipp down there”. Catchy indeed. Since then, Zipp has been racing to get ahead of competitors in a viciously aggressive space. The archaic legislations in place, which on one hand prohibit e-scooter companies from going to market, are actually an advantage for Zipp right now. The delay in changes to the law around e-scooter platforms has enabled the team to ‘’build relationships with local councils and develop our offering so that we’re ready to tender for licenses once they are offered”.
The topic of legislation is a tricky one; many e-scooter providers prefer to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, a strategy with dire consequences for some. ‘’We’re going for a different approach’’, says Charlie. “We are striving for slower, more sustainable growth whereby we can work closely with local councils to meet their specific needs”.
Irrespective of how diligent the strategy implementation is, there will be roadblocks. For a company like Zipp, where its customers will be nipping around busy cities at speeds up to 25km/hr, many with minimal protection, insurance is understandably a concern. “We were getting quoted premiums that were coming in higher than projected revenues. However, eventually we received a very affordable quote from an ‘on-demand insurance’ company. All of our riders now have third party liability cover’’. As with many small companies, the recent COVID-19 pandemic is having repercussions on Zipp. “We’re planning to launch on university campuses where there are currently no students!” exclaims Charlie. Ever the optimist, he reasons this may actually not be a negative thing; “I know of similar companies that are a few months ahead of Zipp in their journey and they’re struggling to keep their head above water”.
Fear not though, Zipp’s launch plans remain the same despite the chaos the world is going through right now. “We plan to launch and scale on university campuses across Ireland and the UK prior to legislative changes. Once the e-scooter legislation has been ironed out, we will then look to obtain licenses from cities in which we are already operating”. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, Zipp had envisioned launching in UCD by June 2020 “to iron out any teething issues’’ the company would have faced. The launch has been delayed until September 2020, though there is still contention around this in light of the continuously evolving health crisis and the recent delaying of term for first year university students.
For now, the company is focusing on further development. Using funds received from the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund status they recently earned, Zipp are working on purchasing their fleet of e-scooters. Simultaneously, the team is raising a seed round, ‘’which will be used to scale across more universities and to lobby local councils… and build out our team’’.
Zipp offers an interesting proposition and, if successful, hopes to be operating in 16 cities across 6 European countries within five years and 3 university campuses by Q1 of 2021. I sure would have loved to be able to Zipp from Quinn to the astro pitches when I was in college, and could do with them when commuting in Dublin too. Keep an eye on this company; you might find yourself using their scooters sometime soon.
Alex Lohier – Deputy Editor