Tier, the Berlin-based e-scooter rental startup that competes with the likes of Voi, Lime, Wind, Circ and a host of others, is unveiling new hardware today in a bid to further improve the usability and unit economics of its service.
The new Tier scooters produced via a strategic partnership with Okai utilise a “modular” design — something that Voi is also doing — so that they can be customised for different (regulated) markets, iterated more frequently and for easier maintenance.
Previously, the startup was using off-the-shelf-models, namely the Segway Ninebot ES2 and ES4, which aren’t explicitly designed to withstand the wear and tear endured by being shared commercially, with multiple users and rides per day.
On that note, Tier co-founder and CEO Lawrence Leuschner tells me the startup recently ratcheted up 2 million rides. The company operates in over 20 cities across Europe, with around 10,000 Tier scooters on the streets. Noteworthy, Leuschner says Tier is already profitable “in several key cities”.
He also talked up what he claims is Tier’s better unit economics and more capital efficient model. This sees the startup shun the gig economy-style model where competitors utilise freelance workers for charging e-scooters, often in their own homes. Instead, Tier employs a centralised team of professionals for pick up, charging, maintenance and repair processes, meaning that problems in the hardware can be spotted earlier and maintenance can be more proactive, increasing the lifetime of each device and ensuring more scooters remain in circulation. That’s the argument, anyway.
Leuschner tells me this “professionalised” model is born out of his previous experience as CEO and co-founder of reBuy, the European online used electronics and media retailer, a company he says was dedicated to extending the life cycle of over 100 million products. His point is, how do you ensure quality of service if you don’t frequently touch your own products, in a thinly veiled critique of competing e-scooter services.
The new more rugged Tier e-scooters are designed to last at least 12 months in operation, more than twice Tier’s current average device lifetime. Other improved features include 10″ tires and improved suspension (variants include double or single suspension), plus an increased range of 35-40 kilometres. The IoT, bell and cables are now integrated, and thus less susceptible to vandalism.
Safety is said to be significantly improved, too, including more powerful brakes. Variants feature one mechanic and one electric brake, or two mechanic and one electric brake. This is especially important given concerns over how safe e-scooters are, whether used on sidewalks or on the road. Just last week, Sweden saw its first e-scooter rental casualty, leading to the Swedish transport agency reportedly calling for a ban on all electric scooters.
Meanwhile, along with most competitors, such as Circ, Tier is keen to position itself beyond e-scooters alone and is now calling itself a “micro-mobility” company. I’m told “new exciting vehicles” that go beyond scooters are in the pipeline and that the Tier software platform has been built to cover various “shared urban mobility,” with the ability to integrate all kinds of urban mobility categories, not limited to the startup’s own assets.
To date, Tier has raised around €30 million. Its backers inckude Northzone, Speedinvest and Point Nine. Most recently, Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg became an investor. I’m also hearing the company is in the midst of raising a large round.