There is already an insane number of electric scooter companies looking to dominate the European market — Lime, Bird, Voi, Flash, Tier, Dott and Wind, to name just a few.
Yet on Thursday, a new contender entered the race to conquer the continent, launching its scooters in Paris. Late to the party? Perhaps. But this late-entrant hopes to have an edge, not only with the customary promise of better technology, but with a mega-celebrity backer.
Cofounded by none other than sprinter Usain Bolt, Bolt might have been slow to arrive — but it’s hoping to be quick to take off. The company’s co-chief executive Sarah Haynes says she thinks Usain Bolt’s celebrity status will help Bolt’s scooters stand out in the crowded field.
“I get a good reaction from people wherever I go,” Bolt tells Sifted on the sidelines of the Vivatech conference in Paris, adding for emphasis: “I am well loved by people.”
- Further reading: From Voi to Flash, we compare Europe’s scooter startups
Bolt’s company (known as Bolt Mobility in the US) was founded in 2018. It has launched in cities across the US and says it plans to expand into 20 European cities through 2020.
Haynes rejected the idea that the company was late to launch in Europe in 2019 (several months after rivals) because having the “right product” was most important and Bolt’s name would also help.
She said their scooter was unique in having ample storage space for a bag and phone, as well as foot pads which allow a rider to have both feet facing forward (which she says makes the vehicle easier to control).
But aside from the challenge of winning over consumers, it is regulators that really have scooter companies worried.
The Paris city hall recently said that the city was “saturated” with the electric devices and is threatening to ban them. Scooters are already illegal on the streets of London.
Bolt’s company has an extra complication as well: its name.
An Estonian-founded scooter company, formally known as Taxify, has claimed the name Bolt in France, so Usain Bolt’s company has, for now, to technically go by BparUsainBolt — which is perhaps not as catchy.