The clogged streets of Paris got their third e-scooter option in as any months, after ride-hailing service Taxify on Thursday (Sept. 6) launched a fleet of several hundred e-scooters.
Estonia-based Taxify, which launched in 2013, says it has 500,000 drivers and 10 million customers in 25 European and African countries. China’s Didi Chuxing was one its key investors, and its latest Daimler-led investment round in May brought the ride-hailing startup’s valuation to $1 billion—a rare European unicorn.
“We launched motorcycle taxis in Africa about six months ago and have seen huge demand,” says Taxify CEO Markus Villig. “This gave us the confidence to look at other technologies that could complement ride-hailing via cars.”
Taxify’s Bolt e-scooters already have two main competitors in Paris: Silicon Valley darling Lime launched there in June and Bird followed in August.
Villig says Taxify has a few advantages over its rivals. The company already has a lot of data from its ride-hailing app that can help it identify patterns of movement within the city and figure out where is best to put scooters for maximize usage. He also believes that having various mobility options within a single app gives Taxify an edge over competitors who are “solely focused on e-scooters.”
Villig describes the Paris authorities as “very welcoming to micromobility,” since the city is notoriously congested. As in any major capital, a large number of car trips are quite short and sitting in traffic is the norm, so e-scooters can offer an short-distance alternative.
“We’re ready to ramp up the numbers of scooters to thousands and tens of thousands, which is what we’re expecting the demand to be,” Villig added. “But obviously it’s still early days and we’re going to keep a close eye on how consumers react.”
E-scooters are already proliferating in some US cities, led by Bird, Lime, and Spin. Uber recently got in the game too, launching its Jump e-bikes in eight US cities, and Lyft is hot on its heels. But the rollout has not been without problems. People get annoyed with riders whizzing willy-nilly along sidewalks, and complain about scooters left lying around to clog up the streets. In San Francisco, there’s now a permit process that aims to limit the number of scooters in the city.
Villig is hopeful Taxify won’t have many problems in Paris, as it has been working with local regulators ahead of the launch to clarify rules and standards for its operation. All e-scooter and dockless-bike companies operating in Paris must sign a newly developed code of conduct, which includes rules like quickly picking up broken, abandoned scooters and bikes.
“These operators will not stay long in Paris—and won’t have a profitable business—unless they are accepted by Parisians and have a minimum amount of discipline,” Jean-Louis Missika, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s urban planning deputy, told the Guardian in July.