Unagi Launches LA E-Scooter Subscription in Bird's Backyard
Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks. Follow him on Twitter.
Betting city dwellers will not want to risk taking public transportation in the age of COViD-19 or touch a shared e-scooter, Unagi announced Wednesday it will launch a $39 a month subscription service in New York and Los Angeles.
"L.A. is the electric scooter epicenter of the world and it was always our number one target," Unagi co-founder and CEO David Hyman told dot.LA. "Nowhere else have I walked where I couldn't take two steps without tripping over a scooter."
L.A. became the e-scooter capital after Bird was founded in 2017 in Santa Monica and quickly grew into the fastest-growing tech startup in history. Bird, too, also offers monthly rentals, but it is a very small part of its business and is only available in San Francisco, Miami, Washington D.C., and select college campuses.
Until now, Unagi, which Hyman started in Oakland in 2018 with Kickstarter founding, has sold its stylish e-scooters for $990. But Hyman acknowledged that a lot of riders don't want to shell out a thousand dollars to buy one of their own. The company was planning to add a subscription option — Hyman is not a fan of the term rental — before COVID, but the pandemic accelerated those plans. (Unagi means freshwater eel in Japanese.)
"This model helps us bring it to a larger audience," said Hyman. "Millennials prefer access over ownership."
The company has drawn favorable comparisons; it's been called the Apple of e-scooters and says it aims to build a Tesla-quality e-scooter that feels like riding a magic carpet.
The new offering, Unagi All-Access, includes maintenance and insurance for scooter theft or damage for $39 a month — which the company points out is less than half the cost of a 30-day Metro pass — or $34 for one year commitment. There is also a onetime $50 set-up fee.
Once someone subscribes, the company delivers a fully-assembled Model One scooter to their door within 24 hours. If the scooter ever does not work properly, users will receive a replacement within 24 hours.
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Despite — or in many cases because of — the raging pandemic, 2020 was a great year for many tech startups. It turned out to be an ideal time to be in the video game business, developing a streaming ecommerce platform for Gen Z, or helping restaurants with their online ordering.
But which companies in Southern California had the best year? That is highly subjective of course. But in an attempt to highlight who's hot, we asked dozens of the region's top VCs to weigh in.
We wanted to know what companies they wish they would have invested in if they could go back and do it all over again.
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