Venture capitalists have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in scooters — electric scooters, specifically. On a sunny day in San Francisco, they're clogging every sidewalk. Lime and Bird are the two best-known options. They also operate in Santa Monica, California; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Atlanta. You use an app to check out a scooter, GPS tracks your location and you just drop it anywhere when you're done with it. There's speculation that Uber or Lyft will buy one of the bigger companies since both have invested in electric bikes. Bird is being valued at $2 billion. And that's got lots of people wondering why. Paul Kedrosky, with SK Ventures, spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about how the scooter investment craze goes back to Segway. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Paul Kedrosky: So Segway, who was in a sense the creator of the e-scooter marketplace, never really thrived and was eventually acquired by Ninebot, a Chinese scooter company which is backed by Xiaomi, which is a Chinese conglomerate manufacturer of all kinds of products, including rice cookers as it turns out, and Sequoia, a well-known venture capital firm who just happens to also back Bird, one of the largest scooter companies here. So this is a whole ecosystem that is built around the scooter market, but in a weird way is built on the bones of Segway.