Lime thinks there’s juice in Vancouver’s mobility squeeze

CEO Wayne Ting believes the e-scooter and e-bike company is the city’s best option for micro-mobility.

Lime CEO Wayne Ting. Photo supplied.

I spoke with Wayne Ting during a whirlwind Tuesday for us both. The San Francisco-based CEO of Lime, the micro-mobility juggernaut and e-scooter frontrunner, was in town for a members-only Vancouver Board of Trade event in the morning and the Frontier Collective’s Placemaking Summit in the evening. The pitch sent to me for why I should chat with Ting included a quip about the backlog on the city’s viaducts and how transportation solutions like Lime’s offerings could remedy it. Ironically, I was nearly late for the call after experiencing such a backlog.

After jetting from Vancouver Tech Morning Coffee, I drove to an appointment in East Vancouver. I turned onto Prior, eased my way up the ramp, and immediately hit gridlock. In hindsight, I should have taken a scooter. This was especially true as several whizzed past me on the Dunsmuir Viaduct’s bike lane.

Ting also took note of the city’s infrastructure, referring to it as incredible. He sees Vancouver as uniquely positioned for an outfit such as Lime.

“We’re in 280 cities around the world, so we get to see a lot of different types, and we know what makes a great micro-mobility city,” Ting explained. “Vancouver has all of it. It’s a city warm throughout the year, on the water, committed to bike lanes, and boasts lots of tourists. Every aspect of it just makes me incredibly excited for the potential to hopefully serve the city in the future.”

Ting and Lime are eagerly waiting to respond to the City of Vancouver’s request for proposals for an e-scooter program. The company is no stranger to B.C. North Vancouver, Richmond, Coquitlam, and Kelowna are already jurisdictions with Lime offerings, and Ting estimated that over a million trips have been made in those cities. Vancouver officials such as Sarah Kirby-Yung have already endorsed shared e-scooters in the city, and the Silicon Valley outfit is positioning itself to answer the call.

I asked Ting why he wanted Lime to be the one to corner the market here. In his answer, Ting waxed nostalgic.

“Vancouver is a perfect city for micro-mobility, for all the things we talked about,” he reiterated. “Probably more importantly, I also think Lime will be a great operator. Lime is the global leader in micro-mobility. But, we had to earn it. We weren’t always number one.”

For Ting, Lime’s manufacturing play positioned the company at the top of the space. The company researches, develops, and builds all of its own hardware — a choice that Ting noted wasn’t easy to execute, but which gives the company a leg up. The approach allows Lime to build sustainability into the manufacturing process, and ask questions — how often does it break? How long does it last? How rideable is it? — that greatly improves the user experience.

That last point, rideability, is key. It’s a key part of the Lime design, meaning its scooters have wider bases, bigger wheels, and bike-like handlebars. Comparatively, Ting notes that most other micro-mobility operators buy their hardware from the same overseas manufacturer. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t, well, fit all.

Photo credit: @FrontierBC on Twitter.

It also allows Lime to ensure it hits jurisdictional requirements. Ting pointed out that when Lime first started operating in B.C., the company needed to conform to provincial helmet requirements. The vast majority of markets that Lime serves don't require helmets to be available alongside its scooters and bikes. So, it built new technology that allowed helmets to be attached to each one of its local offerings. Lime’s experience in B.C. — across the world, really — has proven to Ting and co that there is no singular solution that works across the globe.

He segued er… scootered that reflection into another, noting that one of the things he’s most proud of is that, when assembling the Lime team, he brought on many individuals who used to work in government. Ting himself spent two years as a senior policy advisor of the National Economic Council to The White House. This background informs Lime’s approach.

“That changes our perspective,” he pointed out. “We don't start by saying, ‘Let me tell you how to run your transportation system.’ We do the exact opposite. We start by saying, ‘I know the people who are working in transportation policy care deeply about their community. Let's start this conversation with how Lime can be part of the solution to your biggest transportation challenges.’ You’ve got to be local. You’ve got to tailor your offering to the local community.”

It also explains why an organization like the Frontier Collective, which often links up with local government, would be appealing to Ting. He added that for Lime, the tech community broadly is crucial. When the company looks at a place like Vancouver, it sees a lot of tech talent, a lot of startups, and a robust community. “Awesome” was the adjective of choice, in large part because the vibrant local ecosystem has given rise to people who are fighting to change the status quo or create something new.

It reminds Ting of his ethos for Lime. The company tries to connect itself to people working on startups, encouraging entrepreneurship, and offering greentech solutions to everyday problems. When it sees other companies or people working to solve problems with new technology, Lime wants to be part of it. When I remarked that I was unable to attend the Frontier Collective event as I had already RSVPd for the New Ventures BC Competition awards, what I thought would be a mere throwaway comment by yours truly was met by praise from Ting.

“That's awesome,” he said, “and speaks to the vibrant community of tech and entrepreneurship here. We're really excited to potentially be partners. I think Vancouver, hopefully, will be the first real breakthrough to show the power of micro-mobility in transforming a city's transportation ecosystem.”

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