Inside Retail: Can you tell us about the Lime business and what it’s about?
Tiffani Gibson: Founded in 2017 in San Francisco, Lime is the world’s leading provider of shared electric vehicles, operating bikes, scooters and mopeds for short-term rentals, at an affordable price, in more than 200 cities in 30 countries on five continents. Lime’s mission is to build a future for urban mobility that is shared, affordable and carbon-free, resulting in more sustainable cities that put people over cars.
Lime is at the forefront of an accelerating global trend toward lighter, more efficient vehicles for urban transportation and its unparalleled global experience and hyper-local focus yields the most reliable service available, with an electric vehicle option to complete any urban trip, regardless of distance, preference, or comfort level, helping riders get where they need to go safely and reliably.
IR: How would you describe the Lime customer?
TG: The Lime customer is both the riders who we provide our service to as well as the cities we partner with. Since our founding, Lime’s vision has always been clear: we want to give people a reliable, carbon-free transportation network that allows them to replace car travel for short trips. Between the pandemic and the global climate crisis, Lime has never felt more relevant as a brand and as a service. We’re striving to give people connectivity and mobility, where otherwise there is isolation, especially in traditionally underserved areas.
IR: Tell me about Lime’s bikes and their impact on the future of transportation.
TG: At Lime, we believe in people-first cities, which starts with providing reliable alternatives to cars. Lime is building a network of shared, light, electric vehicles that allow people to replace car travel for short trips. Transforming cities and the way people get around them means ensuring equal access to all, regardless of ability, background or bank account. That’s why Lime focuses on providing the most affordable, accessible and equitable service in the industry.
Our latest scooter model, the Gen4 improves upon our Gen3 model providing riders the smoothest ride yet. We designed the scooter in-house from the ground up, incorporating feedback from our riders, operations teams and cities. This scooter aims to provide best-in-class safety, comfort and reliability, setting a new standard for the shared scooter industry. We also offer best-in-class e-bikes in close to fifty cities globally and recently launched shared electric mopeds to help riders complete longer-distanced trips.
It’s estimated that by 2050, 68 per cent of the total population will be living in cities, yet the infrastructure is far from catching up and the pollution that comes with it is drastically increasing. With the increase of urbanization, Lime’s vision is for cities to be built around people, not cars. We are part of a driving force to accelerate this urban mobility revolution. We’re not just thinking of what people need to get around cities today, but how to predict what they’ll need tomorrow. Lime provides a service perfectly suited to the post-pandemic world, with options that are open-air, sustainable and socially-distanced.
IR: How does Lime adapt its products in different countries and their seasons throughout the year?
TG: Because we are a global company, it’s not surprising that ridership varies depending on the location. Cities may have fewer scooter rides in months with higher precipitation, but with geographic diversity and a global footprint, other cities will be bright and sunny at those times. It’s why having a global business with scooters in cities across the world is a key differentiator for Lime.
Many of the countries we operate in have opposing seasons: when it’s summer in the US and Europe, it’s winter in Latin America and Australia – which balances any effect seasonality has on our business. We see more of an impact on our business in months of high precipitation than in months that are simply cold.
IR: Can you tell us the challenges Lime has faced and overcome during the pandemic?
TG: At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, as cities grappled with how to provide transportation for essential workers, they recognized the value micromobility could provide as a safe, sustainable option that essential workers could use while remaining socially-distanced in the open-air. The pandemic made transportation more difficult, and our scooters offered an easy way for people, especially essential workers to travel while social distancing. In addition, we offered free 30-minute rides for public-health personnel and law enforcement officers to make sure they had options to commute with, given hesitancy around public transport and ride share.
In 2020, we served 135 cities with shared scooters and e-bikes and provided 55 million rides covering 60 million miles – equivalent to 250 trips to the moon. To date, Lime has provided nearly 250 million trips and through our 1 in 4 riders taking micromobility instead of a car, our riders have prevented enough car trips to wrap around the Earth nearly 7 times in a bumper to bumper traffic jam. Additionally, 70 per cent of riders reduced their use of cars, taxis, and ride hailing, an estimated 13.5 car trips were avoided and an estimated 575,000 gallons of gas avoided.
IR: How has the micromobility business evolved over the years?
TG: In most industrialised countries, 60 per cent of all car trips are under 5 miles, the exact sweet spot served by other already-established modes of daily transportation: public transport, walking, and micromobility – which taken together can speed up the transition and replace the vast majority of short car trips.
Over recent years, cities have increasingly recognized the value that more active mobility like cycling and walking, as well as micromobility, offer healthier more livable cities and they’re reconfiguring their streets to help get people around in greener, more convenient ways. At the height of the pandemic, cities all over the world saw dramatic, albeit temporary, improvements in air quality, a direct result of people not traveling in their cars. As we hold on to norms born out of the pandemic, there’s a clear opportunity to establish a new and better normal: cleaner, healthier cities, built for people.
IR: What were the interesting insights you’ve gathered about Lime in 2020?
TG: We measure our relevance by the service we provide. Lime is positively impacting people’s lives every day, providing them with a solution for their daily transportation needs with an accessible and sustainable alternative mode of transportation. 2020 was a difficult but important year, challenging communities around the world as they confronted the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and climate change.
We have long stated that profitability wasn’t our end goal, but rather a means to have a long term impact and be an enduring business. In Q3 of 2020, amidst the global pandemic, we achieved this goal with Q3 EBITDA profitability, a major milestone for the new mobility industry even without the global crisis. This effort was the product of a team-wide effort ranging from ensuring Lime e-scooters and bikes last longer on the road, to winning the right to operate in key global markets, like our selections in 2020 and 2021 to serve the cities of Paris, London and NYC. It’s this ability to be an enduring business we believe which will allow us to continue the impact on communities we have had to date.
IR: What are Lime’s expansion plans in the pipeline?
TG: As we begin to adapt to what life is like on the other side of Covid, the norms that we’ve become accustomed to have been called into question as people hold on to some behaviors that developed as a result of the pandemic. A significant change we have seen as a result of Covid-19 has been the massive shift in the way cities are beginning to think about building streets, with a change in infrastructure, policy and street design to prioritize people, bikes, scooters and other carbon-free modes of transportation.
From Seattle to London to Paris and Milan, cities around the world have advanced their thinking about how to use space to allow people to get around their communities. We’re excited about this change and have been stepping up to meet the new demand. We’ve launched our service in dozens of new cities over the last year, expanded e-bikes to more cities as well as introduced our Gen4 and electric mopeds and continue to roll them out in our markets. We will continue to look for more opportunities to deliver our sustainable mobility service to more cities as we grow.
IR: Are there any e-commerce, social commerce or consumer trends that the company is interested in right now?
TG: Lime is relentless in the pursuit of innovation, whether that’s in relation to hardware, pricing or sustainability. This includes prioritizing rider feedback, listening to pain points and consistently developing solutions to not only existing issues but ones that may not have been flagged yet. We’re always looking for new ways to increase access to our vehicles and developing new products that appeal to even more demographics.
IR: For a company like yours to thrive and stand the test of time, what do you think it needs to do to retain the attention of customers?
TG: Our main focus is on doing our best for our users and the needs of the communities in which we operate. We aim to solve a challenge in a sustainable, accessible and fun way. We are confident we can do that because we’re trusted, experienced and reputable as well as sophisticated in our safety approach – with clear and ongoing commitments and practices in all our cities. We also have world-class operations, from the complete ownership of our e-scooter designs to our warehouse network and set-up and work closely with partners in every city – from local authorities to community partners.
Whereas many other mobility companies’ scooter models are built primarily for personal use, Lime’s vehicles have been through multiple iterations to improve durability and safety for shared use at scale.
IR: Can you tell us about the initiatives Lime has taken to reduce its carbon footprint?
TG: Sustainability is core to our mission and permeates every aspect of our business, from hardware design to operational processes. Lime has set an industry-leading, independently-verified target to reach net zero carbon by 2030 and a plan to achieve it. Lime is the only company with batteries that are interchangeable between bikes and scooters, allowing for more streamlined and sustainable operations. Our vehicle design allows for extensive reuse and we partner with trusted local firms to upcycle and recycle end-of-life parts. We are also transitioning to a fully electric operations vehicle fleet over the next two years and continue to bring more of our warehouses online with fully renewable energy to power our fleet.