Scooter startup Superpedestrian shutting down US operations, exploring sale of Europe business
Superpedestrian, the e-scooter startup known for its self-diagnostic software, is shutting down its U.S.-based shared scooter operation on December 31 and exploring a sale of its European business, TechCrunch has exclusively learned.
The company’s director of U.S. operations, Alexander Berg, confirmed the news to his team Friday afternoon on a Zoom call. Berg said the reason for the shutdown was financial, but did not go into further detail. “Even our investors have put in money to keep us afloat even to this point,” he said on the call. “It wasn’t for lack of trying.”
The shutdown comes just 18 months since the startup raised $125 million in a Series C round of equity and debt financing that included investors Jefferies, Antara Capital, the Sony Innovation Fund by IGV and FM Capital alongside existing backers like Spark Capital, General Catalyst and Citi via the Citi Impact Fund.
It appears Jeffries and Antara were two of the investors who helped try to keep the company afloat, as Superpedestrian assigned patents to each as collateral for loans of undisclosed amounts in July and October, respectively, according to documents filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The e-scooter industry has been in a somewhat rocky place since then, though. Bird’s valuation crashed after it went public, leading to the company pulling out of multiple markets. Superpedestrian itself has gone through a series of layoffs, including one just months after closing its Series C round. The latest, per a posting on LinkedIn, occurred earlier this month.
On the call, Berg said Superpedestrian will run “minimal staff” while pulling scooters across the country back into warehouses over the next two weeks. Vanessa Carmack, Superpedestrian’s senior director of human resources for the U.S., who said she had been through layoffs at prior companies, told workers during the Zoom call that the experience was “frustrating” and said she felt “kind of kept out of the loop.”
CEO Assaf Biderman held a short call with some employees earlier Friday initially announcing the decision. Biderman did not immediately respond to a voicemail and an emailed request for comment.
Superpedestrian has said its scooters are in operation in 60-plus cities across 11 countries, though it pulled out of Chicago in September citing competitive difficulties. A representative from the city of Waco, Texas, where Superpedestrian recently spun up a scooter fleet, said in a phone call Friday that she was not aware of an impending shutdown.
The startup used technology, and specifically diagnostic and safety software, to differentiate it from rivals like Bird and Tier. The company boosted its tech efforts by acquiring Navmatic in July 2021.
It leveraged Navmatic’s technology to develop and then roll out a so-called pedestrian defense safety system, a feature designed to detect and correct unsafe riding behaviors, like riding on sidewalks, in real time. Superpedestrian had planned to build and roll out new scooters equipped with its branded Pedestrian Defense to 25 cities across the United States and Europe in 2022. The initial deployments were supposed to begin in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in pedestrian-dense cities by early spring, according to the company.
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