By Esha Vaish
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Electric scooter sharing firm VOI Technology has raised $30 million (£22.6 million) in another fundraising round since being set up seven months ago for its European expansion and investment in research to fend off growing competition, it said on Monday.
Uber Technologies Inc, Alphabet and several other high-profile investors are betting scooter-sharing will rise rapidly in Europe thanks to large commuter populations and lower levels of car ownership than in the United States.
Having already put many scooters on European roads, domestic startups such as Tier and Dott and U.S. rivals Bird and Lime raised thousands of dollars in 2018 to expand further into the crowded marketplace.
VOI, backed by investors such as BlaBlaCar CEO Nicolas Brusson and venture fund Balderton Capital, believes it can beat rivals by building closer relationships with city authorities.
“Asking ‘permission’ before we enter new towns and cities, unlike some of our competitors, means we can work with the authorities on the ground to offer not only a viable alternative to cars,” CEO Fredrik Hjelm said.
This could also “help people to combine their e-scooter journeys with the existing public transport network,” he added.
People can locate nearby VOI scooters via its app or maps and then ride it by paying a 1 euro unlocking fee plus riding costs of 0.15 euro per minute.
Since its August launch, VOI has built up over 400,000 riders, taking more than 750,000 rides, and it said it would use the new funds to expand in Italy, Germany, Norway and France.
Critics warn operators could face similar issues as bike sharing firms. Forced into price wars due to competition and facing backlash from authorities over rules and vandalism, bike operators GoBee and Mobike have retreated from Europe.
(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm; editing by David Evans)