Mobility Tech

How Veo is Pushing the Envelope for Micromobility and Mobility

JT interviews VEO CEO Candice Xie to learn about the company's expansion into New York, how the company is trying to push the envelope for sustainability, and why she thinks mobility companies need more scrutiny for financial claims.

John Thomey
John Thomey
May 10, 2021
How Veo is Pushing the Envelope for Micromobility and Mobility
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CEO Candice Xie shares insights into the company’s sustainability and operating plans

Earlier this month, UrbanTech Founder John Thomey sat down with Veo CEO Candice Xie to learn about the company’s recent award to operate in New City’s Scooter pilot program, and how the company is thinking about expansion in the industry.

JT: Candice, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I'm super excited. I've been following Veo since the fall. I know you wrote a blog post that got a lot of coverage and traction in the mobility world. But I guess to start, I'd love to hear a little bit about the experience applying for and now successfully winning the New York city operating license?

Candice Xie, CEO of Veo: Yeah, sounds good. Thanks for having me today as well. As for the New York application, I think New York is a crown jewel for the mobility space because it has the density and has a lot of potential to meet a gap in the transportation network there.

So I think for Veo, we are very proud to serve the community and being able to start the very first scooter-share pilot in New York City in the summertime. 

JT: That's awesome. And you just launched either earlier this week or today in San Diego, right?

CX: That's correct. We just launched in San Diego with a thousand Veo Cosmos, which is our CD scooter version in San Diego today. 

JT: Super cool. I’m hoping to get down to San Diego down later this summer, so I can ride one. I'm curious. Maybe if you could explain a little bit, there's a lot of like a scooter and mobility products out there.

Maybe can you talk a little bit about what Veo offers specifically as an operator and what's unique about your vehicles?

CX: So Veo started Four years ago as a bike-share company. And since then we have been out innovating in the space and continuing to bring innovative technology on the hardware itself.

For example, we were the first company to deploy a swappable battery system. That is three years ago already. And we are also very good at expanding our offering for different mobility types. 

For example, we have bikes in our portfolio, e-bikes scooters. And right now, we are exploring a little bit more further in our portfolio offering; which we actually have to control over, and we specifically design a manufacturer and also deploy our commercial-grade, scooters, and bikes on the ground since we control the systems.

JT: Got it. That makes sense. I'm curious about the battery pack/technology piece. I know that's like a really specific, and big, part of this micro-mobility, electric vehicle, piece.What makes those battery components challenging right now or how are you thinking about this technology at VEO? 

CX: Yeah, the battery pack is a very efficient concept in operation because it enables us to be more efficient in our operations because we don't need to have a, we don't need to like collect all of our devices off streets, many times survey and also recharge them in a warehouse and pull them out again.

And what we do to that, we directly swap the empty battery on the street, and we can use small cargo bikes to swap batteries So essentially, it's a money-saving process. And also most importantly, you also reduce the operation Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita by more than 50% in the city.

I think this is not a technology, very easy to do which is why you're seeing different vendors out of sight in the space being defensive about this. They will blow a battery and put out a post to justify why they haven’t made an improvement yet.

JT: No, that makes sense. And I know there's a lot of startups now focusing on specifically the battery piece for the micro-mobility industry. There seems to be a lot of battery startups, going in that direction because they think people realize there's just a massive need for innovation in battery technology, and operationalizing the tech better.

I'm curious. And maybe this is in the weeds, but what cities are you operating in?

CX: We’ve are now in 40 more markets than since we started and are now entering New York. We are in San Diego. We also are in some Florida markets, and Long Beach -- so are all over the place, but we started from the West and East Coast Markets.

So, we are all over the place but we started in the Midwest in Chicago and on the East Coast. Now we are expanding outward.

JT: Got it. That makes sense. So different from how I think Bird or Lime started on the West coast and expanded from there out.

I'd love to get just your thoughts on the blog post that you wrote earlier in the fall about being one of the few mobility leaders who is a woman and challenging profitability standards in the space?

CX: Of course. So I think the reason why we wanted to post that blog is just as a response to Lime’s coloration of their profitability. I feel like they are sending out wrong information for the tech industry and also the tech world.

Like even though your business model is not sustainable, even though a company might use some misleading financial indicators; if you indicate you are financially profitable, even for one quarter, that's actually a little bit toxic for the industry because that will inspire a lot of people to grow at no costs and at all costs.And act regardless of the environmental and social impact of their businesses. And that's not our business motto.

So I wanted to share that information as the insider in the space -- to clarify who is the first company to be profitable in micromobility, and how it is possible to create a sustainable market for the industry.

JT: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I think that's something that I struggle with and I think about the business models for any of these new mobility startups because they're so VC-backed and growth is needed to push forward, and so I appreciate that you raise the questions. 

I think it's a good question for any mobility co to consider and like the urban tech space, I cover more broadly outside of mobility tech, but urban tech startups and tech startups more broadly are being challenged now to prove quicker paths to profitability which is super important for a pretty nascent sector.

CX: As a follow-up, is that okay? I think, especially in the mobility and transportation space and as transportation takes years to build, it needs years of planning and collaboration between the private and public sectors. So I don't believe it's something we can figure out within a year with only the receipt of money and funding coming in.

JT: Yeah. There's definitely, I think a lot more, I don't know if pressure is the right word, but momentum probably for more infrastructure money, hopefully from the federal government.

So what big mobility trends or topics are you focused on for the rest of the year?
Looking ahead, as obviously we won't figure out all the solutions in a year or two in this space, but I'm curious what you have your eye on and are watching as someone who runs a company trying to push the space forward?

CX: Yeah, that's a great question. I think prior to COVID we focus a lot more on first-mile and last-mile solutions, and that is mainly focused on the commuting trip, but at the end of the day, even before COVID, commuting trips are only 20% of the all-purpose trip. 

And after COVID we realized that number dropped down significantly and revealing a lot more needs from people for other solutions.

So we should, that means as a mobility company, we should focus more than like community on first-mile and last mile. We might need to focus more on a wider range of people's needs.

For example, there are like grocery needs. There are recreational needs. And also there are people who have kids. They also need the transportation modes as well. I think we just need to make sure we show them that responsibility and understand what our users do need and help them to get access to the vehicle can fulfill their demands.

JT: I love that. I think about this a lot, and wonder how micromobility will really push forward now and get fewer cars on the road?  I live in LA where it's warm, and it's an easy proposition to be like, “get on a scooter bike and get outside.” Even though we don't have a ton of bike lanes, but like in the Northeast or like the Midwest where you started, it's much more challenging year-round.

And I think working with cities to create incentives, to get people out of their cars, it's a really challenging problem. So I love that it’s top of mind for you.
So I don't want to take up too much more of your time. 
What didn't I ask you that I should have? What did I miss here? What do you want to leave the audience with? 

CX: Yeah, I think you actually hit a very important part. I want to emphasize today is accessibility, because sometimes accessibility is Ignored by a lot of startups trying to grow at all costs, and focusing on the age groups that can provide them ridership and revenue. 

And a lot of people who have transportation needs are ignored. For example, women or the elderly, because a lot of people are just not comfortable or don't have the habit of riding the scooter comfortably and safely.

So in the past year, we have been working on providing new modes for these riders. Tor example,  our city scooter has been updated, and we have more to come soon actually come to serve people's needs in that range or category of people who have different body sizes and body types and also to address the age range as well. 

JT: No, I love that so much because I think that's something where I've seen a lot of possibility and growth. It seems like for example, the e-bike market has shown it can do this well I think over the last year, a lot of people and there's like a lot more models and like people who invest in an e-bike for their daily needs. In many ways it seems like COVID has helped that market.

So I love that. Thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.

CX: Thank you so much, John, for having us today.

CEO Candice Xie shares insights into the company’s sustainability and operating plans

Earlier this month, UrbanTech Founder John Thomey sat down with Veo CEO Candice Xie to learn about the company’s recent award to operate in New City’s Scooter pilot program, and how the company is thinking about expansion in the industry.

JT: Candice, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I'm super excited. I've been following Veo since the fall. I know you wrote a blog post that got a lot of coverage and traction in the mobility world. But I guess to start, I'd love to hear a little bit about the experience applying for and now successfully winning the New York city operating license?

Candice Xie, CEO of Veo: Yeah, sounds good. Thanks for having me today as well. As for the New York application, I think New York is a crown jewel for the mobility space because it has the density and has a lot of potential to meet a gap in the transportation network there.

So I think for Veo, we are very proud to serve the community and being able to start the very first scooter-share pilot in New York City in the summertime. 

JT: That's awesome. And you just launched either earlier this week or today in San Diego, right?

CX: That's correct. We just launched in San Diego with a thousand Veo Cosmos, which is our CD scooter version in San Diego today. 

JT: Super cool. I’m hoping to get down to San Diego down later this summer, so I can ride one. I'm curious. Maybe if you could explain a little bit, there's a lot of like a scooter and mobility products out there.

Maybe can you talk a little bit about what Veo offers specifically as an operator and what's unique about your vehicles?

CX: So Veo started Four years ago as a bike-share company. And since then we have been out innovating in the space and continuing to bring innovative technology on the hardware itself.

For example, we were the first company to deploy a swappable battery system. That is three years ago already. And we are also very good at expanding our offering for different mobility types. 

For example, we have bikes in our portfolio, e-bikes scooters. And right now, we are exploring a little bit more further in our portfolio offering; which we actually have to control over, and we specifically design a manufacturer and also deploy our commercial-grade, scooters, and bikes on the ground since we control the systems.

JT: Got it. That makes sense. I'm curious about the battery pack/technology piece. I know that's like a really specific, and big, part of this micro-mobility, electric vehicle, piece.What makes those battery components challenging right now or how are you thinking about this technology at VEO? 

CX: Yeah, the battery pack is a very efficient concept in operation because it enables us to be more efficient in our operations because we don't need to have a, we don't need to like collect all of our devices off streets, many times survey and also recharge them in a warehouse and pull them out again.

And what we do to that, we directly swap the empty battery on the street, and we can use small cargo bikes to swap batteries So essentially, it's a money-saving process. And also most importantly, you also reduce the operation Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita by more than 50% in the city.

I think this is not a technology, very easy to do which is why you're seeing different vendors out of sight in the space being defensive about this. They will blow a battery and put out a post to justify why they haven’t made an improvement yet.

JT: No, that makes sense. And I know there's a lot of startups now focusing on specifically the battery piece for the micro-mobility industry. There seems to be a lot of battery startups, going in that direction because they think people realize there's just a massive need for innovation in battery technology, and operationalizing the tech better.

I'm curious. And maybe this is in the weeds, but what cities are you operating in?

CX: We’ve are now in 40 more markets than since we started and are now entering New York. We are in San Diego. We also are in some Florida markets, and Long Beach -- so are all over the place, but we started from the West and East Coast Markets.

So, we are all over the place but we started in the Midwest in Chicago and on the East Coast. Now we are expanding outward.

JT: Got it. That makes sense. So different from how I think Bird or Lime started on the West coast and expanded from there out.

I'd love to get just your thoughts on the blog post that you wrote earlier in the fall about being one of the few mobility leaders who is a woman and challenging profitability standards in the space?

CX: Of course. So I think the reason why we wanted to post that blog is just as a response to Lime’s coloration of their profitability. I feel like they are sending out wrong information for the tech industry and also the tech world.

Like even though your business model is not sustainable, even though a company might use some misleading financial indicators; if you indicate you are financially profitable, even for one quarter, that's actually a little bit toxic for the industry because that will inspire a lot of people to grow at no costs and at all costs.And act regardless of the environmental and social impact of their businesses. And that's not our business motto.

So I wanted to share that information as the insider in the space -- to clarify who is the first company to be profitable in micromobility, and how it is possible to create a sustainable market for the industry.

JT: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I think that's something that I struggle with and I think about the business models for any of these new mobility startups because they're so VC-backed and growth is needed to push forward, and so I appreciate that you raise the questions. 

I think it's a good question for any mobility co to consider and like the urban tech space, I cover more broadly outside of mobility tech, but urban tech startups and tech startups more broadly are being challenged now to prove quicker paths to profitability which is super important for a pretty nascent sector.

CX: As a follow-up, is that okay? I think, especially in the mobility and transportation space and as transportation takes years to build, it needs years of planning and collaboration between the private and public sectors. So I don't believe it's something we can figure out within a year with only the receipt of money and funding coming in.

JT: Yeah. There's definitely, I think a lot more, I don't know if pressure is the right word, but momentum probably for more infrastructure money, hopefully from the federal government.

So what big mobility trends or topics are you focused on for the rest of the year?
Looking ahead, as obviously we won't figure out all the solutions in a year or two in this space, but I'm curious what you have your eye on and are watching as someone who runs a company trying to push the space forward?

CX: Yeah, that's a great question. I think prior to COVID we focus a lot more on first-mile and last-mile solutions, and that is mainly focused on the commuting trip, but at the end of the day, even before COVID, commuting trips are only 20% of the all-purpose trip. 

And after COVID we realized that number dropped down significantly and revealing a lot more needs from people for other solutions.

So we should, that means as a mobility company, we should focus more than like community on first-mile and last mile. We might need to focus more on a wider range of people's needs.

For example, there are like grocery needs. There are recreational needs. And also there are people who have kids. They also need the transportation modes as well. I think we just need to make sure we show them that responsibility and understand what our users do need and help them to get access to the vehicle can fulfill their demands.

JT: I love that. I think about this a lot, and wonder how micromobility will really push forward now and get fewer cars on the road?  I live in LA where it's warm, and it's an easy proposition to be like, “get on a scooter bike and get outside.” Even though we don't have a ton of bike lanes, but like in the Northeast or like the Midwest where you started, it's much more challenging year-round.

And I think working with cities to create incentives, to get people out of their cars, it's a really challenging problem. So I love that it’s top of mind for you.
So I don't want to take up too much more of your time. 
What didn't I ask you that I should have? What did I miss here? What do you want to leave the audience with? 

CX: Yeah, I think you actually hit a very important part. I want to emphasize today is accessibility, because sometimes accessibility is Ignored by a lot of startups trying to grow at all costs, and focusing on the age groups that can provide them ridership and revenue. 

And a lot of people who have transportation needs are ignored. For example, women or the elderly, because a lot of people are just not comfortable or don't have the habit of riding the scooter comfortably and safely.

So in the past year, we have been working on providing new modes for these riders. Tor example,  our city scooter has been updated, and we have more to come soon actually come to serve people's needs in that range or category of people who have different body sizes and body types and also to address the age range as well. 

JT: No, I love that so much because I think that's something where I've seen a lot of possibility and growth. It seems like for example, the e-bike market has shown it can do this well I think over the last year, a lot of people and there's like a lot more models and like people who invest in an e-bike for their daily needs. In many ways it seems like COVID has helped that market.

So I love that. Thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.

CX: Thank you so much, John, for having us today.

How Veo is Pushing the Envelope for Micromobility and Mobility

John Thomey

John Thomey is a founder of Urban Tech, a newsletter and podcast. He’s a graduate student at the University of Southern California, studying Public Policy and Urban Planning.

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