First was the wheel, then the 4 wheels… now the bike sharing.
Uber’s history is about taking people from point A to B.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the new Uber CEO, made his first acquisition: Jump Bikes, a startup that rents out shared electric dockless bikes in San Francisco and Washington DC.
Enthusiastic and happy Khosrowshahi wrote an email: “I’m excited to share the news that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Jump Bikes, an electric, dockless bikesharing service we’ve already been partnering with in San Francisco.
You’ve heard me talk a lot about Uber as a platform—using the power of our technology, our on-the-ground Ops know-how, and global scale to provide more options for multimodal transportation to help people (or stuff) get from point A to B.”
The deal comes two months after Uber partnered with Jump in San Francisco to make bike rentals available through the Uber app. Dockless bike shares, which allow users to leave their rides just about anywhere when they’re done with a journey, have quickly become a huge business in China and are rapidly expanding into some US cities. Critics say they can cause a huge mess as broken and vandalized bikes are abandoned.
TechCrunch reports that the deal was valued at close to $200 million. Jump, which launched in 2008 as Social Bicycles, had raised about $15 million in funding. In January the company became the first in San Francisco to receive a permit for a dockless e-bike program. Jump’s team will stay “independent and focused on growth vs. integration,” with CEO Ryan Rzepecki reporting directly to Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO told his company in the email refered.
In a post on Medium, Rzepecki said Khosrowshahi’s leadership made Jump feel more comfortable with the deal. “We could see the shift in the company once Dara was named CEO as he began leading with humility and in a way that we felt reflected our values,” Rzepecki wrote.
Expanding into alternative modes of transportation like bikes dovetails nicely with Uber’s need to reestablish itself as a friend of cities, rather than a foe. The company has made enemies of many local governments with its barge-in strategy over the last 10 years, and now is rarely given the benefit of the doubt. In cities including New York and Uber’s hometown of San Francisco, for example, the company faces pressure from transit experts and regulators who say ride-hailing has worsened congestion and decreased use of public transit systems.
At the same time, the move into dockless bikes could reenforce skepticism from opponents who say un-docked bikes clutter city streets and sidewalks, and encourage theft and vandalism. Such concerns have led many large US cities to cap the number of bikes allowed or resist dockless bike-share entirely. “You drive down a street, you see bikes everywhere, all scattered out,” Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins told the Wall Street Journal on March. “We’ve got to think it through. It’s a mess.”
With information from Quartz Media.