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The advent of new technology often brings with it an astonishingly swift job extinction event: obsolescence can undermine an industry in an unexpectedly short period of time. But technological change also brings with it an abundance of new opportunities, many of which are not obvious at the very beginning. Those entrepreneurs who are first to identify such opportunities have at their fingertips the chance to occupy and dominate in their chosen space even as they break new ground.
Primary businesses (also referred to as “first tier” or “first order” businesses) provide the “root” product. For example: automobile manufacturing. From the simple existence of automobiles a wide array of opportunities for infrastructure, goods and services is created. Gas stations, which provide fuel and convenient supplies for stops. Autobody repair. Auto mechanics. Car audio. Detailing and car washing. Car upholstery. Aftermarket accessories from floor mats to hubcaps. Roadside emergency services. Dash cams. The list is lengthy.
These “second tier” or “second order” businesses sprout from the opportunities that appear—some clearly, some less so—from the footprint created by the first tier. Without that first tier, or “root” business, the outer ring of related enterprise and industry would collapse. Consider the 19th century buggy whip. When horse-drawn carriages vanished thanks to the automobile, the market for buggy whips practically evaporated. There was still a market for carriage wheels, but they had to be modified to suit the needs of the new type of carriage, the horseless kind.
This spider web of interrelated businesses continues outward. Third tier businesses support the second tier ones. Gas stations selling food and drink to automobile drivers needed small display fridges and conveniently packaged food. Hot dog roller grills and slush machines became de rigeur in any gas station mini mart. An entire industry sprung up around the economics of gas stations, meeting the opportunities that appeared head-on.
This general survey of how businesses and opportunities are deeply interlocked serves to illuminate a path on which community-based micro mobility could follow. I’ve written about how a community-based solution to first and last mile mobility challenges is advantageous, and how the model offers significant opportunity to even cash-strapped entrepreneurs. In support of that micro mobility eco-system, let’s consider the second tier businesses that could appear specifically to service that industry.
This one is the most obvious as it already exists via Bird and Lime (“Bird Hunters” and “Lime Juicers”). While an owner of a small collection of scooters could easily charge and maintain the devices themselves, once someone is running a larger fleet, paying a third party to drive around collecting the scooters and charging them might end up being more economical. So with a community-based model, a single operator with a van or pickup could service dozens of scooters per night, scooters that belong to different fleets and owners. Charging remains very inexpensive, measured in cents per scooter. Light maintenance would include giving the scooters a wipe-down, and tightening a nut here or there.
This one also already exists and has been rolled into the charging and maintenance duties. Once the devices are charged and cleaned, they are re-distributed in the early morning at prime locations for use. However, there’s another aspect to this: a scooter fleet owner might be able to get more paid rides if the scooters are re-deployed to prime locations a few times during the day. It would depend on the traffic patterns and users in a given area, but a roving service such as this could be very attractive to fleet owners seeking to maximize their revenues.
Rescue & Recovery
We’ve all read about the disastrous treatment shared scooters and bikes receive at the hands of disgruntled or bored community members. Some mobility devices have even been “re-deployed” in rivers and lakes, which makes finding them to unlock for a ride a little problematic. Although the percentage of these devices being poorly treated remains low (Lime reported less than 1%), every single scooter is an asset that cost money and could be making money. A dedicated recovery service that retrieves the devices and repairs them to working order would be particularly appealing to scooter owners who have invested in the higher-end “luxury” mobility devices.
Charging and Maintenance Spaces
While a charger could simply take the devices home and plug them in, and clean or repair scooters in their kitchen, a small dedicated space with electrical outlets, tools, cleaning materials and workbenches could charge fees for access. An enterprising individual could rent a storage unit, fit it out for micro mobility devices and support several neighbourhoods. A very enterprising individual could roll all of the services above plus this one into one and offer the entire gamut of fleet caretaking services.
With multiple fleets ranging in size from one scooter to many dozens, it only makes sense of their owners to splash their own particular brands on their devices. Apart from the QR Code and a couple of other parts on a scooter that shouldn’t be covered, the whole scooter or e-bike is a canvas upon which a clever designer could make a visual statement. Stickers, vinyl lettering and custom painting are all ways of making your scooters truly your own. If you offer something different, such as special ride pricing on Mondays, or you only use the luxury models of scooters, or your scooters all stream video of your ride, customers will start seeking out your brand.
This list just scratches the surface of the opportunities that present themselves in the community-based micro mobility space. As the space develops, we’ll see businesses in the third and fourth tiers that we couldn’t have imagined. Who knew when the Web was launched that one day we’d need a service for targeted banner advertising? And then ad blocking? We’re near the beginning again, when Netscape was the Web and designing tables in HTML was fascinating. The next few years will be intriguing.
March 1, 2019 at 09:56PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs