In just a year, from 2017-2018, electric scooters exploded from obscure gadgets to common transportation around the world.
When any trend shows that scale and staying power, it’s time to start thinking about how you can profit from it.
But compared to cars, for instance, it’s a small and new market. It takes a little more digging to figure out which investable companies are heavily involved.
This post is a summary of what I’ve learned. And if electric scooters are a personal passion of yours, then read through to the end for some totally different ways to monetize your interest as well.
I’m not a financial professional. This is purely opinion and entertainment, not advice. Do what’s right for you, and if in doubt about what that is, then it’s important to find someone who’s legally able to tell you.
Here’s how to invest in the electric scooter market
The easiest way to invest in the electric kick scooter industry is by buying stock in companies that operate shared-scooter services. As of writing, those include Lyft, Uber (to an extent), Ford, and soon Helbiz. Most other companies that rent or make electric scooters or parts are privately owned, so everyday investors can’t simply buy shares. Another option is to invest your own time into creating a side business around electric scooter media, services, or accessories.
Personally, the last option is the most exciting for anyone who enjoys electric scooters for their own sake, and not strictly as an investment opportunity. Might as well monetize what you’re already thinking about! This article will end with a few ideas on how to do so. First, let’s look at what stock investment options are (and aren’t) available as of 2021.
Can you buy stock in electric kick scooter rental companies?
As of writing, the only publicly traded scooter-share companies are parts of larger public companies. (There’s one partial exception, which we’ll also cover below.)
To date, the vast majority of scooter-share funding has come from venture capital firms as well as from a few large corporations. With venture capital, the name of the game is to make several big but risky investments. Ideally, at least one will pay itself back tens or hundreds of times over, which more than offsets the losses. That’s why new, high-potential markets like electric scooters are appealing to venture firms, but harder for you and I to participate in.
Today, Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) may be the only public company that operates scooter rentals under its own name. That’s just one tiny portion of Lyft’s total revenue, so the performance of your Lyft shares would mostly reflect other services besides scooters.
Uber (NYSE: UBER) is another public company that plays a large role in the shared electric scooter market. It purchased the e-bike and e-scooter rental company Jump in 2018, but moved Jump to Lime in 2020 as part of a major investment in Lime. These days, Lime is a big player in micro-mobility, so Uber has significant exposure through that investment, but Uber itself is not directly in the scooter market anymore. (Incidentally, Google is another major investor in Lime.)
Ford Motors (NYSE: F) is a less obvious choice, but the behemoth auto manufacturer actually acquired the rental service Spin in late 2018. Of course, that’s just a sliver of its $150B+ business, so don’t expect your stock in Ford to correlate closely with the scooter-share market.
Last up is the most exciting option: Helbiz (tentatively NASDAQ: HLBZ). It’s a micro-mobility start-up similar to Jump, Spin, and the like. But unlike its peers, Helbiz is set to go public through a merger with GreenVision, a Shanghai-based SPAC (special purpose acquisition company, or “blank check company”). This is a huge deal in the industry, since Helbiz will be the first and only micro-mobility company that is public on its own, not via acquisition by a much larger corporation.
Is Bird Scooters publicly traded?
As of writing, Bird is not publicly traded. It is a private company with prominent VC backers including Sequoia Capital.
Is Lime Scooters publicly traded?
Lime is not publicly traded. However, its major investors include Uber and Google, both of which are public companies that any retail investor can buy into.
What about investing in scooter manufacturers?
Most of the large electric scooter manufacturers are privately-held Chinese companies, which we generally can’t invest directly in. That rules out prominent companies like Beijing-based Ninebot, which owns Segway.
One publicly traded option is Xiaomi, maker of the wildly popular Mi M365. However, Xiaomi is an enormous corporation of which electric scooters are just one minuscule part.
Furthermore, it’s only available in the US on the OTC market (OTCMKTS: XIACY), which means more risks around transparency and liquidity. XIACY is based on the company’s Hong Kong listing, but it’s not regulated or sponsored in the same way as that underlying stock.
(Additionally, note that XIACY is different from XIACF. The latter is a pink-sheets listing that’s only available to institutional investors.)
Another option is Niu Technologies, whose ADRs trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol NIU. (Note: Niu is not to be confused with electric car maker NIO).
Unlike the Xiaomi conglomerate, Niu is a smaller and totally transportation-focused company. They’re mostly known for Vespa-style electric scooters and mopeds, but have recently entered the electric kick scooter market.
Another angle: related products and services
I’m personally bullish on the electric scooter market and believe many companies will succeed. Many will also fail spectacularly.
But whether successful or not, all manufacturers need batteries. All rental services need rapid charging. So it goes with entire behind-the-scenes product and service categories that enable more visible brands to do their thing.
Of course, it’s not like electric kick scooter sales are large enough to change the trajectories of entire battery makers or charger manufacturers. Those companies often cater to electric car makers first and foremost, since that’s obviously a more lucrative market.
But a rising tide lifts all ships, so we as individuals might want to find our own way to get in on the action.
And that leads to…
Monetizing your passion: a better alternative?
As with any investment, the electric scooter market requires upfront cash and plenty of risk tolerance. Huge growth is possible–even likely–but far from inevitable. The bottom bottom could fall out of the industry entirely, and there are plenty of company-specific risks, too.
That’s no different from any other growth investment, of course, but it’s important to understand before jumping in.
But if you’re into electric scooters for their own sake, then there are several more entrepreneurial ways to turn your interest and knowledge into money. Most require limited money and risk, but ample time and tenacity.
Sell parts and spares online
You may or may not realize that a great deal of what you buy on Amazon comes from third-party sellers. Sometimes, they’ve simply purchased existing products in bulk to resell. Other times, they’ve actually designed something from the ground up and worked with a large manufacturer to offer it under a proprietary brand (“private label”).
That’s as true with electric scooters as with any other product category.
If you see growing demand for simple and readily available parts, then what’s to stop you from following that same business model? Granted, it takes money and involves risk. But also exposes you more directly to market growth than, say, in a gargantuan corporation whose vast portfolio just so happen to include a scooter rental service.
Design the accessories you wish existed
Let’s take that idea a step further.
Is there a scooter accessory you can’t believe nobody has made yet? Or does a common part cause headaches that would be a cinch to solve?
If so, then consider filling that gap with a design of your own. 3D printing is a cheap and quick way to test your design, especially if you can get access to a shop, “makerspace,” or other setting with high-end equipment.
You can also work with a bigger manufacturer, but keep in mind that prototypes and inventory can eat up capital with no guarantee of a return. That’s especially true if your design would be the very first of its kind. In that case, low-cost 3D-printed prototypes strike me as a better choice.
Offer an uncommon but valuable service
Dedicated repair services are extremely hard to find, and shipping a scooter to the manufacturer to repair is very expensive.
If you have in-depth knowledge of scooter mechanics and electronics, then consider repairing them–for a decent fee, of course.
Drop-off services could work well in/near large cities, and a mobile service seems even more promising.
You may need tools and will certainly need an inventory of common spares. But unlike something you’ve invented from scratch, the above can usually be resold if you don’t need them.
By the way, consider using your technical know-how to pick up secondhand electric scooters and resell them at a premium. After all, the skills needed to repair others’ scooters are basically the same skills needed to fix and flip for yourself.
Create ultra-helpful industry & product info
As the electric scooter market grows, so will the questions people need answered. From reviews and buyer’s guides to how-to’s and FAQs, you can turn your firsthand experience into an endless amount of useful information.
Remember: usefulness and relevance brings eyeballs, and eyeballs bring revenue.
If you’re trying to monetize your interest with essentially no upfront costs, then this is easily the best way. Speaking as a blogger myself, be prepared for hard work, slow progress, and stiff competition!
We’ve seen that there are a few stocks with exposure to electric kick scooter rental. The upcoming Helbiz listing is the most direct, but also the most speculative. Scooter manufacturers are generally not accessible to individual investors, since those companies are mostly private and foreign.
If you’re optimistic about the electric scooter market, and are willing to put in the work, then I believe your own project will be the best investment. We’ve covered a few ideas, ranging from info/media projects to e-commerce and design.
Those of you who are entrepreneurially inclined will think of plenty of other ways to build a small business around this niche–and perhaps even a not-so-small one!