Scooter riders traverse the beach bike path.

Bird, Lime and a few other companies might dominate the e-scooter industry in Los Angeles but a new company is betting it can compete in Venice and Culver City and on the coast between Marina del Rey and Redondo Beach.

Sun Scooter launched its app this past week and is deploying 100 bright yellow scooters around Los Angeles and 200 in South Florida this week. Although the company is based in Santa Monica, it cannot operate scooters within city limits because the City of Santa Monica only allows Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber, to do business in the city under its Shared Mobility program.

CEO Kevin Ellyson said the company is providing a safer scooter and more intuitive app in order to compete with other “last mile” companies, although he said the company will focus on parts of Los Angeles where behemoths like Bird have deployed fewer scooters. Rates will be on par with other companies: $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute.

Sun Scooters will also park in front of hotels and share revenue with them, Ellyson said.

The company will hire mechanics to maintain its scooters, whereas most scooter companies train and pay ordinary users to perform repairs, he said. Teams in vans will rove the streets to pull scooters parked inappropriately.

“We’re not putting out a ton of units and not maintaining them,” Ellyson said.

Ellyson also said the Sun Scooter app is easier to use – its wallet is a tap away and users can order helmets in one click – and uses less battery than other scooter apps.

Beyond those features, however, it is unclear what separates Sun Scooter from the pack, said Thomas Knapp, a University of Southern California business professor specializing in entrepreneurship.

“If you come late to an industry, you’d better bring some sort of technology or way of doing things that’s really a game changer, and ideally you’d have some intellectual property that protects that,” he said. “I’m not seeing that here.”

Knapp said he doesn’t think 100 scooters is enough for a large market like Los Angeles. (Ellyson said the company is planning to expand quickly.)

“As someone who has seen thousands of startups develop, I’m really struggling to understand why this makes sense,” Knapp said.

The company has so far raised funding from family and friends and is pulling in a round of investor funding in the next week, Ellyson said.

 

madeleine@smdp.com

 

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