When mobility startup Revel deployed its shared electrical mopeds throughout Brooklyn, NY in 2018, it recommended the service would be a “missing link” in city transportation. After simply two years, Revel is now serving as that hyperlink in 5 main U.S. markets: Miami; Washington, DC; Berkeley, CA; Oakland, CA and, after all, New York.
Designed for “middle-mile” transportation, or journeys of roughly three miles, Revel has stuffed a distinct segment demand not but tapped by its e-scooter and biking friends. Revel’s mopeds can comfortably match two riders for journey as much as 30 mph, enabling a transportation different that sits between last-mile and car-enabled companies.
But, as is usually the case for micromobility firms, Revel’s operations have been rife with controversy — significantly in respect to security. The corporate has confronted quite a few lawsuits and high-profile accidents, and was on the middle of two deadly crashes that prompted a temporary service shutdown in New York in July 2020.
As Revel works to handle these issues, the city mobility house continues to welcome shared electrical transportation, signaling development alternatives for the moped service. Good Cities Dive not too long ago caught up with Revel CEO and Co-Founder Frank Reig to debate how the corporate is seizing such alternatives and setting new mobility requirements in 2021.
The next interview has been edited for readability and brevity.
SMART CITIES DIVE: What had been Revel’s key milestones or accomplishments in 2020?
FRANK REIG: Man, 2020. What a 12 months. The very first thing that involves thoughts once I consider what I am most happy with, is the Revel staff rising to the event.
This was only a very fascinating 12 months — COVID hit in early March, and simply as you are anticipating income to actually begin to enhance as your extra seasonal markets enter spring, the precise reverse occurs. Actually income falls off a cliff for the subsequent eight to 10 weeks, particularly in DC and New York and the Bay Space. Individuals simply went inside and closed the door, and except you had a vital journey otherwise you’re a vital employee, you did not go away your condominium.
That was only a actually onerous time for us. You are desirous about money runway, you are desirous about preserving prices. However then the other occurred come mid-Could when demand began to undergo the roof, past something anyone anticipated. In order that took a very resilient staff to reply to each of these kind of modifications that we noticed out there: demand dropping to virtually zero, after which the precise reverse occurring 10 weeks later.
Have been the markets you entered in 2020 on account of demand from COVID?
REIG: Expansions that occurred earlier than the pandemic, like Oakland and Miami, that was simply clear. The world was in a unique place pre-March 2020. In hindsight it simply made loads of sense after we launched these markets.
A market like San Francisco and Berkeley, we had been desirous about launching these doubtlessly in spring of 2020 and determined to push these again a bit in mild of all the pieces that was occurring with COVID. So, it positively impacted plans a bit there.
I feel the growth in New York, that was in direct response to — we’ve automobiles within the Metropolis of New York and there are literally thousands of healthcare employees that must get across the metropolis. Once we expanded with metropolis assist right here in New York to 2 extra boroughs, we additionally offered rides to all healthcare workers for free. Over 3,000 well being care employees signed up for that program and we had 200,000 miles pushed on the system over that 10-week interval, all without spending a dime. However that is what drove the New York growth, was that program at the moment, and rising to the event.
Revel exited Austin, TX in December, marking the corporate’s first-ever exit from a market. Are you able to elaborate a bit on why that call was made?
REIG: Working there for 13 months, we discovered so much. … Austin has its personal distinctive kind of tradition of mobility. And one factor we have discovered as we obtained smarter working our enterprise throughout totally different markets over the past two years, is that a number of key information factors actually matter. Austin by far has the best proportion of automotive possession for any market we’re in, and that may be a key information level that we now have a look at.
Should you had been to simply Google the inhabitants of Austin, it could be 900,000. However then should you really have a look at our working space in Austin, which covers most of what you think about kind of downtown areas, that inhabitants is nearer to love 200,000 individuals. So simply the general market itself is fairly small. After which the second bucket is, a lot of Austin is an occasion and tourism city, and a college city. And due to COVID, all three of these classes went to virtually zero.
So between these two sorts of buckets — structural dynamic and the way the market is … to universities basically shut down, occasions and tourism shut down — [we faced] so much headwinds.
There’s a lot sprawl in Austin, which I assumed can be becoming for a service like Revel. Do you see markets with such sprawl as alternative areas?
REIG: The most effective locations for micromobility, and even middle-mile transportation like Revel … you really need locations the place there is a actually good combine of business and residential collectively. The Austin dynamic is, you have got the downtown core which could be very industrial, after which you have got loads of suburban type of sprawl as soon as you allow that downtown core. And that is simply not the perfect setting for [micromobility].
One in all your most important markets is New York Metropolis, the place e-scooters will soon be permitted. How do you suppose that can influence competitors? Do you suppose you will lose Revel riders to those expanded mobility choices?
REIG: I feel it is gonna have a really minimal influence, to be sincere with you. Should you’ve learn the allow that they are issuing, they’re very clear that the working space for this pilot allow would not embody wherever that Citi Bike touches, which is a overwhelming majority of Revel’s working space. And it positively would not contact Manhattan; e-scooters are nonetheless unlawful in Manhattan. So I feel by way of simply, when you begin stepping into the small print of what this pilot allow goes to be, it is clear there’s not even a geographical [concern].
The opposite piece goes again to our common journey distance of three-and-a-half miles. So when individuals take into consideration taking Revel, their choice matrix is, do I feel a Revel or do I name an Uber. That is the competitors I take into consideration, that’s the competitors our customers inform us that they give thought to.
Shifting on to security, I saw recent news of extra lawsuits filed towards Revel on account of rider accidents. You’ve got stated you are unable to touch upon authorized issues, however how is Revel additional committing to security in respect to those fits?
REIG: It’s a must to take into consideration what we’ve accomplished up to now. So there is not any different two-wheeled operator — e-bikes, kick scooters, mopeds, no person — that requires the person to take helmet selfie each single time. If they’ve a passenger, additionally they want the passenger to take a helmet selfie.
Each single one is reviewed, and since we’ve relaunched our service in New York Metropolis, we have suspended actually hundreds of paying prospects who won’t ever use the system once more as a result of they did not take that rule critically. So simply by way of an organization taking accountability, hopefully that claims so much about who we’re.
One thing else that we have accomplished is, there is a 42-question security coaching now earlier than any single individual can get on one among our automobiles. That is not, you realize, three quick questions that take 20 seconds. It is 42 questions earlier than you are allowed to journey, to be sure to perceive what this automobile is, the way it must be operated in metropolis streets and the best way to be secure. These are issues we’ve come out with in 2020.
Simply to be clear as effectively, you have at all times needed to be 21 to make use of Revel; you have at all times wanted a driver’s license, clearly; we require you to take a photograph back and front and examine that towards the selfie that you just take once you signal as much as just be sure you’re really that individual; we have at all times supplied two [Department of Transportation]-approved helmets proper there on each single automobile; we have at all times supplied free seven-day-a-week, one-on-one classes for anybody that would love them in each single market we function in. So by way of security, I’d argue there’s not a two-wheeled micromobility firm that even touches the quantity that we’ve accomplished, each from launch and likewise modifications in 2020.
However there are clearly some issues that also exist. Is there anything you are planning within the 12 months forward to handle these issues?
REIG: Sure. I can inform you we’ve a whole working group internally that is considering that actual query you have got. That 42-question security coaching, how will we make that even higher? Earlier than your first journey, what are messages that we’re sending you throughout the app earlier than you are even in a position to get on the automobile?
These are all the types of issues that we’re doing to proceed to push security, push that envelope. I haven’t got something particular to announce simply but, however that is a whole space of focus internally that is clearly tremendous vital to us and the corporate transferring ahead.
Revel’s web site options a helmet store, regardless of the automobiles coming geared up with two helmets. What’s the reasoning for this retailer?
REIG: One of many issues we have seen is that should you stroll right into a moped store, to get a DOT-approved moped or bike helmet, that is going to value you $80-$100. And that is essentially the most fundamental mannequin, so that they’re fairly costly.
We needed to present shoppers the choice to get themselves a helmet at what it prices us. We’re not making any cash off these helmets; they’re offered at wholesale worth that we’re in a position to get ourselves. and I feel that is only a perform of, some individuals simply do not wish to share helmets.
I feel we have offered over 1,000 within the final couple of months, so clearly there’s demand for customers that need their very own private helmet that they need not share with anyone, and the perfect half is it is 40% of the associated fee should you had been to simply stroll into a store.
You had been not too long ago quoted in a 2021 predictions piece rejecting using gig employees within the micromobility sector. How has this angle impacted your operations?
REIG: We make use of mechanics, discipline technicians, customer support brokers … and none of these people are the gig financial system. Each single one is a Revel worker. We’ve near 300 staff throughout our totally different markets, all of them have entry to the identical healthcare advantages as I do. They’re staff so, guess what, we pay their unemployment insurance coverage and pay their employees comp.
Using the gig financial system basically amongst tech firms is truthfully simply gross to me. I’ve little interest in it. It simply frustrates me to the core. Once I hear individuals speak about, “Oh, however flexibility!” … Flexibility is the phrase that people who find themselves pro-gig financial system at all times come up. You possibly can nonetheless have staff and provides them flexibility in a schedule. I do not perceive why they’re so separate.
One factor that will get my blood boiling is the Prop 22, all the pieces that occurred there in California in November. Their first speaking level on Prop 22, this third classification, is, “We will pay the Door Dashers and Uber drivers of the world 120% of minimal wage, however solely of engaged time.” And everybody is aware of once you use these apps, engaged time might be 40%-50%. So your level is actually you admitting you are paying your individuals lower than minimal wage. And that is like, your large program. What? How do you even fall for this? It is ridiculous.
Do you imagine hiring W2 staff as an alternative of gig employees has impacted your metropolis relationships?
REIG: Completely. I feel two issues are key with these relationships. One is, what are you bringing to my metropolis exterior of this transportation choice? And the large one in any metropolis goes to be jobs and employments, and coaching within the new financial system, which is electrical automobiles. So that may be a large plus, having the ability to come right into a metropolis like New York and say, we’re hiring individuals from the neighborhood in actual jobs.
Any metropolis you go into — I do not care what state it is in — on the metropolis degree, they lean progressive, they’re very a lot pro-workers’ rights like Revel is. So that you higher be kind of coming to the desk with one thing that is smart for them.
The opposite piece is, as soon as we offer you a allow, how do you use? I would argue it is virtually simpler to get a allow than it’s to maintain a very good working relationship that really will get higher over time, as a result of certain you get a allow however now you might want to execute on all the pieces you advised me to get that allow. So how do you use day in and time out? How do you reply to requests from town? And what’s your working relationship and are you sharing information?
These are the 2 large buckets that my staff is continually executing on to verify, truthfully, that our fame throughout market is, we’re the perfect operator to work with palms down. That is the aim.