Skip’s Unique Approach to Last-Mile Transit and Why I Joined as Head of Product

Shalin Mantri
Nov 20, 2018 · 4 min read

I am excited to announce that I’m joining Skip Scooters as its head of product.

The need for micro-mobility.

I came to Uber nearly five years ago when Black cars were still half of its trips (before carpooling, food delivery, and self-driving cars), the service was operating in 50 cities (seven percent of today’s number), and drivers had to navigate themselves to pickups and dropoffs (and riders had to verbally tell drivers where they wanted to go… crazy, right?).

Uber has truly revolutionized how we get around. But this success has an underbelly: Cities are more congested than ever, most people still need to travel in cars, which is both expensive and dangerous, and last-mile transit is still an unsolved problem. For example, there’s simply no great way to go from the Caltrain to the Mission.

Enter shared electric vehicles, like kick scooters.

Since scooters launched in SF a few weeks ago, I haven’t taken a single Uber within the city. Scooters have been fun, fast, and inexpensive compared with my alternatives — walking or ridepooling. In fact, my wife and I ran an experiment in which she took an UberPOOL Express and I took a Skip scooter from one of Uber’s offices to home. In that 2.5-mile commute, I arrived home five minutes faster and my commute was 25 percent cheaper! My wife, a self-proclaimed ridehailing fangirl, was impressed.

My commuter use case isn’t the only one for scooters… But it certainly opened my eyes to the magnitude of the opportunity. In many U.S. cities, a substantial portion of all ridehailing trips are less than three miles in distance with an average speed slower than a fast run. The available market for scooters isn’t niche, e.g. just for tourists or teenagers, it is much much larger: A substitute for walking and even taking an Uber when you shouldn’t be.

Why I Skip.

Many companies have launched shared scooter networks to capitalize on this opportunity. Why do I believe Skip has a shot to win?

Skip believes in working together with transportation departments, community groups, and neighborhoods — not in spite of them. This is important because scooters will get regulated and, in many cities, permit capped. And that’s ok: No one wants scooters littering city streets, blocking pathways, and populating metallic graveyards (for a glimpse into such a dystopia, check out China). Skip’s city-friendly approach enabled it to receive the first permitted system of its kind in the U.S. in Washington D.C. It’s also the basis behind its entry in San Francisco, a flagship regulatory market that inevitably others will follow.

Designing EVs for the rugged conditions of city streets is in Skip’s DNA. In 2011, CEO Sanjay Dastoor and co-founder Matt Tran built Boosted Boards, the most popular electric skateboards on the market and helped design the first portable electric vehicle to use modern EV motor and battery systems. I’m excited to partner with Sanjay and the rest of the Skip team to infuse scooter hardware with software-driven intelligence. Whether it’s safe riding tracking and parking enforcement with deep learning, mobile experiences for riders to find and navigate to their destinations, seamless task platforms for crowdsourced labor (we call them “rangers”) to charge, reposition, and repair scooters, and tools for cities to better track and optimize traffic… The scope of the products to be built here is massive.

Finally, Skip is focused on building a real business. The demise of Jawbone earlier this year should serve as an important reminder to anyone playing in consumer products: Unit economics matter. Product innovation around automation, anti-theft, and anti-fraud is needed to bend the curve.

Let’s go!

It’s very early days for Skip (it just hit its one-year anniversary!). The team is small and scrappy, and there are major challenges to overcome in every aspect of the business. But it’s this David vs. Goliath challenge, and the opportunity to make our cities more livable and streets safer through shared EVs, that make me superpumped about this next step.

Even my wife Neha has joined the bandwagon. Date night has taken on a whole new meaning!

Our team is growing. If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch! You can find me at shalin <at> skipscooters.com.

Shalin Mantri

Written by

Head of Product @SkipScooters. Recovering alum of @Uber and self-driving cars. Champion of UX and data.