“Zipcar For Scooters” Startup Scoot Networks Launches To The Public In San Francisco

Scoot Networks has been called the “Zipcar for scooters,” and is quietly building a (small) fleet of electric, short-range vehicles for getting around San Francisco. The startup started with just 10 scooters, but is expanding that to 50 over the coming weeks, as it opens its service in a public beta today.

Scoot hopes to provide a local transportation alternative to cars and other vehicle, with availability of Vespa-style scooters for rental for a maximum of $5 an hour, or $10 per commute during the week. The startup, which bills itself as the “easiest, fastest, cheapest ride in SF,”* has built up a small fleet of scooters that users can rent and unlock with their mobile phones.

The service is powered via mobile apps that let users book scooters on-demand for their commute, running errands, or whatever short-term need people might have for them. Scoot has rewired the ignitions of its scooters, so users don’t need keys — they can be unlocked via mobile phone. Once a user has plugged his smartphone into the scooter’s dock, the phone becomes a dashboard that provides maps, speedometer, and a battery gauge. It also uses the app to track a user’s location, so Scoot knows where its vehicles are at any given time.

For now, there are plenty of restrictions to the service, however. The scooters are battery-powered and only go about 25 miles per charge, which limits the amount of cruising around users might want to do. That’s ok, though, because Scoot doesn’t want you going very far: At launch, it’s restricting usage to within san Francisco, and since the whole thing is powered by GPS tracking on smartphones, Scoot knows where you’ve been. In other words, don’t try to take your scooter over the Bay Bridge — it just might get you banned from the service.

Scoot will have orientation for new users, to teach them how to safely ride a scooter. And it will charge an initial $10 to sign up. The good news is that each scooter comes with a helmet and insurance for the rider, and there’s no specialty driver’s license needed to use the service. The other good news is that Scoot is incredibly efficient: Its scooters cost just 18 cents worth of electricity to fully charge up, and get the equivalent of 850 miles per gallon. They also emit less than 2 percent of the CO2 per mile of a typical car.

Scoot is launching with four main locations for its scooter fleet in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, but it will hopefully expand beyond that based on demand. Initial locations include: outside the Caltrain King Street Station, at SFMTA’s 5th and Mission Garage, at Luscious Garage on 9th and Bryant, and in front of the 625 2nd St building near South Park.

Since being founded last year, Scoot has raised a total $775,000, with investors such as Tim Young (About.me, Socialcast), Jerry Fiddler (Zygote Ventures, Wind River), Shane Johnson (Paintbrush Capital), Joanne Wilson (angel investor), Lisa Gansky (Mesh Labs, Ofoto), and Mark Jacobstein (Qualcomm, iSkoot), Greenstart, and Athos Aramis.

* Besides yo’ mama.