Why micromobility may emerge from the pandemic stronger than before

Since its inception, shared micromobility services have been in a precarious position — one supported by millions of dollars in venture capital. But the COVID-19 pandemic has brought even more turmoil upon an industry that has long struggled with unit economics. It has led to mass layoffs, operation shutdowns across several markets and more consolidation.

Despite the struggles of individual operators, micromobility as technology will come out of this stronger than before, industry analyst Horace Dediu tells TechCrunch.

Dediu, an analyst who coined the term “micromobility” and founded Micromobility Industries, sees the silver lining in the pandemic for micromobility as it relates to the adoption of public transit alternatives. With ongoing concerns about the disease and social distancing, consumers may look to alternative modes of transportation — ones that require fewer interactions with strangers. But simply because a certain technology takes off doesn’t mean the current slate of operators will benefit.

“The companies involved may not survive a crisis,” Dediu says. “We don’t remember the fact there were 3,000 automobile companies in the United States prior to Henry Ford’s Model T. We don’t remember all the electrical suppliers out there and the consolidation that took place in the electrical field with Westinghouse. There’s a lot of historic references we can cite. But the fact of the matter is that up until the crisis there was an over-investment where probably too much capital was allocated to the industry chasing business models which are not sustainable…I think there will be a washout with a kind of consolidation and we’re seeing that already.”

Earlier this month, for example, Uber sold off JUMP to Lime, while simultaneously leading a $170 million investment in the micromobility startup. That funding round brought Lime’s valuation down 79%, to $510 million, according to The Information. Last April, Lime was valued at $2.4 billion.