The first electric scooter sharing services were set up in San Francisco in 2012. They offered an option for last-mile transportation. Then they headed to Europe and showed up in Berlin, Paris, and Madrid.
When Singaporean firms began adapting the idea for the city-state in June 2017, the sector wasn’t regulated. The first providers, Telepod and Neuron Mobility, started small—Telepod put ten electric scooters on the road for its trial phase, while Neuron Mobility began with 50. Other companies followed suit, including Grab, Lime, Beam, QIQ, and Anywheel.
At its peak, Neuron Mobility maintained 1,000 electric scooters, though that number has since dwindled down to a few hundred, according to a TechCrunch report. Regulators have passed the Active Mobility Act, capping fleet sizes and requiring personal mobility device operators to be licensed to deploy their vehicles on Singapore’s streets. According to the Land Transport Authority of Singapore’s (LTA) Sandbox license for personal mobility devices (PMD), electric scooter operators are free to deploy a fleet size anywhere from 200 to 500.
KrASIA recently had a chat with Zachary Wang, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Neuron Mobility, to learn more about how the startup intends to navigate existing challenges in Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Why did you start Neuron Mobility?
As an engineer, I was always tempted to engage in product innovation. However, when you start to look at the various problems we see today, there are inherently system-based gaps and creating a new product just won’t cut it. A systems solution is necessary.
The last-mile gap is one example. Looking at providing electric scooter sharing as a systems solution—one that fits nicely with a greener environment—was in my mind about a decade ago.
Why did you wait until 2016 to establish the company?
The startup ecosystem back then was nothing like what we have today. Most graduates shunned working at startups, preferring to work in bigger multinational companies. And due to insufficient talent and a lack of money, I had to put Neuron Mobility on hold after university.
It was only after my solar business Rezeca Renewables took off that I felt it was the right time to venture back into what I always wanted to do. I started Neuron Mobility in Singapore with venture capital support.
What’s the advantage of offering electric scooters as a shared service?
Whenever we make symmetric travels—from home to work and back again—having our own electric scooter is great. However, there are often days where we find ourselves making asymmetric travels—we might head out for a movie after work, for instance—and that scooter becomes a hassle.
In this regard, an on-demand electric scooter sharing service is more suited to meet personal needs, making the last mile of the journey home a convenient affair.
It could also double as an efficient delivery tool. Delivery companies like Deliveroo can utilise our scooters.
How does Neuron Mobility price its electric scooter sharing services?
We found out that consumers are actually willing to pay a price that is more expensive than buses or trains, but cheaper than taxis. In Singapore, we charge users S$1 (US$0.74) to ride and S$0.12 (US$0.09) per minute thereafter. For our operations in Malaysia and Thailand, the prices do not deviate much. Consumers also have an option to buy weekly or monthly passes.
Given that there are several other companies offering similar services, what is Neuron Mobility’s unique selling point?
We offer a full spectrum of mobility services, including docked and dockless options. In this way, we can align our services with the needs of each city.
Another area would be our strength with data. Our co-founder Dr. Harry Yu is a data scientist. This is integral when it comes to building a truly data-driven platform. In particular, logistical data has to be collected early or it will be harder to integrate as we go forward.
Lastly, with a very diverse team that includes data scientists, management consultants, and urban planners, we are able to do deep research to come up with last-mile solutions tailored for each city.
What are Neuron’s plans for expansion in Asia?
We are definitely looking to expand and aim to be the electric scooter operator that serves Asia.
Uber’s exit from the region speaks to the need to be hyperlocal. As the first electric scooter sharing company with a presence in four different cities, we have a better understanding of Asia and can replicate successful strategies as we expand further.
Editor: Brady Ng