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How a European scooter startup is making an impact during COVID-19

Last month, amid quickly escalating COVID-19 concerns and significantly decreased ridership, scooter-share giants Lime and Bird began removing their vehicles from streets across Europe and the U.S. Within a week in March, Lime yanked its scooters from 21 European countries as well as 19 U.S. states, and Bird followed by pausing plenty of its own global operations. 

There are, however, a number of scooter-share companies that have left their lights on, especially given that micromobility vehicles have been deemed essential transportation options at this time.

The decision to stay in business and offer scooter rentals while a pandemic unfolds comes with its challenges. But it also comes with opportunities to provide immediate relief right now and reinforce a community presence that can pay off down the road. That’s the mindset upheld by Hobo, a Bulgarian scooter-share startup that’s showing us all how local operators can take a lead during these times of uncertainty.  

Given Joyride’s ongoing mission to support scooter companies that provide direct relief at this time, we were inspired by this week’s launch of #HoboSupport, which provides free rides to all front-line workers (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, supermarket staff, police officers, etc.) in Sofia through the end of May, or potentially longer. 

“Now is the time for small operators like us,” says Teodor Rachev, Hobo’s founder and CEO.  “You see Lime and Bird leaving markets because they have daily burn rates. We are local and we want to offer our services to the community as a local presence.”  

Lime removed scooters from Sofia’s streets a month ago, leaving Hobo with the opportunity to provide transit to those who must use it. Through #HoboSupport, front-line workers are given a free profile through the Hobo user app. “These people are heroes, and they need to be out and go to work. We’re giving them an alternative to public transportation,” Rachev says. 

With Bulgaria under a state of emergency and Hobo encouraging people to stay home unless absolutely necessary, the result has been a 75% drop in ridership for the company over the last few weeks. Rachev says he currently has about 100 ACTON M Pro scooters on the road that are being used for the #HoboSupport campaign, and his team is strategically positioning them near hospitals, grocery stores and other key locations. His scooters are disinfected regularly, and he’s looking into installing antibacterial wipes on the handlebars.

Rachev says having the right software in place has made this process easier for his team. Hobo is issuing free monthly passes in addition to the free profiles, and the company has increased geofencing locations to reach neighborhoods that were typically too far away. They’ve also been using email campaigns to remind their users to stay home unless necessary. 

“We aren’t encouraging people to go out and go sightseeing. It’s actually the opposite. There will be a time for that again. Right now, it’s about fulfilling a basic need,” Rachev says. 

Of course, speaking long-term, Hobo expects a return to normalcy. “We can afford to stay afloat for a few months on the street like this. If you take the hit now you can bounce back with a greater force behind you,” Rachev says. “We are here during the worst time, and hopefully our community presence will make us ultimately stronger.” Thinking ahead to the other side of this pandemic, Rachev has plans to grow Hobo’s fleet size in Sofia and expand to more cities in Bulgaria. 

For more information on how Joyride software can help your fleet help others during COVID-19, please read our recent announcement. Interested in using micromobility to provide essential transportation in your community? Tell us more here

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