Lana Kitto can tell you what it’s like to change your life in the blink of an eye.
In October 2018, while attending a mortgage lending conference in San Diego, she took her first ride on an electric scooter and was instantly hooked. After breezing across the boardwalk—and nearly missing her flight home to Bozeman, Montana—she immediately began researching how to start a scooter-rental business in her hometown.
“After that one afternoon, I knew I wanted to start a scooter company in Bozeman, where our town of about 50,000 residents welcomes more than two to three million tourists during the summer months,” Kitto says, adding that Bozeman is just on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. “Large companies like Bird and Lime weren’t interested in franchise opportunities for a small town like ours, or at least not for another three years. I wanted to launch something immediately because I knew both the demand and opportunity were there.”
Kitto’s online search led her to Joyride, where she was met with both on-hand resources and a sales team that was able to provide information on how to get her idea off the ground. “Within a month, I had gone from hypothetical thought to actual business planning, and by January I had created my company,” Kitto says. “I chose the name Blink because I believe the best decisions are made quickly.”
As a one-woman company with no additional employees, Blink Rides tapped Joyride to create a white label user app, develop its backend system management and facilitate setup with the right hardware manufacturer to fit her needs and Bozeman’s rocky terrain (which led to her ordering more than 100 ACTON M Pro scooters ahead of Blink’s July 2019 launch).
“I’m a business person by nature, but the tech aspect was a learning curve, which is why understanding things like scooter-rental insurance, calculating how many vehicles to launch and overall pre-launch strategies were all crucial to getting acquainted with the fast-paced micromobility market. Basically, Joyride’s software allowed a newcomer like me to provide my future riders with the same experience I had when I was in San Diego.”
Of course, Bozeman is a far cry from San Diego when it comes to micromobility adoption. Kitto’s proposal to launch a shared mobility fleet marked a first for the town—and the state of Montana, for that matter.
“I started my conversations with Bozeman officials in February, about five months before we actually launched. I immediately noticed city officials’ distaste for large companies that essentially uphold a ‘dump and run’ model with their scooter-rental services,” she says. “I took a more personalized, local approach. I have 20 years’ worth of customer service experience, and I believe forging relationships with your city (and listening to all perspectives) goes a long way, which led to my approval to launch Blink.”
Within the first month of Blink Rides’ July 2019 debut, more than 7,000 rides were taken, which falls within the industry standard of three rides per scooter per day. While there was a mixed response from the community, Kitto says Blink was overall met with a lot of support from residents of all ages. Within its six-week inaugural summer, approximately 3,000 people downloaded Blink’s user app, which she says exceeded her expectations for a town of 50,000 people.
“The backend system management synced to my cell phone, so I pretty much ran my business remotely, which was amazing,” she says. “Blink Rides could be operating thousands of scooters and managed by a huge company, or run by someone like me with a vision and a phone—and you wouldn’t know the difference as a rider.”
With Blink’s first season behind her, Kitto says she is excited for what 2020 has to offer in terms of expansion plans. Next year, Blink Rides will be available on campus at Montana State University, which has a student population of 21,000. Kitto will also be applying for additional grants and is looking to franchise Blink to other cities in Montana and beyond.
“Blink Rides sees the gaps in these smaller towns where operators aren’t interested in going. Just because we don’t have a million people in our town doesn’t mean we don’t have interest in scooter sharing,” she says.
“There’s an untapped market that I’m accessing. Now that I’ve seen how one person can manage 100 scooters so easily, I’m ready to take on more, and in more places.”