Scooter-sharing startup Beam has bagged US$26 million ($38.6 million) in Series A funding to accelerate its expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, with the round flying in the face of the assumption that ride-sharing is somewhat out of favour.
The funding round was led by Sequoia India and Hana Ventures, and also included Aussie VC Right Click Capital.
It comes at a time when the future of ride-sharing has been questioned. COVID-19 and concerns about hygiene have caused some operators to pause operations.
The pandemic saw scooter-sharing startup Lime pause operations in almost every market it operates in, while an emergency funding round reportedly saw its valuation drop by 80%.
Competitor Bird also reportedly laid off more than 100 employees — about 30% of its employees.
And Uber has pulled its Jump shared e-bikes from the streets, including in Melbourne where it had been up and running for a mere three weeks.
However, some providers in the US have offered discounted rides to essential workers, who may see the services as preferable to public transport at this time.
Beam co-founder and chief Alan Juang said he’s grateful for the funding at what is “a very uncertain macroeconomic environment”.
Right Click Capital partner Ulric Ferner noted in a statement that public safety and collaboration with cities “permeates through Beam in ways that may seem simple, but are actually fundamental”.
“When the time is right, we are proud that Beam will be there to help all Australians to start moving again,” he added.
The funding will be used to support expansion in the APAC region, including in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.
In Australia, Beam currently only operates in Bunbury, Western Australia.
The startup also plans to launch its Beam Safe Academy, offering online training tools for safe scooting.
Beam also intends to address the seemingly age-old struggle of last-mile vehicles being ditched in inconvenient places, such as trees and rivers.
Rather than resulting in scooters strewn any old place in the streets, Beam has a ‘virtual docked’ model, with riders rewarded for parking in predetermined spots.
“Beam has to work as hard to limit the downsides of e-scooters for non-riders as they do to enhance the upside for riders,” co-founder a chief financial officer Deb Gangopadhyay said in a statement.
“The success of any new technology depends on mass acceptance, and the quicker and better we can ensure e-scooters are used and parked where they should be, the more welcoming city residents will be.”