Neuron Mobility, a Singapore-based startup, has closed an $18.5 million financing round as it looks to scale its e-scooter startup in international markets — a month after the nation introduced difficult regulatory changes.
The new financing round, dubbed Series A, was funded by GSR Ventures, a venture capital firm that was the first institutional investor in Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Chuxing, and Square Peg, Australia’s largest venture capital firm.
Existing investors SeedPlus and SEEDS Capital also participated in the round. The three-year-old startup has raised about $23.5 million to date.
Neuron Mobility, which began its journey in Singapore, operates an eponymous e-scooter rental platform. In recent years and quarters, Neuron has expanded to cities in Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
Neuron’s e-scooters are affordable in every market where they are available. In Brisbane, Australia, for instance, anyone can begin a trip with a Neuron bike by paying one Australian Dollar (68 U.S. cents) and then 38 Australian cents for each minute of the ride, Zachary Wang, co-founder and chief executive of Neuron, told TechCrunch in an interview.
These electric scooters can go as fast as 25 kilometre per hour (15.5 miles per hour), and automatically slow down at certain places, such as near a school. Wang said the startup closely works with city councils to understand how these e-scooters should operate.
In a statement, Square Peg’s Tushar Roy said, “the culture of collaboration with cities permeates through Neuron. Its entire DNA is built around working very closely with local leadership to bring new mobility solutions to citizens in a safe and sustainable way.”
On a single charge, a Neuron scooter can travel up to 60 kilometres (37.2 miles). These e-scooters are equipped with a swappable battery. Once the ride is finished, a customer can drop the bike at any nearby parking station or any suitable location. Neuron works with a large number of people who actively swap the batteries on these scooters.
Like India’s electric scooter and bike startups Bounce and Yulu, Neuron Mobility also designs its electric scooters, but relies on a Chinese equipment manufacturer for producing them. (Yulu recently inked a strategic deal with Bajaj Auto to task the Indian auto manufacturing giant with the production job.)
Singapore turns its back on electric scooters
As Neuron expands to international markets, it has had to halt its e-scooter rental service in the home market of Singapore. Last month, Singapore said e-scooters could no longer operate on footpaths, creating major challenges for all the players. Wang and executives from other startups have expressed concerns over the decision.
Telepod, which uses e-scooters to deliver food; GrabFood, another food delivery startup; and shared e-scooter service startup Beam, said they could no longer offer the same level of customer service to their users, and had little choice but to focus on other markets.
Wang said that Neuron still has teams that work from Singapore, but they have always focused on the larger Asia Pacific region and other markets. Besides, Neuron stopped its service in Singapore months before the nation passed any new law. (Prior to the recent order, Singapore had other issues with electric scooters.)
Neuron will use the fresh capital to further its footprint in the markets where it operates and explore building new categories, Wang said. “We feel we are in the midst of a wave where a number of technologies are falling into place that could help us improve our electric scooter and build more mobility solutions.” The startup is also exploring new markets, though Wang declined to name them.
Like in the United States, electric scooters and bikes have imploded in Southeast Asian markets, where a growing number of familiar brands such as Lime, Bird, Ofo, oBike and local players are increasingly expanding their presence.