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Editor's Note: This story was corrected to reflect the scale and timing of Gotcha's upcoming launch.
THURSDAY, June 6 — A new electric scooter company is poised to corner the rental market in Greater Lansing later this year.
Sean Flood, CEO of the South Carolina-based rental startup Gotcha, today announced plans to drop off about 200 electric scooter rentals throughout Michigan State University, Lansing and East Lansing by late August.
His company was recently selected over competitors Lime and Bird, which were in this market last year, to become the exclusive campus scooter provider at MSU. That campus agreement will ultimately give Gotcha the foothold it needs to make it worthwhile to position scooters in Lansing and East Lansing as well.
“We’re still finalizing things with the university,” Flood said. “The idea of being able to connect these communities with the university is the reason we spent so much time and focus here. We’ve been very fortunate to have been selected for this role, and we hope to wrap up these contract conversations in the next few weeks.”
After Lime and Bird ambushed MSU (and Greater Lansing) with hundreds of scooters late last year without notice, campus officials have been working to slim down the market by allowing only one company to return to campus this year. At least four companies vied for the exclusive role in recent months.
Flood said Gotcha — with the potential to expand campus rentals to include electric bicycles and tricycles — ultimately came out on top of the competition. An MSU spokeswoman confirmed that the university is working to solidify a contract with a single, unnamed provider but declined to provide additional details earlier this week.
“Until a contract is finalized, it is inappropriate to discuss the proposed details as they are not final,” she said.
Gotcha also recently received approval and has paid licensing fees to operate in Lansing and East Lansing under a pair of newly crafted city ordinances. It marks the second company to receive a license after Spin, an electric scooter startup owned by Ford Motor Co., announced plans to launch its own scooter fleet later this summer.
And Gotcha’s arrival also likely spells the end for larger rental companies like Bird and Lime.
Both have been nowhere to be seen following a brief stint on city streets last year. And sources familiar with the contract negotiations at MSU — who have asked not to be identified — confirmed that neither plan to return to Greater Lansing without the ability to operate at the university. The return just isn’t worth their investment.
“My understanding is that since MSU has gone exclusively for one company, the others will not come to the area,” added Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “They don’t want to pay for licenses in Lansing and then have their scooters impounded on campus. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I haven’t talked to either company directly.”
In the meantime, Gotcha has been paving inroads into the electric scooter market nationwide. The News and Observer, in Raleigh, North Carolina, reported this week that Gotcha plans to deploy up to 1,000 scooters there this summer— effectively replacing other companies through an exclusive operating contract.
Gotcha also announced plans to operate in Wichita, Kansas (among other locations), within recent weeks. Flood said his company has a few rental offerings in Ann Arbor, but he considers Gotcha’s upcoming expansion into Greater Lansing to be one of his first big leaps into the Michigan market. And the company isn’t done growing.
“We’re very different, on purpose, than Bird and Lime because we take a very different approach to business,” Flood added. “We only enter markets with contracts to operate. It just doesn’t work without that partnership collaboration, and it’s an insane waste of money to deploy a bunch of scooters that are going to be taken away.”
Flood’s company has since partnered with MSouth Equity Partners to support its continued expansion, and now operates on several college campuses and cities. And unlike Lime and Bird, Gotcha actually hires its own staff to retrieve and recharge the scooters, instead of paying independent contractors for the work.
Flood also anticipates offering additional transportation options in Greater Lansing after scooters hit the streets.
“We’re very focused on developing new products,” Flood added. “For MSU, this wasn’t just a way to bring in money. It was also about using these products to engage students and faculty from a research standpoint.”
The cities of East Lansing and Lansing have both adopted ordinances to allow for electric scooters to return this year — and to rake in some extra cash in the process. Both cities charge each licensed company an upfront, $2,500 licensing fee along with a 10-cent, per-ride surcharge for every scooter rented within city limits.
Prior estimates suggested Lansing could receive about $75,000 annually in licensing fees. That income, under city ordinance, is earmarked for street and sidewalk enhancements but will be reduced without the anticipated return of Lime and Bird. East Lansing also expected tens of thousands of dollars.
“The loss of revenues is not a big deal,” Schor added. “It was licensure that would go toward enforcement of the ordinance and complete streets. If we have no scooters, then we have no enforcement of the ordinance.”
A Spin spokesman previously said his company would launch by early May while his staff worked (over the last few months) to hire a local operations team and acquire a scooter warehouse space. Those rentals have yet to make an appearance in Greater Lansing. The spokesman didn’t return a message this week.
Officials at Lime and Bird also didn’t return messages. No electric scooter rentals— regardless of the company providing them — have been spotted on the streets of Greater Lansing as of Thursday afternoon.