By Candice Xie, Co-Founder and CEO, Veo
A few weeks ago, the mobility world was buzzing about the big announcement by Lime CEO Wayne Ting that the company had reached some sort of profitability in the third quarter. Clearly, this announcement assumed that no other micromobility companies had already reached actual profitability because there hadn’t been a TED Talk about it.
But Veo was the first truly profitable micromobility company — and we have been since May.
As the CEO and co-founder of Veo, and as the only woman running a major micromobility company with experience operating in over 40 markets, I was solely focused on building a solid, sustainable business. I must have forgotten to take a global victory lap for achieving the most basic fundamental of business: bringing in more money than we spend.
We take in more money than we spend, and we don’t exclude any compensation expenses or depreciation or game the timing of scooter purchases to make Free Cash Flow suddenly positive, like some of our competitors.
This is important, because the only way micromobility will be a sustainable service is if the companies themselves are financially sustainable and not reliant on repeated VC fundraises. It is also important for earning trust with our city partners, who have become accustomed to dockless scooter companies promising them the moon only to see broken promises and rapid staff turnover caused by the boom and bust business mentalities of our competitors.
Who Are We?
I’m sure many of you reading this may be asking, “Who the heck is Veo?” That’s understandable because we have been much less prominent in the press than others in this industry. The reason you may not have heard of us is that we never did many of the things that have turned scooter companies into clickbait factories:
- We never dropped off hundreds of scooters on city streets without permission or in flagrant violation of the law;
- We never received a cease-and-desist order from a city;
- We never sued the cities in which we operated;
- We never raised huge rounds from VCs by promising hockey stick growth and massive TAMs, reaching valuations that could only be justified by scooters on every corner in every city in the world regardless of unit economics;
- We never hired thousands of staff only to fire many of them via Zoom; and
- We never claimed unicorn status and then were sold for parts in the same year.
I guess you can say, we are the anti-Tech bro company in the Tech Broiest of industries. And that was always intentional because our roots are in the Midwest, not Silicon Valley. I co-founded Veo because I truly believe shared micromobility can provide a vital sustainable transportation service to communities.
I’m a woman and an immigrant, and my co-founder is a bike engineer. We weren’t exactly the type of Founders that VCs tend to throw money at. Not being inside that club forced us to approach this industry differently than our competitors, and quite frankly the way I think businesses should approach problems. It meant mastering the business model and then growing. We have never been motivated by potential “unicorn status” or pretended to be a pure Internet company. We see it as a challenge and a privilege to solve some of the most important and complicated problems in the 21st century — achieving sustainable lifestyles, reducing air pollution, and managing urban congestion.
How Did We Do It?
If you’re looking for me to unveil a magical, tech-savvy silver bullet to profitability, you can stop reading now. The answer is that we ran this as an actual business from day one, not a vaporware vision on a pitch deck. We have raised only as much money as we needed to fund vertical integration of vehicle design and manufacturing for our own strong technical products. We have grown through focused, responsible, profitable operations, and not splashy launches in every city we could think of or disregard for regulatory frameworks.
We built and perfected strong, purpose-built vehicles and developed operational models that have enabled us to be profitable. It’s a virtuous cycle — we are profitable because we offer a sustainable service in responsibly selected markets, and we are able to be a long-term part of the community because we are financially sustainable.
What’s Next for Veo?
Going forward, we’re going to continue expanding in the same way we always have — by putting the customer and community at the center, by continuously improving our products and operations, and by focusing on sustainability strategies in every market.
Last week, Veo applied for the honor of serving New York City with multiple shared micromobility vehicle models, and we look forward to working closely with the New York City Department of Transportation and the many diverse and vibrant communities throughout the potential service areas of the City.
In the coming months, we plan to add Oakland, New York City, San Diego, and more to the Veo family. We are now more excited than ever about the role our sustainable business model, responsible approach, and purpose-built mobility vehicles have to play in shaping the future of micromobility and urban transportation.
Hopefully, we have your attention now that we’ve cleared up the misunderstanding about industry milestones for profitability. But that is just the beginning of what is in store for Veo and for sustainable mobility options in our cities in 2021 and beyond.
Keep up with us if you can, gentlemen.