Getaround plans a SPAC
The car-sharing firm is an OG sharing economy company
Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you’re returning from last time, thanks! If you’re new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.
This is the free edition of Oversharing. Become a paid subscriber to get two additional posts each week with the most in-depth analysis of the gig economy, mobility, and urban life; access to the full archive; and exclusive participation in comments and community threads.
Oversharing is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Car-share marketplace Getaround plans to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or spac, in a deal valued at $1.2 billion, an interesting choice as the spac market has collapsed spectacularly this year. Founded in 2009 in San Francisco, Getaround lets car owners rent their vehicles out by the hour or day, making it one of the original ‘sharing’ economy companies. Similar to Airbnb, the idea was that people should be able to rent out a valuable capital asset during the time they weren’t using it, which in the case of privately owned vehicles is 95% of the time. Indeed, Getaround describes its mission as solving the “95% problem.”
Getaround is one of the startups that was backed by the now infamous Softbank Vision Fund. The company last raised $140 million in series E funding in September 2020 at a $1 billion valuation, according to data from PitchBook, making the spac deal a slight premium on that last private valuation. Getaround had a rocky start to 2020. It laid off around 150 employees, 25% of the company, that January, and another 100 employees in March after bookings plunged 75% during the first month of the covid-19 pandemic. Getaround CEO Sam Zaid framed the layoffs at the time as “some very tough choices to set the company up for profitability and long-term growth.”
How is that going? Per Getaround’s investor deck, profitability has been “demonstrated in Europe,” the footnote on which states that Getaround was profitable in Europe on an adjusted ebitda basis in the third quarter of 2020. Getaround claims to have strong growth in gross booking value, or the total value of transactions billed through its platform, jumping 59% to $167 million in 2021 from $105 million in 2019. The company says most monthly revenue (84%) comes from returning customers, and that cumulative spending has increased with newer customer cohorts.
As for that path to profitability, Getaround says its “top 20 cities in aggregate” are ebitda positive, which is one of those confusing maybe-maybe-not-profitable statements companies without clear and definitive profitability like to make. There is a chart for that too, one that could definitely use some work, but it seems to be trying to show that buckets of Getaround markets that were adjusted ebitda negative in 2020 became adjusted ebitda positive in 2021. That is progress! We’ll have to wait for more filings to see how the rest of the numbers shake out.
A quirk of U.K. law is that you can legally sell someone an e-scooter, but they can’t legally ride it on a public road or sidewalk. That hasn’t stopped people, with an estimated 750,000 privately owned e-scooters in use around the country as of March 2022, according to one report. I’d bet a lot of those private e-scooter riders are unaware their devices are technically illegal to ride on public thruways, since they are (a) easy enough to buy and (b) not dissimilar from the shared rental scooters that have popped up across U.K. towns and cities over the past two years as part of government sanctioned pilot programs.
That could change soon, with the U.K. government expected to make private e-scooters legal in the coming year. “While riding a privately owned e-scooter on public land is currently illegal, we are considering how best to design future regulations and our Transport Bill will help us to take the steps we need to make e-scooters safer and support innovation,” a government spokeswoman told the BBC. At the same time, transport secretary Grant Shapps has pledged to “crack down” on sales of ‘illegal’ e-scooters that don’t meet the regulatory standards the U.K. plans to introduce. The U.K. launched its first shared e-scooter trial in July 2020 and as of earlier this year had trials in 31 regions across England. E-scooter users in these trials must have a valid driver’s license and are advised but not required to wear a helmet.
Uber shareholders are getting closer to requiring Uber to disclose its annual lobbying activities. A shareholder proposal to have Uber prepare an annual report on its lobbying activities and spending received about 45% of shareholder votes, up from around 30% the year before, per TechCrunch. It needed approval from two-thirds of shareholders to pass. The proposal, brought by the Teamsters, cited Uber’s $7.9 million spend on federal lobbying from 2016 to 2019, as well as the company’s success with state-level initiatives like Proposition 22 in California, which exempted gig companies from providing certain employment benefits to their workers.
Uber’s board opposed the proposal, which it argued was “unnecessary given Uber’s existing risk management practices and current high level of transparency and accountability around political and lobbying activities and expenditures.” And ok, sure, but also if that’s really the case, then what’s the big deal, why not support the proposal and also prepare an annual report?
“What is frustrating is that a company will justify to you everything they do disclose, but then they’ll come up with some reason why the extra amount can’t be disclosed, and they don’t provide good justifications for that given they provided the other disclosures,” Michael Pryce-Jones, senior government analyst at the Teamsters, told TechCrunch ahead of the vote. “It only leads to a suspicion that there’s something to hide.”
San Francisco Police Are Using Driverless Cars as Mobile Surveillance Cameras. Instacart files confidentially for IPO. Tiger Global hit by $17bn losses in tech rout. Softbank may slash startup investments in half this year. Hipcamp expands to the U.K. with acquisition of Cool Camping. Uber adds private charter buses to U.S. service. Uber pilots robot food delivery in California. Australian Uber drivers threaten mass exodus if pay rates remain low. German e-bike supplier GetHenry raises €16.5 million ($17.4 million) to expand in Europe. Postmates founder Bastian Lehmann raises $23 million for new crypto startup. DoorDash commits to flexible work for corporate employees. Indian food delivery giant Swiggy buys Dineout for $200 million. German instant delivery startup Flink acquires rival Cajoo, raises money from French supermarket Carrefour. Optibus raises $100 million for AI-powered mass transit platform. Airbnb redesigns. Could food delivery apps help close the “grocery gap”? Denver receives 2,600 e-bike rebate claims in first two weeks of program. Dott e-scooters head to Tel Aviv. Los Angeles fire department deploys first electric fire truck in North America. New York City councilmembers want more bike-sharing to fill Citi Bike gaps. Tom Brady rides a Citi Bike. Beijing’s Covid Subway Shutdown Spurs ‘Bicycle Kingdom’ Revival.