A startup that's taking on Lime in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch has received a serve from the e-scooter giant.
Inexperienced operators "present risks," Lime regional government relations director Mitchell Price posted this morning.
Flamingo, founded by 21-year-olds Jacksen Love and Nick Hyland, is putting its first scooters on the streets of Auckland tomorrow - and by the end of July it will have 525 on the road in the city (Lime has 950 scooters in the city, while Wave is licensed for up to 400).
It will also put 400 scooters into the Wellington trial later this month, and 300 into Christchurch from September.
Lime regional government relations director didn't name Flamingo on Twitter this morning - but his post came immediately after a Herald story noting the newcomer, at 30 cents per minute, would undercut the incumbent. Lime has just raised its rate to 38 cents per minute. And it definitely tarred the Kiwi startup by inference.
"New & small operators present risks. They lack experience operating micro-mobility + basic understanding of how complex this business is to run. NZ deserve world-class products, we continue to explore the ideal pricing structure to ensure we offer the best service to our users."
Earlier this year, Lime saw its scooters pulled from streets by Auckland Council and Dunedin Council after a (now-resolved) software bug saw sudden braking and a number of riders thrown over handlebars, causing 31 injuries.
Flamingo bites back back
Lime's failure to make the Wellington trial was seen in some quarters as a reaction to brake-gate (the capital trial will see Flamingo face off against Jump by Uber).
And the episode certainly provided Love and Hyland with inspiration for their retort to Price.
The pair told the Herald, "We're 100 per cent confident that we have the knowledge and collective experience needed to deliver an affordable, convenient and safe transport solution for New Zealanders. We're thrilled that the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch City Councils all recognised this - Flamingo is the only e-scooter company that's been chosen to launch in all three cities."
Wave could not be immediately reached for comment today, but at its March launch, it was subject to a similar attack by Price.
At the time, its Kiwi co-founder, Albert Hoeft, shot back that Lime's NZ operation was "bloated."
Hoeft said the Brisbane-registered Wave would be able to hit a high level of service from the get-go by dint of licensing its technology platform and e-scooters from US company Bird - Lime's largest rival.
Piling on bodies
The US-based Lime, which has more than 70 local staff (excluding contract "juicers"), instituted a range of safety measures in response to the episode, including real-time monitoring, weekly checks regardless of whether a problem has been reported or not, and a dedicated safety team.
Speaking to the Herald this morning, Love and Hyland say they have their own safety programme.
Flamingo scooters will receive a "full maintenance check" each night by either a "feeder" (contract recharger) or a member of their staff.
The startup also has software that will automatically detect faults and shutdown an e-scooter if it detects one. A scooter will also be taken off the streets if a user reports a problem.
Flamingo already has 20 full-time staff, plus contractors. They said they would have between 30 and 40 employees by the end of the year, not counting feeders.
Love and Hyland also say they developed their app themselves, rather than licence one, because none of the overseas offerings supported the full-range of safety features they wanted, which include geo-fenced low-speed, no parking and no riding zones (all e-scooter operators participating in phase two of Auckland's trial have agreed to speed limits in certain zones).
And they say every Flamingo scooter will have a registration number, making it easier for bystanders to complain about any bad behaviour.
The pair are not totally green. Love worked at accounting firm BDO after completing his degree, while Hyland has worked as a web developer for Pricemaker and Wellington Now.
But there's still no denying their pretty young to be taking on the likes multinationals Lime in Auckland and Christchurch, and Jump in Wellington.
After all, Lime has raised hundreds of millions from major investors including Uber (with which it also has a software partnership) and Google Ventures and Jump (which is fully-owned by Uber).
Love and Hyland say while they obviously lack years of experience, they both spent time at Wellington business incubator Creative HQ - where they were able to meet experienced business people and private equity investors who put seed money into their business.
They won't field questions about their finances, but concede they wouldn't get much change out of $1000 for their scooters (Segway Ninebots, with readers added), meaning an outlay of around $1.2m on scooters alone.
They won't say how much they're spending on staff or marketing - but they did get an unexpected free bonus in the latter department when Lime hiked its per-minute price to 38 cents last week, a move that many users did not realise until this morning.
Flamingo and Jump by Uber will both launch at 30 cents per minute.
Wave did not immediately respond to a request for comment but still lists a 30 cents per minute rate (all operators charge $1 to unlock a scooter).
Love and Hyland say they're open to expanding all around New Zealand or even across the Tasman.
But like other e-scooter operators, the immediate focus is on concluding a successful trial.
The Auckland trial runs until October 31, after which point Auckland Transport and Auckland Council and councillors will confer on whether to make licenses permanent and, if so, under what conditions.