The Life of Lime - A conversation with Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime

Oliver Bruce
Podcast
October 8, 2022

This webinar has passed. If you are interested in joining a future Webinar, be sure to join Micromobility Pro.

Lime CEO Wayne Ting and Julia Thayne DeMordaunt discuss the path to profitability for scooters and the mission of building a shared, carbon-free, affordable transportation future in this Fireside Chat at Micromobility America 2022

Specifically they dig into:

- The history of the space and how they’ve grown

- What he sees as the opportunities for shared micromobility

- The importance of city regulations

- The injustice of how these vehicles are viewed relative to other options

Transcript

Julia Thayne

We are on our last discussion for today and it is one of our most interesting discussions because we're going to talk about the life of lime, a premier shared micromobility company across the world. And in order to do that in a second, I'm going to have Wayne Ting join me on the stage. Wayne joined Lime in 2018 as the global head of operations, so he really understands how to run a shared micromobility company.

And he became the CEO a little more than a year and a half ago in May 2020. And Wayne's focus since he joined Lime has always been on operational excellence and also on the path to profitability, making sure that the company is on its way towards its mission. Shared, affordable and carbon free transportation future. What you're going to hear from our conversation, though, is that Wayne style of leadership stems from all of his past experiences.

So at UBER with the White House at Bain and McKinsey and as a founder and if you're looking to read an interesting bio on Wikipedia, Wayne's bio is that. So Wayne, please join me on the stage. Very happy to have this conversation with you and we'll sit down next to these lovely yellow flowers, which I'm sure were entirely intentional.

Yeah. Thanks.

Wayne Ting

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Julia Thayne

Yeah, no, but thank you for being here. Wayne, we creatively titled this fireside chat The Life of Lime. Yes. And I feel compelled that my first question is going to have to be about where is Lime in its life as a company, and how has that changed from when you started in 2018?

Wayne Ting

Well, Lime is doing really well. It's actually amazing to be back a micromobility conference because there's so many Lime teammates, former teammates here. But it's been a journey since 2018. And I know for the entire industry as well, certainly, you know, during the of the pandemic was really, really difficult. And when people don't leave, their homes, don't go to work, there's no tourism.

Transportation doesn't do very well. But I think the incredible thing is we also use that time to improve our margins, to grow the business into more markets. And today, lime is bigger than ever. We're going to have a record year on top line. We're going to have a record year on bottom line. But I think the most important thing, if I think about, you know, Lime today or maybe the industry today is that I think the urgency of our mission feels more important today than ever before.

The climate crisis only worsen that the number one source of carbon pollution in the United States, in Europe is cars. It's transportation and the need to drastically reduce our reliance on cars and invest in micromobility course is more urgent than ever. And so when I think about where Lime is, I feel like we got through the hardest part that all of us could and we can't even dream up how difficult it was.

And we came out stronger. And now the thing we got to get done feels more important than ever before.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. When you became CEO in May of 2020, you must like. Why did you take the job? Why? What? What made you say, like, this is going to be a good idea? And here are the next two things we need to do in order to sort of improve our odds of succeeding through this pandemic.

Wayne Ting

So, so so I was at Lime for two years before I ran operations at Lime And, you know, you you were you every year, every company. I'm sure you do projections. You do top case. Bottom case, you never do a case when 90% of your revenues goes away.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. And that's not a thing that you do. You don't plan for that.

Wayne Ting

And, you know, and when I became CEO, we had to go through some of the hardest stuff that any company would go through. We went through a down round. We went through layoffs. But you know your question, why do I think this job I took this job because this industry needs to exist. Because the thing that we're all fighting for is bigger than one company.

It's bigger than one person. And I wanted to do whatever I can to say, how do we get Lime through this moment? Because we got to get more cars off the road and if Lime goes out of business, we're frankly, any of our friends in industry goes out of business. That makes it harder. So I was excited to take that on and it was hard.

But I think the thing that was always amazing was that because the mission is what drives so many people who work at lime to come to work every day. No one gave up through all the hardest moments of Lime. People doubled down. They fought harder, and we were able to get through it and be here today. Yeah.

Julia Thayne

You said our friends in the business. And one of the things I've been sort of hearing maybe intuiting from being at this conference is that maybe there's not as much collaboration as is needed in the micromobility industry. So like, who are your friends? Who are your friends in the business? How are you starting to look at those collaborations across companies that are seemingly competitors?

Wayne Ting

Yeah, awesome question. You know, I I'm so glad to be here in part because I think too often within the micromobility industry, we see each other as competitors. We see each other between shared and personal ownership. You look at a a Bird or a Tier or a Voi or a Veo and you think we're competing. But the truth is, we're actually not because we everybody every day the thing that we're fighting for is the same common goal to get more people out of cars into Micromobility.

We do have a competitor. It's cars and frankly, they're kicking our butts. You go walk outside. We are losing the fight to bring about green transportation. And yet we spend so much of our time undercutting each other. We spend so much of our time racing to the bottom a agreeing to regulations that will help nobody. It doesn't help riders, doesn't help each other.

And I do think one of the most incredible thing and I'm seeing that now and initially for the first time, is that we're taking a step back and seeing how do we work together, how do we collaborate on model regulation, how do we how do we cheer each other on? I want to see our friends in the industry succeed because we without that that support, we are going to fail because we are losing the fight against cars.

We are losing the fight against electric vehicles that frankly aren't even that green. And if we don't come together as an industry, I think we're going to find ourselves failing. And that all important mission, which is how do we decarbonize transportation and how do we decarbonize it fast?

Julia Thayne

Interesting. So the common enemy is the car. But at the same time, instead of making friends with the other micromobility players, you could have made friends with a car company or with car companies. Do you see it as productive to be sort of anti car or do you think it's more helpful to, I don't know, figure out. And we were talking about this on an earlier panel, a way to hold hands with with car companies and do figure out what you're overlapping interests are.

Wayne Ting

So I so I think I think for us to get to where we need to go, we need to have an honest conversation about cars. And I don't think we are. If you look at the number one source of carbon pollution, it's transportation. The vast majority of that 70 plus percent comes from personal cars and trucks. And one of the biggest lies I think we keep on telling ourselves is that electric vehicles can solve all of our problems.

It won't. The reason why cars is the number one contributor to carbon pollution is because it's heavy. The average car is 4000 to 5000 pounds. So when I use a 5,000 lb tank to move a 200 lb human, all the energy is in moving the tank.

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

That's the fundamental problems. And no amount of electrification can solve that now. In fact, I think one of the biggest problems with electric cars today is that because we've told ourselves this lie that if you buy an electric vehicle, you've done everything, you're an angel. We are now allowing ourselves to buy bigger and bigger and bigger electric cars.

The F-150 lightning, that many liberals tout as the savior for four green transportation, weighs Over 10,000 lbs. 10,000 pounds. The latest Hummer electric vehicle has a battery that weighs more than almost any car. You can drive.

Julia Thayne

A Honda Civic. Yeah.

Wayne Ting

Then the harnesses and the majority of the world's electricity is not green. The number one source for carbon pollution in the United States in Europe is transportation. Number two, it's electricity. 60% of electricity generation in China comes from coal. Comes from coal. And if we keep on telling us this lie that electric cars is part of what's going to create green transportation, we're going to go further and further down and consume more and more.

And going towards a solution that fundamentally doesn't resolve and doesn't reduce carbon emissions fast enough and broadly enough to move to electric vehicles. In China today is worsening the climate crisis because the majority of electricity in China comes from coal. And so we got to have this honest conversation. I would love to hold hands with car companies, but not at the expense of the truth.

And that's, frankly, the truth. And the only way to solve carbon emissions for transportation is to reduce our reliance on cars and embrace public transportation and green transportation alternatives like everything we're working on here.

Julia Thayne

Yeah, and let's talk about green transportation alternatives. So one of the things I find interesting about Lime as a company is I mean, your model is right. Like you have multiple form factors that you're offering as part of your shared business model. So when you think about sustainability, not just at like the car replacement level but really at the actual vehicle level, how does you know the sustainability of the vehicle itself square with the fact that you've got these multiple form factors?

Julia Thayne

How are you thinking about that?

Wayne Ting

Well, one of the things I'm really proud of is that, you know, I think because Lime is the biggest player in the industry, we're fortunate enough that we can actually design our own hardware. Yeah. So we design from scratch our e-bikes, our scooters. We have a new product called Citro, which is a lightweight moped. And because we're able to design on scooters, we get to design it for the things we care about and things like sustainability, reliability, things like how long does it last.

You know, and I know there's manufacturers here, but I think that there is a conflict when you buy outside of your company because if my business is to sell you Julia more scooters and e-bikes and spare parts, maybe I'm not still inclined to make it last as long as possible to consume as few spare parts as possible because I want to sell you more scooters and e-bikes.

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

My business is not to sell more scooters and e-bikes. My business is to keep that e-bike on the road. To be as green as possible, to last as long as possible, when it breaks, be as easy to fix as possible. So that investment in hardware is fundamentally why I think when you look at things like profitability, yeah, we think when you think of things like our our our carbon footprint at impact Lime is ahead of the game relative to where the rest of the industry is.

And we're going to continue to invest in new modes and and greener modes because the more green, the more sustainable our modes get, the better we do. We have a fundamental alignment of interests that I think is opposite when we're buying from outside manufacturers.

Julia Thayne

Yeah, I'm going to go a little off script here, but one of the things that you're making me think of as you're talking about sort of like vertical integration and owning your supply chain is just the number of micromobility companies we have right now and whether and when there's going to be consolidation. And I mean that both on the supply side and then also just, you know, in terms of consumer vehicles, what do you think?

When is there going to be consolidation or is there going to be consolidation?

Wayne Ting

You know, I think the industry is probably in a perfect spot for some consolidation. I think that you have you have, frankly, a macro, you know, market, you know, private public funding market that's not quite there. And I think as long as companies come together and that mission stays is probably a good thing. You know, I think we had an opportunity to merge with Jump.

I ran into some former Jump colleagues here and that made us stronger because it allowed us to get access to an e-bike technology and platform while doubling down on our core e-scooter transportation. And the combination of the two is a stronger company that has more likelihood of succeeding. I think today there's probably too much fragmentation in micromobility and as a result, we have this race to the bottom because it is in a narrow interest.

You want to win the next RFP, therefore you agree to lots of things that doesn't make any sense. I think in a more consolidated industry, we'll have a bigger chance of actually achieving our goal because the fewer stronger players have a bigger chance of succeeding in staying around for the long run.

Who is going to be the one that rules them all? I mean, is this is this partly the goal?

I don't think anybody will ever rule micromobility because just look at all the companies here. Yeah. And you know, but I certainly think it is the leader is one of the leaders in this space and we're going to continue to invest in the to stay the leader in this space.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. You mentioned something that's kind of like a tension. And between the fact that there's not as much funding as there needs to be for micromobility companies to get off their feet, often running up to scale. And at the same time, there's an intense pressure for micromobility companies already to be profitable. So in your opinion, like how do you square those two things this need for funding, but also pressure to be profitable from the beginning?

And what do you think it's going to take for the industry to be self-sustaining?

Wayne Ting

Yeah, I think I think first, the push for profitability is probably a good thing for the industry. I think there's been a lot of capital, not just in our industry but for many other industries and and that's good because it allows you to invest in innovate, take chances, but it also sometimes fails to create the type of discipline that we're going to have to get to over the long run.

There is no greater impact we can have than there was when the day comes, when we can actually fund our own growth and our own investments without having to go back to the public markets or private markets every six months to raise more money. Sustainability has to be the goal. And and there's many things we're going to do to get there.

On sustainability. We've invested a ton and hardware that last longer that cost cheaper to build, but it's also about improving our operations. You know, how much time does it take to charge a scooter to fix a scooter? How many people do we need to actually operate as a vehicle? We continue to improve operationally, but I'll say a third thing that is critical to getting self-sustaining is we need better regulations.

I think a lot of the challenges with the industry today is the race to the bottom on regulations. I'm, you know, in the city of Miami, the average scooter, a trip per mile is charged 50 times the taxes we charge an equivalent car.

Julia Thayne

Crazy.

Wayne Ting

50 times. Yeah. How in the world could we make money if we agreed to that type of bad regulations? And when you ask people why is it this we're using the roadway? Absolutely. We've got to contribute to helping pay for the roadway. But it is not the abundance of scooters and e-bikes that is creating the cracks and the usage that is parking, creating parking issues and congestion issues.

We're agreeing to that sort of taxation when it is fundamentally harmful to the consumer, because ultimately that gets passed on to the consumer and it makes fewer people adopt. Micromobility I'll give you another example, and I apologize for saying this because I know there are people here working on this. One of the big pushes is let's add a camera to every scooter and e-bike.

And I apologize if you're working on this. I think there is no worse idea in the history of micromobility than adding cameras to every single scooter that e-bikes average. It was $100. And then when you ask the regulator, they said, well, we want to know where you are at all times. We want to look at where you are going.

And my question is, can we will was the last time we have we ever required that? Of course, yeah. You know, if the issue is safety, it is not car, it is not scooters and e-bikes that are creating safety issues on the street. Cars killed 1.3 million people last year. We don't have the same requirement of a camera on every single car.

And when you add a camera on a scooter e-bike, make it harder for us to get to sustainability. Yeah. So we got to improve operations, you've got to have hardware, but we got to get better on regulations. We cannot agree to 50 times the taxes relative to a car. Yeah, because when we do that, we make it harder for the industry to stick around for the long run.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. Yeah. This message about the real impact of cars, what they do on streets, whether electric vehicles are actually a solution to the climate crisis. I want I want you to answer two questions. It's like, first of all, who are relying to like who who are you know, who's sort of believing this? And the second is who's, you know, and whose hearts and minds do we need to change?

So first question, whose hearts and minds do we need to change? The second question is who needs to be delivering that message? Like, is it important? Who says that and how loud they say it and what platform they have? You know, what are your thoughts?

Wayne Ting

You're saying your question was who who needs to deliver the message that cars actually will not solve.

Julia Thayne

Yes. And who needs to hear it?

Wayne Ting

Yeah, I, I, I think all this is here. You know, the hardest thing that for many politicians, for any of us to do is to go to a voter and say for us to get to where we need to go on climate change, you got to fundamentally change your life. That's harder. It's much easier to say you're doing amazing.

You know what? That that that big truck you drive to drive a bigger electric truck and you did it.

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

Great job.

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

And you see this in legislation. And when we were talking earlier, you look at the inflation reduction, no subsidies for green transportation, no subsidies for e-bike manufacturers, billions of subsidies for electric vehicles. And one of the challenges, because I suspect many people who are in this industry are on the left and more liberal. There's so many good things in the inflation Reduction Act, but on green transportation, it's an abysmal failure.

And we got to call our friends on the left for having absolutely shit the bed on green transportation. I had a fortune of being in government early in my career. I worked at the National Economic Council and the reason why we have subsidies is there are many reasons you sometimes want to catalyze an industry that themselves cannot raise private or public money, or sometimes there are there are industries where they can't make the economics work.

So you want to subsidize it to make the economics work, or sometimes you want to help people. Most need lowers social class to access something. Every way you look at this, this does the opposite. You know, industry has raised more money in the last five years than the electric vehicle company, the richest guy in the world, this guy who owns the EV company, that that company that he owns makes billions of dollars in profits. And the primary

People who drive EVs are rich people. And yet, despite that, we're pumping in billions of subsidies into that industry. That raises more money than anybody else, that makes billions of dollars that primarily subsidizes, including used cars. You can sell a used car, get a $4,000 tax credit. That money is going straight to the pockets of the very wealthy people who don't need that subsidy.

Yeah, we got to call our friends out when things like this happen, because if all we do is praise the inflation reduction, I think there are many things to praise when there's a bigger conversation on. Is that the right way to have run that bill? Yeah, it is an absolute travesty what they did on green transportation and frankly, we would not have benefited from a credit for e-bikes with so many people.

Would, yeah. Primarily the people, the citizens who want to access green transportation, want to buy an e-bike but can't afford them. So yeah.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. So let's talk about like, say you got all the micro-mobility companies in, in a room or you know, around a zoom. What are the two, three, four policies that you would say. These are the ones that we have to advocate for, like this is what you need to be saying. Full stop.

Wayne Ting

What I would actually say is, you know, I think as a as an industry, as a person, as anybody, we should always take criticisms and reflect on where we can improve. But I would actually say too often our industry micromobility generally we concede on points that are fundamentally false. And I want us to stand up and say that is true and we're not going to concede that point.

I'll give you a couple safety every time I go and talk to a city official, they say, what about safety? So unsafe? And we said, Oh, yes, you know, and of course, we've got to build safer scooters and e-bikes. But scooters and e-bikes are fundamentally safe. It only goes 15 miles per hour. 95% of the serious fatalities that happen on a e-bike is because a car comes and kills you.

Imagine you're a pedestrian, you're walking down the street and a car comes and hits you and kills you. Do we ask that pedestrian? How do you make walking more safer? Do we blame the pedestrian for walking? Or do we say, How do we slow down cars? How do we build wider sidewalks? How do we ensure that we don't have a 10,000 lb tank driving down a small neighborhood?

We've got to stop conceding on safety. I can go full speed at you in a scooter at 15 miles per hour.

Julia Thayne

Please don't. Please. Yeah.

Wayne Ting

But we're not going to create a type of serious fatalities that you talk about. Micromobility is fundamentally safe. 

 2. parking. I get asked all the time, why don't you know you got to solve the parking issues? Scooters are parked everywhere. I get tagged on social media all the time to get this e-bike out of my street and they would have a lime e-bike. Behind it.

A thousand cars went back to back to back to back. They don't see the cars

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

They only see that e-bike.

Julia Thayne

Yeah.

Wayne Ting

If you look at the city of San Francisco, across all the operators, they have 5000 e-bikes on E-scooters. There's 400,000 cars. Each car I can put eight e-bikes and so yeah, come and see. Clutter is a challenge of this industry. My question is, compared to what? Yeah, we're the ones cluttering the streets. I have no city in the world.

Do I see an abundance of e-bikes? Maybe Amsterdam and Copenhagen. It's great, but no city in the world. In the United States it is because of the overabundance of e-bikes that e-scooters that's called causing parking issues. And yet we concede that point. Yeah, I can go on and on. On carbon. We just talked about it. We cconcede the point that yes there's, there's a solution by buying electric vehicles as well.

No, there ain't. There is not a solution out of this climate crisis. If all we did is by bigger and bigger, bigger electric trucks, we got to start walking with confidence in challenging these falsehoods if we're going to have a chance with this industry.

Julia Thayne

Yeah. Yeah. Well, Wayne, I know that we've got to get you to your flight on time. And so I'm going to give you the last word here and then say a huge thank you to you for closing out this conference. And I really want you to talk a little bit about the fact that Lime has done so much in order to improve access across the board to people for Micromobility.

And I wonder, you know, what's your challenge to the industry around providing Micromobility for all around providing equitable access to Micromobility?

Wayne Ting

Yeah, that is such an important question because I think for Micromobility to reach our true challenge, we cannot be an industry just for white boys and nothing, nothing wrong with my boys. Love my boys. What is your first look at the primary people who use Micromobility? It's very male, it's very young, it's more affluent. We got to do more to increase access on a gender perspective, on age perspective, on socioeconomically into different neighborhoods.

And, you know, and I think there are several things that matter. One is, of course, price. And so we do things like lime access where people who are on food stamps will give you a 70, 80% discount so that people of different social class can access micromobility. But price alone is not enough. It also matters where we deploy because you can have a discount, but if it's not deployed in your neighborhood, doesn't matter.

One of the biggest challenges of transportation historically is that we have underserved black and brown communities in city after city, neighborhood after neighborhood. When I was growing up, you couldn't get a taxi leaving Manhattan. They would kick you off to the side of the road. You came and get a taxi. We cannot be that industry and we got to be deploying not just in wealthy downtown neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods.

We got to make sure we're bringing our micromobility into black and brown communities in all social classes, and then we got to innovate on mode. The reason why, when we talk to many of our riders and we talk to women riders and they say, I don't always feel safe, we talk to older riders they don't always feel safe.

How do we build the next generation of micromobility that gives people the sense of comfort? We just launched this product called Citron It's a moped competitor, but we designed it with a women rider in mind and he said, We want it to be lighter. We wanted to sit lower to the ground. I want to not feel like I'm like this crossing over because that's not what how you want to get on a vehicle.

And our question is, can we build a scooter, an e-bike, a micromobility future where somebody who's in their fifties and sixties, a woman and a man, both feel equally have the same level of access to it. If we start to solve these issues, we're going to be able to not just solve the carbon challenge, but we're going to truly bring more folks, more people onto this platform and join this most important industry around Micromobility.

Julia Thayne

Amazing. Well, I think that's a beautiful note to end this on. Thank you again so much. Please join me in thanking Wayne.

For closing out this conference in such an enthusiastic and energetic way.

Sign up for free for the Micromobility Newsletter - the world’s largest newsletter about small vehicles - and receive best-in-class insights, analysis, and commentary. Trusted by over 50,000 riders, insiders, builders and enthusiasts.

Subscribe

Go Pro

Become a Pro member to gain access to this content plus the entire Micromobility Pro archive.