Superpedestrian Scoops Up $16.5M, Enters Bike-Sharing Frenzy

Bike sharing is the new ride hailing.

Similar to what has played out with Uber, Lyft, Didi Chuxing, and other private car-hailing app companies, investors are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into bike-sharing startups around the world racing to be the leading operator of fleets of bicycles that people can rent on demand. The players include Ofo, Mobike, LimeBike, Zagster, and even some ride-hailing companies. Like the ride-hailing sector, bike-sharing startups have courted controversy. But advocates believe they could have a big impact on transportation, helping with issues like the “last-mile” problem of getting people to public transit stops, for example.

The growing momentum of bike sharing is also attracting companies that provide enabling technology and services to fleet operators. Those new entrants include Ann Arbor, MI-based Movatic and Cambridge, MA-based Superpedestrian, which today announced it raised $16.5 million from investors to help it roll out new bike-sharing products.

The six-year-old MIT spinout develops advanced equipment and software for bicycles, and is best known for selling the Copenhagen Wheel (pictured above), an Internet-connected, electric-motor system that gives riders a boost.

Now, Superpedestrian said it’s launching technologies that will power electric bike-sharing programs. The startup has developed sensors, embedded motor controllers, and software to enable bikes to perform onboard diagnostics to identify maintenance issues and alert the fleet operator’s maintenance team. The bikes can also fix some of the problems autonomously, Superpedestrian said. On the back end, a software dashboard helps customers track which bikes need new batteries and other tune-ups; they can also remotely deploy software updates to the e-bike’s electronics, according to the company’s website.

“If you rely mostly on users to report that something is broken, that’s too late,” Superpedestrian CEO Assaf Biderman said in a prepared statement. “We know what’s going on inside each of our e-bikes and can resolve most issues before they occur.”

Superpedestrian is pitching the new service primarily for e-bike fleets, but it said the technology could also be applied to shared scooters and mopeds. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company has signed up any customers for its new service, but it sounds like Asia is one of the target markets.

“We always seek to invest in companies that develop deep technologies and can also scale in Asia,” said Superpedestrian investor Charles Kim, of Extol Capital and China Renaissance, in a prepared statement. “Superpedestrian is exactly in that sweet spot, given the need generated by Asia’s booming ride-hailing and bike-sharing sectors.”

Superpedestrian said its total venture capital haul is now nearly $44 million. The startup said the latest investment, dubbed a Series B1 round, came from Kim, Spark Capital, General Catalyst Partners, and other backers, including Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive and Nest co-founder.

Jeff Engel is Deputy Editor, Tech at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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