LimeBike eyeing Milwaukee launch

Startup leaders talk career paths

A LimeBike scooter.

LimeBike, a dockless bikeshare and scootershare startup based in San Francisco, is evaluating launching in Milwaukee.

Gabriel Scheer explains LimeBike at Startup Milwaukee Emerge.

Gabriel Scheer, director of government affairs and strategic development at LimeBike, presented the company at a Startup Milwaukee Emerge event held Wednesday morning at Granular LLC in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. The event was part of NEWaukee’s statewide YP Week for young professionals.

Established in January 2017, LimeBike has expanded to about 60 cities. It provides rentable bikes, electric bikes and electric scooters that are locked at the curb when the user is finished. They’re found using GPS and rented with a LimeBike app.

LimeBike reached out to the Milwaukee Department of Public Works in September, but has not been able to secure a meeting with the city to discuss its plan to establish service here, Scheer said. So he is trying to build support among residents to gain traction. LimeBike brought several of its electric scooters to the event to let attendees ride them around the Third Ward.

“We’re not looking for subsidies, we’re not looking for any kind of breaks to come in,” just the goodwill of the city, Scheer said. “We really want to collaborate with cities.”

The wheels of the bikes are filled with foam, so they can’t go flat. The bikes have a solar-powered lock, which the user locks at the curb to complete their ride.

LimeBike hires a local team in each city where it launches. It also pays people to charge its e-scooters every night, at $5 per scooter.

The company shares its data with cities to help them plan transportation networks.

LimeBike will seek the blessing of the City of Milwaukee before it launches here, Scheer said, so the timing of its prospective launch would be dependent on those conversations.

“If the city says, ‘No problem,’ then we could launch as soon as next month,” he said.

“Our interest is working with the city. We want to collaborate with them to bring this out as a thing that can add value,” Scheer said. “As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I remember going to Summerfest and having to park a long ways from Summerfest grounds. If there were scooters parked around, for example, I could hop on one and ride to Summerfest.”

“Our goal is not to hurt anything, (Bublr Bikes) specifically, but how can we complement it?” Scheer asked.

LimeBike has been criticized in some cities because users have left bikes in the middle of sidewalks in downtown areas and not locked them at the curb.

“We work really hard to encourage parking behavior, so it’s park responsibly like an adult. Would you normally leave something blocking the sidewalk? No,” Scheer said.

Matt Cordio, founder and president of Startup Milwaukee, said he supports LimeBike coming to Milwaukee because it would serve as a talent attraction and retention tool.

“I’m an advocate of things that move Milwaukee forward into the 21st century and I think LimeBike does that,” Cordio said. “We have an opportunity to be one of the first cities in the Midwest to embrace services like LimeBike.”

He did not feel the service would be redundant to Bublr Bikes.

“Why do we need only one thing? Bublr is doing great things,” Cordio said.

Following LimeBike’s presentation, a panel of startup founders and employees discussed how young professionals can get involved in the Milwaukee startup community.

The Startup Milwaukee Emerge panel discussion.

The panelists were: Joe Laurendi, co-founder and chief technology officer at Bright Cellars; Khalif El-Amin, co-founder of Young Enterprising Society; Jourdan Miller, marketing director at Access HealthNet; Jordon Meyer, president of Granular; and Steve Kroll,  vice president at Granular. BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor Molly Dill moderated the discussion.

Laurendi discussed the decision he and co-founder Richard Yau made to bring Bright Cellars from Boston to Milwaukee.

“We scoured our network, we found one of our friends did gener8tor,” Laurendi said. “We came over to Milwaukee, met some investors and heard about, at that time Ward4 was still just an idea and it was about to launch. We heard about Milwaukee’s trying to expand and grow as a tech hub and that sounded great to us.”

Meyer said he took a more gradual path into establishing his Milwaukee startup.

“I was working a corporate job, 50, 60 hours a week from Minneapolis and on the side I had a blog and I had good traction for people coming to me for advice and to manage their paid search. Selling all my nights and weekends. Long story short, I ran out of time,” Meyer said.

Those who work at startups talked about their career paths and how they leveraged their networks to find their current roles.

“Working for a startup, it’s a true meritocracy. People don’t care where your background is, where you come from. If you’re willing to grind, actively listen and put in the work, everyone has a skillset they can bring to the table,” Kroll said. “It’s really what you make of it.”

“A startup gives you an opportunity to dabble in many things you may be good at. It also allows you to show upper management and the rest of your team that you can contribute when money’s tight and we’re bootstrapping,” Miller said.

Meyer and El-Amin said despite the more uncertain nature of startups, they haven’t been too challenged to attract talent.

“It hasn’t been difficult for us to attract the talent as much as it’s been difficult for us to decipher between the talent,” El-amin said. “In a startup…it’s your baby, it’s your passion, it’s something that you put your blood sweat and tears into, and you don’t want to just let anyone into that company.”

Meyer also called on Milwaukee investors to help startups by investing in them.

“If you’ve got a little money sitting in the bank making 0.01 percent interest, you may as well take a little gamble and put some money where some passion is,” he said. “If you look at Chicago, Minneapolis and the coasts, we’re getting our (rear ends) kicked with investment, so it’s time to step up.”

And El-Amin encouraged employers to provide externships that would Young Enterprising Society high school students learn more about STEM careers.

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.