Building new services in regulated sectors requires getting regulators’ blessing — and relentless advocacy

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Innovations in regulated sectors like health, housing, education and transportation must get government permission first — which is both frustrating and important

Earlier this year, investor Marc Andreesen called for building our way out of America’s innovation malaise — in part by creating new services in regulated sectors like finance, insurance, education, health care, housing, and transportation.

As someone who’s spent the last year evangelizing for exactly this kind of innovation, I can report that the path to progress is full of countless potholes and speedbumps. But I’ve also become convinced that the difficulty of the journey shows the vital necessity of embarking on the trip.

From Google to Electric…

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An iconic political chief of staff: Leo McGarry (right)

I spent the first part of my career in politics — as a congressional and campaign staffer — and have spent the second part working in tech companies. One of the developments I’ve seen over that time is the export of the “chief of staff” role from politics to companies.

This development has been heralded by many of those who’ve held corporate chief of staff roles, some of whom created the Chief of Staff Tech Forum to promote best practices in the role. Harvard Business Review made the case for a chief of staff. …

Last year, data published by NACTO — the organization representing U.S. city transportation officials — showed that in just their first year on city streets, dockless scooters had surpassed docked bikeshare in popularity.

Fast forward a year, and today NACTO released updated statistics for 2019. The scooter numbers are eye-popping:

  • U.S. shared scooter ridership increased 129% year over year
  • Riders have made dockless scooters and bikes more than twice as popular as docked bikeshare
  • Shared scooters grew from 46% of all micromobility trips in 2018 to 65% of all trips in 2019
  • In just two years, the introduction of shared scooters has more than tripled the total number of annual micromobility…

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Several weeks ago, my company Lime made the difficult decision to withdraw our shared electric scooters from twelve cities around the world. Those communities’ rules governing shared mobility were a major factor in our decision, which followed similar moves by Lyft, Jump and other companies.

City leaders around the world have proclaimed their commitment to curbing car dominance, reducing emissions, and eliminating traffic fatalities. This is welcome news, promoting safer, cleaner, more efficient streets that prioritize people over one specific mode of transportation.

Unfortunately, while many of these U.S. cities claim they want to promote car alternatives, they often pass regulations that fail to reflect that goal. This limits the potential of new mobility options like free-floating scooters — which now attract more rides than docked bikeshare and which help replace car trips. …

When I tell people that I work in the e-scooter industry, I typically hear one of two reactions:

  1. “Oh, I love the scooters! I just rode one last week!”
  2. “Ugh, those things? What a menace! One of them nearly ran into me the other day.”

I’m used to hearing strong opinions about scooters — both for and against. In Washington, D.C. where I live, a magazine even gave scooters an award for “Best Public Nuisance,” saying that scooters annoy some but “do solve a last-mile problem, and if that means less traffic, lower demand on Lyft, or revitalized neighborhoods thanks to increased accessibility, then they’re a nuisance worth abiding.” Um, thanks? …


Adam Kovacevich

Policy + government + tech + campaigns. Lead Lime’s North America & Asia Pacific Government Relations & Public Affairs team. Google alum.

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