Hunting down a beat-up-looking shared electric scooter that has the germs of goodness-knows-who all over the handlebars is not Unagi's idea of sexy shared micromobility. Instead, the e-scooter manufacturer is launching a more exclusive version that will see its slick e-scooters available to rent at hotels, luxury apartments and coworking spaces.
"Unagi on Demand," as the offering is called, is kicking off at the Hoxton Hotel in Los Angeles, as well as Common Luxury Apartments, Nap York Sleeping Pods and The Yard Coworking in New York City. The move signals a shift in Unagi's current business model, which has mainly focused on sales and subscriptions of its e-scooters.
"This fits into our overall strategy as we're choosing locations that don't require the brutal logistics and unit economics that ride-sharing services are subjected to, that from our perspective make those models very hard to thrive," David Hyman, CEO and founder of Unagi, told TechCrunch. "It also functions as a marketing vehicle for our scooter rental subscription service. We like for people to get exposed to experience in a hotel and then want one for their everyday use. Essentially, it's not our core business, but complementary. We started it because of numerous inbound requests."
That said, Hyman thinks Unagi On-Demand can be a meaningful revenue driver for the business in the long run, given that there's still plenty of space to expand beyond these initial pilots. To start, Unagi will have six vehicles at the Hoxton, another six at Nap York, eight at one Common Luxury location and 12 vehicles across three Yard locations.
"Obviously getting large-scale hotel chains and real estate developers with mass quantities of properties is the goal," said Hyman, adding that Unagi has a significant rollout with a partnership that it can't yet announce.
At the moment, the companies offering Unagi's scooters receive a revenue share of anywhere from zero to 10%, according to Hyman, who says many are simply interested in adding the scooters to offer guests more convenience.
“Unagi is a perfect fit with the culture, community, and design focus of our coworking spaces." said Michelle Segev, senior operations manager at The Yard. "Unagi adds a super convenient transportation amenity to members at the Yard, allowing them to focus on their business rather than the logistics of running errands and getting to meetings around the city"
Given the way the sharing and subscription economy is going, where access is more important to most people than ownership, Unagi might be on to something. The company is currently partnering with Tulu, which offers on-demand rentals of home products and other items, such as Unagi scooters or VR headsets, at dormitories, hotels and luxury apartments. Tulu recently closed a $20 million Series A and is set to expand its model.
Unagi On-Demand also touches on the growing popularity of electric scooters for convenient travel in urban environments that aren't too car-centric. At the same time, by choosing the clientele, Unagi continues to position itself as a trendy, luxury brand.
Unagi's Model One scooter is currently priced at around $1,000, but its newest scooter, the Model Eleven, complete with advanced rider assistance features, can cost more than $2,800. Renting to Model One costs about $50 per month.
"The private location of the scooters provides an alternative to public shared scooters that are often in disrepair, have empty batteries and litter the urban landscape," the company said in a statement. "Unagi scooters are spotless, charged and ready-to-ride exclusively for guests. Scanning a QR code is all that’s required to start an hourly or daily rental, and Unagi pricing is significantly less expensive than public scooters offered by companies such as Bird or Lime."
Unagi says it is charging anywhere from $5 to $8 per hour for use of its scooters, or $15 to $24 for a 12-hour rental. Lime, for example, charges 30 cents per minute plus $1 to unlock in New York. That ends up being about $19 for the hour. In Los Angeles, Bird charges about 25 cents per minute plus $1 to unlock, bringing it to $16 per hour.