Electric scooter startups are not something that have been very successful in Brazil. In 2019, we saw the attempt by the North American Lime, which arrived in the country and six months later announced the end of its operations here. At the same time, the Brazilian Yellow merged with Mexican Grin to create the Growwhich the following year entered into a judicial recovery process and this week had its bankruptcy declared by the São Paulo Court.
But a European startup has just arrived in the country to prove that scooters are in demand and companies can make a profit. Founded in Russia in 2019, Whoosh was born from the idea that city residents should be able to easily reach any destination within 15 minutes. The company’s goal is to bridge the gap between a 10-minute walk and 10km rides by offering shared electric scooters as a more accessible and sustainable form of mobility.
The startup has more than 160,000 electric scooters spread across 42 cities around the world. The starting point of the operation in Brazil is the city of Florianópolis, which received the first 1,300 pieces of equipment from the brand in the country. Recently, Whoosh arrived in Porto Alegre with another 1,200 scooters. The plan is to expand to one more city this year and another five in 2024, with a gradual expansion to other urban centers such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro until 2025.
“We decided to start in Florianópolis because of the urban infrastructure and topography. It is a city with many cycle paths and flat areas, which makes the region very suitable for transporting scooters”, says Francisco Forbes, CEO of Whoosh in Brazil. “There is also a high level of security and the size of the city is ideal – not as big as São Paulo, but larger than many other municipalities,” he adds.
According to the executive, the Brazilian operation of Whoosh it is completely independent from the European one. “Separate company, new CNPJ. They are partners of Whoosh Brazil, provide the system and we have some benefits due to commercial agreements for the purchase of equipment. But it is a completely independent business”, he points out.
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For Francisco, the failed experiences of scooter companies in Brazil were not caused by a market problem. “The companies that operated in Brazil stopped not because the market was bad or because of regulatory issues, but because of poor management that led the companies to bankruptcy, and because the scooter operation system was bad. Today we have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes,” he says.
The executive notes that there is still great potential for the electric micromobility sector in the country. “Brazil has several urban centers with more than 1 million people, all with mobility problems due to disorderly growth, and scooters are a quick, easy to implement and effective tool, which generates an instant reduction in the emission of polluting gases. ”, he points out.
How are the differences between Whoosh, Francisco highlights the operation. “Companies around the world adopted the free float model, in which scooters were left anywhere in the city. Already the Whoosh works with fixed parking spots to both pick up and return equipment”, explains the CEO. The strategy promotes greater organization in the city, without disturbing the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, and contributes to greater operational efficiency for the company. “We have to change the batteries on the scooters, and it is much easier to do this if they are gathered in one place instead of scattered one by one throughout the city”, points out Francisco.
According to the executive, the fleet of Whoosh is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “In the past, it was common to change the entire scooter and, from time to time, it was necessary to replace the entire fleet. But we have safer, more robust and technological equipment, which allows us to only change the batteries and ensure that the fleet is always available.”
In Brazil, the company competes with FlipOnsharing and leasing electric transport, and Flea, a micromobility company that was born in Gramado (RS) and invests in small cities like Canela (RS) and Balneário Camboriú (SC) with its shared electric scooters. At a global level, major players such as birdfrom the United States, and Lime itself, which left Brazil but still operates in cities in Europe and North America.
The startup had its IPO in Russia in December 2022, becoming the only company to carry out an initial public offering in the country that year. The company said it raised 2.1 billion rubles (about $33 million) in the listing at a valuation of 20.6 billion rubles (about $326 million). The amount is less than half the initial target of raising US$80 million, according to Reuters, in a market impacted by the geopolitical context in the region.
Francisco has ambitious plans for the company in Brazil, which should make a first round of investments in the next two years and already has eyes on a future IPO. “The company is already listed in Europe and I want to take the Whoosh The B3“, he states. “The model is back to stay and it has been very successful. We have been operating for four months, with excellent results. Now, the plan is to expand and lead the company to reach all of Brazil”, says Francisco, without revealing the numbers and results obtained in Brazil so far.