Around ten days after the long-awaited launch of the shared e-scooters service Lime in Sofia, we met Tamas Toth, the Hungary operations manager who’s in Bulgaria to set up the business. We found out that there are already 300 Lime scooters on the streets, the police officers keep thinking juicers are stealing the vehicles, and there are new speed limitations in certain areas.
We listened carefully what you say about the service and made sure to ask Toth everything that might be of interest. Will the prices ever change? Why should one use Lime instead of own scooter? How to choose less bumpy routes? How much does Lime actually earn? All of these and more in the interview below:
Trending Topics: What are the stats from the first ten days on the market?
Tamas Toth: Two days ago we just passed the 10k trips. The median trip is around 12 minutes which is good in comparison to other cities. It means that people use it for distance traveling but not too far. It equals around 2-3 metro stops.
People are complaining about the pricing. Are there any cases in other countries where Lime has adjusted the prices after the launch?
People who say that an hour with Lime is expensive, just don’t get the purpose. We’ve never had such a case. If we adjust it, it will be even up. I don’t see it as an expensive service. Once you try it and understand the purpose, you know that you are paying for the convenience. You are not so dependant on road construction or parking spots. With a scooter you can enjoy the street, you can explore the city and the hidden treasure shops in the small streets.
Don’t you think riding an e-scooter should require a driving license?
It’s definitely great to have a driving license because you know the basic rules on the street. At the same time, it might stimulate people to get a driving license because it makes them aware of the importance of understanding situations on the street. Indeed, there are different regulations across markets. For instance in Budapest, driving license is a requirement.
Where do you personally ride – parks, bike lanes, streets?
First of all, you cannot really ride in the parks. We have a limitation of up to 8 km/h and the vehicles slow down automatically. There are around 30 such zones in the city like NDK and Vitosha street are some of them. The privately-owned scooters don’t really have this regulation, which is a bit problematic. Currently, users can ride with up to 25 km/h, but soon the new regulations will downgrade it to 20 km/h.
I personally ride on the bike lanes. When there are no lanes, I use the small side streets where there are less traffic and pedestrians.
Own scooter vs Lime. Why should I use the service instead of buying my own vehicle?
Oh, you don’t have to. Indeed, my observations on other markets show that once Lime enters a city, the sales of resellers also go up. People try a Lime, they like it and very often purchase their own scooter. This doesn’t mean they stop being our clients though, they’d use Lime if they go out in the evening for instance and don’t want to carry their scooters around and take care of them.
If you are planning to buy one, do your maths. Try it out – how often, how long, etc., you ride. Then calculate it, and also have in mind the maintenance and the parts you might need to exchange. You better buy your own e-scooter, if you use it to go to work. But use a Lime for going out.
The other day I was trying to plan a route to go to a store in Bulgaria Boulevard, and I kind of gave up because I couldn’t find any useful information on where I could ride. How do you choose your routes?
My solution is “start riding and you’ll find the route.” I’d always recommend going through the small streets.
Do you think helmets will be a requirement any time soon?
I think they are required for more powerful vehicles – the ones that speed up to 40 km/h. I don’t think they will be required for Lime. Important safety regulation is, however, the age – we don’t allow people under 18 to ride the e-scooters.
But we see a lot of kids in the parks riding Limes. Also often an adult with a child. Doesn’t this concern you?
You need to consent you are over 18 when signing up. If you let your children ride, it’s your responsibility as a parent. It’s dangerous, not only for kids, but it’s also dangerous when two people try to ride one scooter.
What’s the investment Lime put in Sofia?
We are renting a warehouse, and we have a team here that might at some point reach up to 20 people – mechanics, drivers who collect and deploy the scooters. Right now as the scooters are new and in good condition, we actually don’t need such a large team. In any case, it’s a long term investment.
How long is the life of the Lime scooters?
It really depends on the city. In Sofia, I estimate it around half a year. The infrastructure here is good. I keep hearing people complaining, but don’t agree with them – it’s a way better than Bucharest, for instance.
How long does Lime need to be profitable in a new market?
Especially in Eastern Europe, we are profitable from day one. Eastern Europe is a very strong market. (However, there are already enough doubts whether the e-scooter sharing model could ever be profitable, despite the fact that companies raise tremendous amounts of venture capital, suggests the Verge – ed. n.)
Is Lime available 24/7?
Well not really, we collect them during the night. Usually, it’s the time when the batteries are very low. There are cities where there are requirements to collect them in the evening, but not here.
How do you operate in different countries? Do you always have an operations manager?
Yes, we are indeed looking for operations manager here. We currently have a growing juicer community – they are responsible for charging the scooters, but also to bring them to the warehouse if something’s wrong. The system is smart enough to identify and signal whenever there’s some technical issue. So the juicer community is great, but we have one issue. The police keep stopping people thinking they are trying to steal the scooter. You know this photo that went viral (laughs). It sometimes happens when we enter the market too fast.
And how are the scooters protected actually?
We track them with GPS. If you try to move the scooter without unlocking it an alarm goes on in around 20 seconds, and the wheels are blocked.
What led you personally to joinLime? Were you riding an e-scooter before that? What attracted you to the company and the model of Lime?
I was in Singapore when I first saw e-scooters. In November I went to Belgium and saw Lime for the first time. I loved the idea. And when I came back home I started googling it and found out that there are many cities in the neighborhood that already have Limes, and that it’s not something Asian. I checked whether they will be launching in Budapest and found out that they are looking for operations manager. And this is how my corporate career ended. It’s quite different now, there’s always a new city, new challenge.