Ninebot has quietly become the single-biggest source of scooters deployed in U.S. cities. The little-known manufacturer is an essential provider for just about everyone trying to ride the rise of “micro-mobility,” a movement that aims to transform urban transportation through the proliferation of cheap alternatives to cars and mass transit.
One of the problems with the Silicon Valley-style startup culture is the misguided belief that innovation must be sexy. That the best founders need to create blockchains, cryptocurrencies, or some other futuristic application.
I say nonsense.
Some of the best companies are the ones whose names we don’t know. This is even true in the world of advanced technologies.
Plaid, the technology company that powers most banking-related applications, just raised $250 million at a $2.65 billion valuation. Most people outside of the world of APIs have never heard of Plaid, but they provide the technical plumbing for many billion-dollar businesses.
Back to scooters.
Bird (valued at $2 billion, double four months earlier) is in a daily, existential fight with well-financed rivals. Bird’s founder has to do everything right to outpace startup rivals, companies like Uber, and the regulators trying to shut them down. Any number of competitors could gobble up his fancy startup any day.
Ninebot sits on the other side of the scooter market. No one knows their name, but they provide the hardware — the boring, boring widget — to all the major scooter companies.
Ninebot will survive even if Bird dies.
From scooters to cowboy boots, boring is beautiful.