Skip, the first company to bring e-scooters to D.C., to be acquired by competitor Helbiz

Helbiz, a New York-based company that operates e-bikes, e-scooters and mopeds in cities around the world, is buying dockless electric scooter operator Skip, the companies announced Thursday.

a person walking down a sidewalk next to a building: Helbiz and Skip combined will operate about 4,000 vehicles across the D.C. area. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Helbiz and Skip combined will operate about 4,000 vehicles across the D.C. area. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Skip scooters are available for rent only in D.C., although the company previously had a presence in San Francisco and other cities.

Salvatore Palella, founder and chief executive of Helbiz, said the acquisition will allow the company to expand its presence in the United States. Although it was founded in New York, its biggest operation is in Italy, where the company launched its first micromobility service two years ago.

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Helbiz has expanded in the United States in recent months. It entered the D.C. market in the spring, bringing e-bikes to the District and e-scooters to Arlington and Alexandria. It recently deployed scooters in Miami and e-bikes in Atlanta and announced operations in Richmond and Jacksonville, Fla., among other cities.

“As the first to market in Italy and a micromobility leader throughout Europe, it’s imperative for us to expand our operations in the United States where we’re based,” Palella said in a statement.

Helbiz will take over Skip’s headquarters in San Francisco, the company said. Sanjay Dastoor, Skip’s co-founder and chief executive, said Skip scooters will continue to operate in the District under the brand but as a subsidiary of Helbiz. The companies will integrate the operations in coming months, Dastoor said.

“It’s the same team, the same focus on safety, the same focus on sustainability,” he said. Riders “shouldn’t see any difference in the quality of service.”

Riders eventually will be able to check out Skip and Helbiz vehicles from either app. The companies combined will operate about 4,000 vehicles across the D.C. area. Skip has a city permit allowing it to operate 2,500 scooters, while Helbiz can deploy nearly 1,500 e-bikes in the city, with smaller operations in Virginia.

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Skip, formerly Waybots, launched in the District in February 2018 — the first company to bring rental electric scooters to the streets of the nation’s capital. A year ago, Skip was one of four companies selected to continue operations in the District. Thirteen scooter companies applied, according to the District Department of Transportation, and Skip was among the top point-earners in a competitive selection process. The city later decided to keep eight companies.

Skip’s D.C. operations haven’t been without controversy.

The company was banned from operating for six weeks last year after one of its scooters caught fire downtown. It acknowledged that past safety lapses had contributed to the fire and another at its warehouse involving batteries. The city allowed the company to resume operations, saying it was taking “clear steps” to ensure safety practices.

Skip pulled out of San Francisco, San Diego and Austin after brief stints in those cities last year. Skip officials said the company was focused on making its newest scooter model, the S3, with a “new level of stability, reliability and control” on the road, and serving riders in the nation’s capital.

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The companies declined to disclose the cost of the acquisition but said it includes a combination of stock and cash and will close before the end of the year.

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