Driving in Puerto Rico can be a huge hassle. Because of poor urban planning and lack of effective public transportation, the island has one of the highest car-to-people ratios in the world, which is not only inconvenient but also detrimental to its cities and the environment. This challenging problem triggered the idea for Skootel.
Skootel aims to reduce the number of cars on roads by providing innovative low-cost, accessible and sustainable options for short-distance travel and they decided to begin with shared e-scooters. Skootel is the first micro-mobility as a service company in Puerto Rico and the only one to operate a fleet of shared e-scooters in the Caribbean.
How it works:
- Skootel places e-scooters throughout a university campus or city for riders to rent using their smartphones.
- Every e-scooter has built-in GPS and an active LTE connection that allow the Skootel team to track where and how the scooters are being used.
- Riders unlock the scooters using the Skootel mobile app.
- Once they reach their destinations, they park the e-scooters, take a picture of it, and end the ride using the app.
- The shared scooters are dockless, meaning that their availability isn't limited to particular pick-up and drop-off stations.
A needy target market
Skootel launched its service at the University of Puerto Rico's Mayagüez campus, where there's a significant transportation problem involving high traffic, lack of parking spaces and unreliable public transportation. This issue is compounded by a 0.8-mile average distance between buildings.
Students, teachers, workers and tourists in Mayagüez typically depend on cars, ride services and buses to get around. The students may have as much as a mile to walk from one class to another—too long for a walk, too short for a car and not worth the hassle of driving, parking or using any of the other options available there. The e-scooters offer an ideal alternative for them.
The first and only in Puerto Rico
Being the first and only micro-mobility company in Puerto Rico gives Skootel a competitive advantage that can help it now and in the future. But the company isn't taking that for granted. Instead, it's constantly working on improving the efficiency of its operations and logistics team, as well as developing algorithms to optimize e-scooter quantity, utilization and location.
Growth, COVID-19 and expansion plans
Since Skootel's launch, customers have taken thousands of rides on the e-scooters, allowing the company to establish operations in three other markets on the island with agreements with universities, local municipalities and real estate developers.
Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing guidelines opened an opportunity for Skootel as a safer, less risky mode of transportation than public transit and ride-share options.
The company is currently operating in San Juan and Guaynabo, and hopes to re-establish its Mayagüez operation as soon as possible. It is also planning an expansion to cities in the Caribbean and Latin America within a year.
From Silicon Valley to Puerto Rico
Skootel's founding team is led by two Stanford University graduates and experienced tech entrepreneurs who lived in Silicon Valley for almost a decade and moved back to Puerto Rico last year. Juan Parra and Aldo Briano have grown startups that have achieved $20 million in annual revenue and raised more than $15 million in venture capital for their companies.
Parra and Briano complement each other well. Parra's expertise is in marketing and demand-generation, while Briano focuses on product and operations. Both are passionate about creating products and services that solve problems and improve people's lives.
Rising Entrepreneurs Program Experience
Bravo Family Foundation's Rising Entrepreneurs Program helped Skootel restructure its operations to improve its economics and prepare it for international expansion. During the program the co-founders broke their organization into separate, market-based profit centers and developed operational metrics for its service center team.
"The program taught us how to structure operations for profitable growth, strategize for international expansion and prepare and protect the company’s assets for situations like COVID-19"Aldo Briano, Skootel co-founder
"The network and access to expertise provided by the program, including the Thoma Bravo team, mentors and guest speakers, allowed us to transform our startup into a truly scalable company," noted Parra. "It was the perfect catalyst."