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Lime's Two Years - And Three Lessons - of Hypergrowth


In IVP's Hyper-Growth Podcast series, IVP investors talk with CEOs from the fastest growing companies to understand the ins and outs of company building in the hyper-growth environment.

In our fifth episode, IVP's Louisa Xu sits down with the co-founder and CEO of Lime, Toby Sun, to talk about his inspiration behind the company's founding, the importance of growth versus profitability, how to get a hardware business right and the cause and effect of the micro-mobility generation.

As people continue to be drawn toward the urban dream and urban populations grow, new modes of transportation like the scooter have emerged to solve the last mile problem. Companies like Lime, in a little under two years, have carved out a new way to get from point A to B. Scooter sharing not only reduces the time involved in driving, parking, or taking public transit, it also reduces carbon emissions. A global win.

Founded in 2017, Lime is now the world's largest scooter sharing company, reaching over 50M trips (up from 30M+ on the recording day) across 100 markets globally. Co-founder and CEO Toby Sun, who grew up in China's fourth largest city, Shenzhen (which is often called China's Silicon Valley), started crafting the vision for Lime early in his urban childhood.

Toby's journey took him from China to the United States where he eventually met Lime's co-founder, Brad Bao, through the Berkeley MBA network. Working together initially as investors, the two recognized their shared interest in solving the last mile transportation problem and decided to partner up. Together, they created Lime, and here's what they have learned along the way.

It Doesn't Have To Be A Trade-off Between Growth and Profitability It will be hard for us to optimize anything before we have a certain scale.

In the last two years, Lime has launched products in over a hundred markets in over 20 countries, netting over 50 million trips. Their success came from a strong product-market fit demonstrated early and quickly, through tests in many locations to understand the operational sweet spot.' This rapid expansion didn't come at the expense of profitability. Instead, the learnings from rapid growth can lead to profitability if applied properly.

Learning from the company's growth in-house versus using an outsourced operations team has allowed the company to reap additional economies of scale. Once a critical scale is reached, there is a much larger playground with which to experiment. And, the longer Lime operates in more markets, the more experimentation opportunities emerge.

Invest In The Hardware Team and Supply Chain Hardware is hard.

To do hardware right and build quickly, it takes significant capital, strong partnerships and great teams to keep momentum strong. It also takes the right relationships to expedite building prototypes. Lime was able to take advantage of their connections in China's hardware ecosystem, such as the prototyping hubs like Shenzhen. Navigating these markets takes time and resources, so the more inroads, the better. Lime's bi-lingual and China/US founding team helped - and they used this advantage to quickly and efficiently build, prototype and ship.

Lime learned that more markets equal more people who provide more feedback. That feedback leads to improved products and an ongoing positive feedback loop. And that continues to propel a company like Lime above its competitors.

Think About Multiple Cases To Address Audiences. One Size Does Not Fit All. The product should serve a purpose to service the two kinds of audiences at the same time.

Local insights and approaches are important, especially for a company like Lime. And the technology that allows this to happen must be tailored appropriately to each area, so the experience makes sense on a local level. In Lime's case, each city's infrastructure, the broader IoT network, and the anonymously-collected usage data are all important variables.

As the scooter craze continues to grow globally, so too does the understanding and significance of the term micro-mobility. Lime is at the forefront of this massive trend.

The full transcript is below.

To hear more, listen on iTunes or SoundCloud.

TRANSCRIPT Narrator: Welcome to IVP's Hyper-Growth Podcast. In this series, we talk with CEOs of the fastest-growing companies and discuss the ins-and-outs of company building in the hyper-growth environment. If you like what you hear, consider following us on SoundCloud or subscribing to our podcast on iTunes. Thanks, and enjoy the show.

Louisa: Welcome everyone. I'm Louisa Xu, an investor at IVP. We're a venture firm focused on high growth later-stage tech companies and we've had the privilege of investing in some of the fastest growing tech companies of the last decade including AppDynamics, Dropbox, Twitter, GitHub and of course Lime. Today I have Toby Sun, CEO of Lime joining me. Toby founded Lime in 2017 and he's now leading the world's largest electric scooter sharing company. And one of the fastest growing companies of all time. If we rewind to just two years ago when the first wave of electric scooters started to emerge in the US, people dismissed them as a toy or a mere fad, but the data we've seen suggests there's a lot more to the story than that. In its short history, Lime has already reached over 30 million trips across 100 markets globally. I'm excited about the potential impact of Lime in the broader micro-mobility ecosystem. Today we're going to learn from Toby about how he got the company started, how he thinks about the long-term drivers of the business, and what he has learned along the way. Thanks for joining me today Toby.

Toby: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Louisa: So, to set the stage, could you tell us about how you and
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