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Rollin’ through COVID-19

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Arda Erturk Roll

Arda Erturk, Co-founder & Chief Communications Officer at Roll tells us about the powerful electric motor that helps people to get there swiftly.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Arda Erturk: I’m doing well! Covid-19 has had an impact on my life just like everyone else. I think that a lot of things are more accessible and convenient since everything is online now. However, I miss the office environment, hanging out with friends, and traveling! 

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Roll.

Arda Erturk: Before we founded our company, electric scooter sharing was very popular in the US and Europe. Canadian cities did not adopt scooters at that time. We saw the potential and decided to bring scooters to our home. After a successful trial in Kelowna, B.C. in 2019, we expanded into Calgary in May with 500 scooters and, more recently, in Ottawa. We plan on looking for more opportunities to expand into other Canadian markets, particularly in Toronto, which is set to launch a pilot project for e-scooters in 2021.

How does Roll innovate? Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Arda Erturk: We have several competitive advantages over our competitors like Bird and Lime, primarily a focus on safety. Both Bird and Lime received penalties and bans in various cities despite millions of dollars spent on lobbying. Among the emerging electric scooter operators, we differentiate ourselves by putting safety first. In order to ensure the safe use of the products, we have developed the following strategies: 

First-Timer Speed Limit: According to a report on electric scooter injuries, 70% of the injuries occur in the first ten minutes of the first ride. In order to prevent injuries, users are asked if they have ridden an electric scooter before unlocking. The scooter will be adjusted to a lower speed if the user has no experience riding an electric scooter to ensure safety and a better learning experience. 

Free Helmet Program: Wearing a helmet is crucial to prevent injuries, and is required to be worn when riding a Roll scooter. We are committed to ensuring all their riders have access to a helmet, through our free helmet program. 

Supply-chain Support: Utilizing our supply chain support, we have designed our own models for improved safety and durability. For example, our scooters have front-wheel suspension for better ability to handle uneven surfaces. 

Innovative Technologies: We implemented AI Picture Recognition to detect improper parking. Riders are required to take a picture of the scooter after they end their trip. We use machine learning algorithms to determine whether the scooter was parked improperly.

Balanced Portfolio: In addition to our scooter fleet in Ottawa, Calgary, and Kelowna, we developed an industry-leading, electric-assisted bike. We believe that these 2 modes of transportation complement each other. We were awarded a permit to operate its electric bikes in addition to its electric scooters. We plan to launch electric bikes this year.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

Arda Erturk: COVID-19 has been a significant barrier for our launch initially and it has changed the way we move. Fortunately, governments are more progressive about micro-mobility as riders can ride these vehicles safely while practicing social distancing. On the other hand, shared e-scooters played an important role during the economic recovery from COVID-19. In addition to the jobs that we created to run our daily operations, our riders had a convenient way to Roll around their cities and visit local businesses. Based on our analysis, 74% of the trips in Calgary and 78% of the trips in Ottawa were ended in a Business improvement area which is awesome. As a Canadian company, we are very proud of this result.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Arda Erturk: In March 2020, The City of Calgary told us that they are postponing the launch of scooters this year due to COVID-19. At that moment, we knew that we have to explore different business models or temporary solutions in order to sustain our business. We came up with great ideas, not just temporary solutions but ideas that can make an impact on the micromobility space in the long run. We are hoping to implement these ideas this year. Fortunately, we were able to launch our fleet with a short delay.

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