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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Will Blue Duck Scooters Be Allowed To Continue On San Antonio Streets?

Paul D Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Blue Duck Scooters lined up in Corpus Christi, one of its markets. The company's future in San Antonio has been called into question.

The sole local scooter company may be banned from San Antonio streets in October. Blue Duck Scooters failed to apply for an exclusive permit by the July 22 deadline, according to individuals familiar with the issue. The city will determine which three companies will continue operating in San Antonio this fall.

According to the city’s website “Submissions are not allowed after the ‘Submission Deadline.’”

Blue Duck executives are seeking an exception for the San Antonio startup. 

“We are evaluating the responsiveness of one of the applications,” said Jeff Coyle government and public affairs director. He declined to say which company. 

San Antonio delayed releasing the names of companies seeking the city contract. TPR has been able to confirm that Lime, Lyft, VeoRide, Razor and Bird have applied. Four other companies attended a city meeting discussing the request for proposals but didn’t respond to emails.

Blue Duck was founded by father and son Paul and Eric Bell last march. The company currently has scooters in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Laredo, Pensacola and Daytona Beach.

CEO Eric Bell has been featured in several media outlets the past six months saying the company would submit an application, telling the Express-News it’s “critically important to me” Blue Duck be one of the final three. 

The optics of losing their home market would extend beyond the personal though.

“[If I was an] investor it would matter to me if the product suddenly disappeared, that would be meaningful, especially if it resulted from a mistake,”  said investor and Express-News Financial Columnist Michael Taylor. 

San Antonio is Blue Duck’s most competitive market, and therefore least profitable, making around $2 per scooter per day. The company makes exponentially more money where there is less competition in second and third tier markets like Laredo and Corpus Christi.

But the loss of its most mature market where the company likely has a system or method of deployment making it predictable, if not profitable is a loss said Taylor. 

“It puts a lot of pressure on new markets where the company doesn’t have that same muscle memory,” he said.“It’s bad if your oldest market, the most predictable market, the one where you have the most experience, is gone.”

Corpus Christi and Laredo markets are relatively new. Laredo launched in June following an earlier Corpus launch.

The small startup has had a few issues with communities in the past. The startup tried to expand on college campuses, which got its scooters impounded in several instances. It was also more than a month late paying a monthly scooter fee to Corpus Christi. According to a Corpus city official, Blue Duck is a good partner, but requires more hand holding than other, more established scooter vendors. 

Blue Duck markets itself as one that is more community-focused than its rivals, something it appears to spend increased time on. As opposed to Bird scooters, which dropped scooters off in many cities without warning, Blue Duck has a reputation of working with cities. 

San Antonio’s RFP gives weight to local and small businesses.  The two scoring categories taken together equal almost as much as the “Experience, Qualifications and Financial Capacity” section of the scoring rubric. Blue duck would be considered a local business with its Pearl-adjacent headquarters, it is ineligible for the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy program, according to the city’s vendor registry. 

No word from city officials on whether it will allow Blue Duck to continue in the process and none from the company on what losing its hometown could mean for its future. A company spokeswoman said she couldn't speak before the city's decision.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org or followed on Twitter @paulflahive.