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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Blue Duck Makes Impromptu Pitch To Return To San Antonio Streets

Blue Duck headquarters in San Antonio.
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
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Blue Duck's Headquarters Near The Pearl

San Antonio-based scooter company Blue Duck hasn’t been able to operate in the city since January. After it failed to turn in its bid for the city’s request for proposals on time (the company missed the deadline by one minute), Blue Duck wasn’t considered for any of the three exclusive contracts.

On Tuesday, employees took to the virtual municipal podium to promote the company and ask to come back.

Blue Duck CEO Michael Keane, co-founder Jeff Mangold and senior director Megan McNamara used San Antonio City Council’s transportation and mobility committee’s “Citizens To Be Heard” opportunity — which is generally for public comments on the day’s council business — to promote, persuade and promise.

“We would love to have the opportunity to be able to operate in San Antonio. We think the city would benefit from a local operator,” said Keane.

He went on to promise new jobs at a national training center if allowed. It wasn’t immediately clear where such a center would go otherwise for the San Antonio company.

Citizens To Be Heard does not exclude the public from discussing other government aspects or from outright attacking council members, as regular council critic Jack Finger often does prior to council votes.

While it isn’t unusual to have a stray commentary, chair of the transportation committee and councilwoman Shirley Gonzales struggled when asked if any other company had ever used the time to pitch their service.

“You know I’m trying to think of another example,” she said. “It didn’t strike me as odd at all.”

Gonzales has been approached by the company in recent months to discuss operating on San Antonio streets again. How that would happen isn’t immediately known.

A row of Blue Duck scooters near the Pearl in San Antonio.

The city’s scooter ranks have thinned since it first awarded exclusive contracts to three companies. Now only Bird and Razor are operating.

It isn’t currently clear if the city would open a new round of an RFP. The last time a company exited the contract, the city included the next runner up in the bidding process.

But because Blue Duck’s proposal was never accepted, the company has yet to submit the required documents to the city, and Gonzales said she isn’t sure if there is appetite among her council colleagues to revisit the RFP that took about a year to design, review and award.

Also, are people even riding scooters? According to city data, a lot less are. Companies provided about 73,000 rides in August, which is about half what it was doing in January and less than one-third of peak scooter riding.

“I haven’t seen hardly any scooters around at all,” said Gonzales acknowledging that some of that was because she now wasn’t traveling downtown as much.

After Blue Duck failed to deliver on what company insiders acknowledged as its biggest opportunity, TPR published a long examination of the startup that showed a contentious workplace and a lacking leadership.

| Related Public Failure, Internal Strife, Lawsuits: Blue Duck's Short Ride Through San Antonio |

With this in mind — lack of riders, Blue Duck’s past behavior and how it could come back — no council members asked questions of Blue Duck representatives.

That is, of course, because this wasn’t on the committee’s agenda. It was just a visit from a local company.

A presentation about the future of the city’s faltering BCycle program began immediately after the impromptu pitch.

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