May 25, 2022

For the company Silicon Valley startup Tortoise, named after the slow-moving reptile, has rapidly transitioned to new business models over the past year.

The company, founded in 2019 by former Uber CEO Dmitry Shevlenko, began with a mission to become an operating system for micromobility vehicles, a system that uses remote operators to move shared electric scooters to places where future drivers can drive. on board or return them. Warehouse against payment.

In January 2021, Turtle began working with Spin to test a three-wheeled scooter that has Turtle’s repositioning software installed.

But even before the company released its Spin Pilot, it was beginning to realize the potential of remote positioning and all the cameras and sensors the company had installed on scooters. As the public micromobility industry plummeted due to COVID-19 while people began demanding faster delivery, Shevlenko deemed it a “malpractice” to not continue delivering from the robotic sidewalk.

Turtle began supplying products first to small local customers and then to large companies such as the Albertsons supermarket chain, the national logistics company Excelhair and the KRS convenience store chain. All signs indicated that the curbside delivery was a success.

but then…

In early March 2022, Turtle changed that again, pledging to focus exclusively on mobile smart stores, essentially luxury vending machines that are mounted on Turtle’s delivery robots and located outside of retail. Turtle has now moved from a hardware-as-a-service model to a take-rate scheme that allows it to earn 10% of all sales from its card payment bots, whether it’s a box of cakes from a bakery or brand new headphones. From an electronics store.

Shevlenko, who served as director of business development for Uber and was behind the Jump Bike acquisition, says these pivots are simply the beauty of a startup responding to market changes. The founder has advised or served on the boards of several mobile and technology companies, including Skip, Superpedestrian, Kodi, Payfair, Skyridge, SpotHero, and Cargo Systems.

While Turtle is launching his first business, Shevlenko is well aware of the factors that can make a startup win and lose.

We spoke with Shevlenko about everything from acquiring Spin Tier and the future of micromobility to taking charge of changing business directions, the challenges of delivering sidewalk robots and startup agility.

The following interview, part of an ongoing series of interviews with founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

TK: At Uber, you were behind the creation of a new mobility segment and the acquisition of Jump Bike. What do you think is the value of multi-column companies, as opposed to just doing one task well?

Dmitry Shevlenko: For Uber, as a consumer-facing company, this is the ultimate strategy for collecting all of your transportation costs. The last end state here – and that’s why I think they’re putting so much money into this Uber One subscription – is a transportation product in the form of a subscription.

Ultimately, you can win by bringing all the different ownership models together to be shared, rented, and owned. Dmitry Shevlenko

It’s not very efficient for Uber and Lyft to try to win your trip right away by offering you special promotions. If people are constantly switching between Uber and Lyft, they both lose. So the way to win is not to compete for a ride, but almost every year. How can you turn your back on someone for a year just because they’re yours? I’m guessing the basic nature of this consumer lock means you need more than just a rideshare, right?

I think ridesharing is necessary because rideshares will falter. But the demand for transport does not change. So if you have multiple mods, you are always in the right place.

Turtle’s original idea to replace scooters partially failed due to the pandemic, but do you think it’s still a good idea?

Oh hell yes. This is purely a function of indexing and relative precedence. The only reason delivery is so good and demand so high is also because of COVID, right? Not only shared scooters have gone bad.

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