From the Navy Yard to the World: Uber Acquires JUMP
The future of mobility is multi-modal: accessible, affordable combinations of public transport, bikes, and shared cars to navigate urban spaces while reducing congestion and pollution. Uber’s recent acquisition of JUMP Bikes (pegged at over $200 million) signals that the future is now. What’s more, JUMP’s dockless e-bikes, developed and tested at Newlab’s Navy Yard, are proof positive of the benefits of conceiving and piloting technology directly in the urban spaces in which they’ll be used.
JUMP began as Social Bicycles almost a decade ago, with GPS-enabled, dockless bicycles for municipal bikeshare fleets, and its growth has been steady and its evolution constant. While Uber’s quest for market dominance has sometimes found them at odds with both consumers and regulators, Rzepecki’s background in urban planning and JUMP’s history of productive municipal partnerships (by 2017, it had placed over 12,000 dockless bikes in 40 cities across 6 countries) bodes well for this new venture.
The two companies share a vision, as Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, noted in a blog post following the acquisition. “[O]ur ultimate goal is one we share with cities around the world: making it easier to live without owning a personal car,” he wrote. “Achieving that goal ultimately means improving urban life by reducing congestion, pollution and the need for parking spaces.”
Imagine it: a commute facilitated by your phone, a faster, more effortless ride, the potential to combine multiple modes of transit (bike, train, car) without the hassle of owning, maintaining, or insuring a vehicle. Dockless bicycles eliminate the need for the costly, bulky infrastructure of docking stations, which limit the utility of two-wheeled transport by requiring fixed pick-up and drop-off points. If you live in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Santa Cruz, Sacramento, or Providence (as of this summer), where JUMP currently operates, this kind of commute is already a reality.
JUMP’s residency at Newlab helped pave the way. During the company’s time at Newlab, they’ve rebranded, pivoted from traditional to e-bikes, and expanded their team—efforts uniquely supported by the prototyping resources Newlab offers and a community that fosters business connections. For instance: Voltaic Systems, another Newlab member, builds the solar panel units that power JUMP bikes. And Newlab fosters a shared ethos of enhancing the human urban experience through technology.
The company debuted its pedal-assist electric bikes (which make hills and long rides easier for people of all abilities) as part of Newlab’s Urban Tech Hub, a joint program with the New York City Economic Development Corp. that cultivates partnerships between entrepreneurs, cities, and private capital toward human-centered growth and innovation. As part of that program, Newlab gives members a low-risk way to probe market fit, create valuable case studies, and cultivate brand awareness. JUMP’s pilot program in the Navy Yard (Newlab’s headquarters) gave the 7,000 tenants of the 300-acre campus—a mini-city in its own right—free access to the e-bikes.
The pilot demonstrated two of the benefits of these e-bikes: an ability to ease emissions (the company was named a finalist in the NYCx Electric Vehicle challenge, which seeks to replace gas-powered vehicles in the city by accelerating the technology behind electric options) and to make carless commuting accessible for areas not typically served by bike-share programs (a new pilot will see JUMP bikes in Coney Island, Staten Island, the Bronx, and the Rockaways).
“JUMP is a great example of how Urban Tech is catalyzing change in cities,” said Shaina Horowitz, Newlab’s Urban Tech Hub Director. “This company sees the value in collaborating, testing, and iterating new concepts for urban mobility right here in New York. I am thrilled to see how this new development will grow their business, and their accessibility, even further.”
“Developing and commercializing our vision took 100+ people nearly ten years of struggle and hustle to bring to life but, we’ve finally delivered a solution that delights customers and captures the full potential of bikes as a means of daily transportation,” JUMP CEO and founder Ryan Rzepecki wrote in a letter announcing the Uber acquisition.
The path isn’t without peril, of course. JUMP and Uber face competition from other dockless bike and electric scooter companies. Regulations in states vary: some classify electric bikes as vehicles, requiring registration and insurance to ride. And while China has demonstrated the appetite for dockless bicycle shares, it also provides a cautionary tale: the flood of bicycles into the market overwhelmed demand, resulting in vast bicycle graveyards.
But JUMP has a history of working in tandem with cities to avoid these kinds of problems, and their vision of collaborative, accessible transportation solutions holds transformative promise for urban areas.
“Our mission at JUMP Bikes is to build the bike you want,” Rzepecki wrote not long ago. “A bike that can take you farther, get you there faster, and be the most fun to ride. A bike that you don’t even need to own, doesn’t cost a penny to maintain, and is always nearby when you want it. If we achieve this mission then we’ll see more people on bikes — meaning greener, more accessible, and healthier cities.”