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The Zipcar of electric scooters launches to the public

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Scoot Networks, which has been testing a network of shared electric scooters in San Francisco for months, officially launched on Wednesday and opened up its network to the public. The startup now has around 50 electric scooters parked around neighborhoods in San Francisco, which can be rented out by the hour or half day. Tthis morning in downtown San Francisco the Scoot Networks crew will be riding dozens of bright red electric scooters around the city to mark the occasion. (Someone send me a pic if you see ’em).

Up until this point, Scoot Networks’ hundreds of beta testers have been quietly using (and paying for) the service to get between locations in San Francisco, but if you weren’t part of the beta testers you couldn’t get access to them. I spotted a few of the Scoots from time to time throughout the city over the past couple of months, like outside of the Caltrain station on 4th Street. But now anyone can sign up for it.

Scoot Networks co-founder Michael Keating told me in an interview last week that they decided to open up the public launch early to help the company continue to test out the model. Bringing in more users means they can more quickly refine the service for the best user experience. Through its beta testing, Scoot Networks has already honed pricing, options and locations of the Scoots.

Right now to use Scoot’s network it costs $10 to sign up, $5 per month, and $5 per hour. There’s also a $10 per day option (that seems like a steal), and a $25 per month package that includes four half day rides. Additionally there’s an option to rent out your own personal Scoot for $185 per month.

Using a Scoot electric scooter will be a completely different experience than using a Zipcar car. Scoot users will want to use the scooters to ride short trips around the city — a coffee meeting at Sightglass, or stopping by the farmers market at the Ferry Building during your lunch hour — particularly places where parking is difficult.

Commuting could be the killer app for Scoot. Keating told me that he was surprised that so many people wanted to use the Scoots for the last mile of the commute, like between the train station and their house. “Commuting is more of a pain then people realize,” said Keating.

The scooters aren’t meant for highway use or long distance rides. The have a top speed of around 30 miles per hour, and you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive one. The battery only lasts around 20 to 30 miles. The scooters were made in China, and are a premium version of a common type used there.

Some of the hurdles the service will have to overcome include: getting people who haven’t driven a scooter before to feel comfortable signing up and driving one (they provide tutorials), and getting enough parking spots with the needed plugs to charge the batteries. But San Francisco, with all of its new alternative transportation modes, will be the place to figure it out. Scoot Networks wants to expand out of San Francisco after it’s got a few thousand scooters in San Francisco.

Scoot raised a $550,000 seed round this year and will be looking to raise a series A round next year. The company has 5 full time employees.

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