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Get where you're going: 5 Seattle ride-sharing and mobility companies to test out

Originally published in Built in Seattle by Quinten Dol on February 22, 2019

For tech industry watchers and financial markets alike, 2019 is the year of the ride-share IPO. Uber and Lyft — the Bay Area’s version of Montagues and Capulets — are both slated to go public this year, making stock exchange wonks crazy with anticipation.

As compelling as the Uber-Lyft rivalry is, let’s shift our gaze from fair San Francisco and its two houses — both alike in dignity — to Seattle, where both companies also happen to have engineering outposts. In addition to the Bay Area heavies, the Emerald City’s tech landscape has birthed several homegrown startups that have found their own innovative ways to get people around.

Here are five mobility tech companies with offices or headquarters in Seattle.

Reach Now

Headquarters: Belltown

Founded: 2016

How they move: Borrowing strangers’ cars

Tell us more: Reach Now is BMW’s horse in the carsharing race — an Airbnb for automobiles, if you will. Users find, reserve and unlock a vehicle through the app, which automatically sends their destination to the in-car navigation system. Last year the company integrated a ride-hailing function for its app, bringing it in direct competition with Uber and Lyft. One of the company’s key differentiators for this service is that its drivers are paid by the hour with incremental compensation for each trip they complete, while Uber and Lyft’s drivers rely on how many riders they can pick up. Today, BMW and Daimler announced that they were investing one billion euros to pool their mobility services into five joint ventures for electric vehicle charging, multimodal transport, taxis, parking and car-sharing, which will absorb the Seattle-based team.

Migo

Headquarters: Pioneer Square

Founded: 2016

Funding: $11.1 million

How they move: Whichever way you choose

Tell us more: As app-driven transportation options have exploded over the last decade, so has the number of transportation-related apps taking up space on our phones. Prices and convenience vary between services and different geographic locations and, for the average user who just wants to get from point A to B, it can all get pretty confusing. Migo solves this problem with an app that connects to multiple mobility app APIs, allowing users to weigh their transportation options — rideshares, bikeshares, taxis, scooters and public transit — in one place. As founder and CEO Jeff Warren told Built In Seattle last September, the technical challenge comes from combining professional APIs from the likes of Lyft and Uber with data from taxi companies that mightn’t even have a full-time engineer on staff, and present it all in a professional manner.

Rad Power Bikes

Headquarters: Ballard

Founded: 2007

Funding: $320,000

How they move: Pedal power! Oh, and lithium-ion batteries

Tell us more: In a city with as many rainy days and steep, potholed streets as ours, the number of Seattleites who commute by bicycle is impressive. However, in a world where the traffic only gets worse and the combustion engine’s days are numbered, there is always room for more cyclists. By now, we’ve all seen Rad Power Bikes’ range of electric bicycles — often loaded with up to three small children and still breezing past lycra-clad cyclists on the uphills — around town. The company also sells a range of accessories and works with businesses to integrate e-bikes into delivery, transportation, logistics and law enforcement operations, among others.

Uber

PNW headquarters: Downtown Seattle

Founded: 2009

Funding: $24.2 billion

How they move: Other people drive you around

Tell us more: Ride-hailing giant Uber has a Seattle office for engineers working on a wide variety of technologies, from airport logistics to driver compliance. The San Francisco unicorn’s presence in Seattle dates back to 2015, and last year, it inked a ten-year lease for enough downtown office space to fit up to 750 employees. (Uber currently employs over 350 people in Seattle.) The company plans to go public before the end of 2019, making it the most anticipated IPO of the year.

Lyft

PNW headquarters: Pioneer Square

Founded: 2012

Funding: $4.9 billion

How they move: Pink Uber

Tell us more: Ride-hailing challenger Lyft opened its Seattle engineering center in 2015, the company’s first outside its San Francisco home. The company now has office space to accommodate over 300 employees. While its business model is essentially the same as Uber, Lyft has a few features to differentiate itself. Earlier this month, Seattle became the first city where Lyft users could request electric vehicles. It also recently added a function to tip drivers by default — even if the user forgets or neglects to do so.

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