Circ, the Berlin-based e-scooter rentals — or so-called micromobility — company founded by Lukasz Gadowski of Delivery Hero fame, has made a number of layoffs, TechCrunch has learned.
This has seen a reduction in headcount in its HQ and other regional operations. The exact number isn’t clear, although one source placed it at around 50 people, or less than 10% of employees.
Confirming the restructuring, Circ issued the following statement, citing the move to swappable batteries and a shift of focus to “efficiency and ops excellence”:
After fast growth in the initial stage now we focus on efficiency and ops excellence, including switching our operations mode to swappable battery scooters, [we] just introduced the Circ “KAISER” vehicle in a few German cities. Apart from being more cost efficient that is also more sustainable (cargo bikes instead of vans).
I managed to get Gadowski on a call and he added some further context to the layoffs, citing three reasons behind the decision to reduce headcount: seasonality, operational learnings and indeed the move to e-scooters with swappable batteries.
“It’s a seasonal business, we have less riders in the winter than summer,” explained the Circ founder. “In winter you can expect less than 50% of your summer rides with the current micromobility devices. That may change in the future.”
With regards to operational learnings, Gadowski says the company needed to learn how to operate a micromobility service across many markets simultaneously. “Basically figure out how to be more efficient, how to run a micromobility operation; it’s not optimised yet and we learned over the summer.”
He also conceded that, within the micromobility space more generally, there had been something of a land grab strategy that is now perhaps inevitably shifting toward greater emphasis on capital efficiency. “When we started this there was a focus on time to market but now it is not about time to market but efficiency,” he tells me.
Finally, Gadowski says the move to swappable battery technology means that Circ can run more efficiently and therefore also requires fewer people.
“What happens at the moment is we have warehouses where we store the scooters, maintain them and charge the batteries. Vans bring them into the city hotspots, the user rides them, then vans pick them up again where they are maintained or batteries charged. And now this changes to swappable batteries operations in which the vehicles are equipped with batteries that are swappable so you charge only the battery in the warehouse… and mechanics do light maintenance in-field. This requires less people because it is more operations efficient.”
Meanwhile, Circ shared some updated metrics with TechCrunch. The company says it has enabled approximately 10 million rides to date and has 3 million registered customers. It operates in more than 40 cities across 14 European countries, in addition to United Arab Emirates.
I’m also told that this year Circ has seen “positive unit economics” in cities in about one-third of its countries (five out of 14). “In 2020 we expect to be unit economic profitable across the group,” a spokesperson tells TechCrunch.
Circ — then called Flash — raised €55 million in Series A funding in January, with Target Global leading the round via its mobility fund.