Scooter start-up pushes for a smoother way to glide

By Marina Fang

As sustainability efforts increase, many countries are pushing public transportation and bikes. But at U of C, a growing group of students are trying to bring scooters into vogue.

Second-years Victor Gutwein and Lee Kuhn, avid scooter-riders, are leading the effort. Last spring, they founded ScooterVersity, a company that sells and rents scooters to U of C students. The idea came out of a desire to make scooters a trendy and viable transportation option.

“As I was headed off to college to start my first year, I didn’t have any skateboarding skills, but I still didn’t want to walk to class. So I brought my scooter from when I was a kid. It quickly broke,” Gutwein said. “I used it for a month and kind of became dependent on it, so I looked up adult scooters, which there was a growing market for urban professionals, but not many college students were using them.”

According to Gutwein and Kuhn, ScooterVersity first worked with Xooter, a company that manufactures adult scooters, and negotiated a student discount. It expanded this year, adding a partnership with Razor last fall and Micro last month.

Since their start about a year ago, the company has rented or sold a total of 30 scooters, and patronage is expected to increase after a slow winter, Gutwein said. He hopes that eventually they can expand to other universities.

“Right now our prices are about break even…we’ll work for free, as most start-ups would, and then in the long-run it might turn a significant profit,”he said.

However, both Gutwein and Kuhn see a social stigma attached to scooters and hope ScooterVersity will make students more open to the idea of riding a scooter.

“We wanted to make it more of a widely accepted form of getting around. People associate scooters with the playground when they were a kid and not as a more serious commuter option,” Kuhn said.

Gutwein observed that bikes and walking are much more prevalent on campus, as some students observed. “I haven’t even noticed ,” third-year Lucy Duan said.

ScooterVersity’s first customer, second-year Andrew Burchill, said that he is trying to establish an RSO to unify scooter enthusiasts.

“Many of my fellows that I see around campus I don’t know at all, and the club would try to host big, community rides to places like the Point. We’re also considering trying to get free-style scooter people to come and do tricks and things on campus, as well as maybe having a ‘test-drive a scooter’ day,” he said.

Some students are skeptical that scooters share equal status with bikes. “I think scooters are less practical than bikes. I feel like you could probably go faster on a bike,” second-year Ruth Mulvihill said.

But Burchill said he often passes bicycles while riding his scooter. ScooterVersity’s founders also believe that scooters are more convenient than bikes.

“With a scooter, you won’t have to worry about it getting stolen or locking it up or replacing parts,” Gutwein said.

“A scooter just folds up…I can bring it in to class and tuck it on the side, and it doesn’t really cause problems. It’s so much quicker,” Kuhn said.

Gutwein stressed the speed and versatility of scooter riding.

“You can get all over this campus in five minutes or less. You can actually go eat at South if you live in Pierce or Max. It’s not that far to cross the Midway. It’s not that far to go to the beach in the summer. It makes the campus a lot closer.”