Q+A: Avra van der Zee, Jump

Jump is a dockless electric bike and scooter company aimed at providing options of transport for cities all across the country.  Jump has products available here in the US, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, France, and more; with more to come in the future. 

We sat down with Director of Marketing Avra van der Zee to talk about Jump's origins right here in Dumbo, how partnering with Uber has brought them across the world, and how electric bikes and scooters will have a positive impact for the future.

What is Jump and how did it come to be?

Jump is a part of the Uber family; we provide micro-mobility products, service, and programs to cities. Jump works with cities to build up the biking infrastructure. This was pioneering at the time we got started, because of the flexibility for the users and the ability to control orderly parking in the cities.

We were originally conceived about eight years ago, starting with bikes here in New York City. We created one of the first electronic locks on our bikes that could be used by the public and allowed the user to have the flexibility in choosing where to lock the bike from the designated areas.

Now, Jump really focuses on e-bikes, e-scooters, and other transportation options to try to become part of the transportation fabric of municipalities around the world. We hope to provide options for users right in the Uber platform, allowing a rider to pick the right method of transportation for their trip. Users could take a scooter for a 1 mile trip, an e-bike for a 2-3 mile trip, Uber or Uber-X as compliments to a transportation network, etc. We’re really working on providing a whole suite of options through a transportation platform that works for all kinds of users.

Has your partnership with Uber helped with your expansion and with reaching a wider audience?

We actually integrated into the Uber app in San Francisco prior to being acquired by Uber in May 2019. Through that partnership, we got to know and were impressed by the leadership at Uber and their vision for providing a multi-modal platform that could solve transportation issues that are so prevalent around the world.

Partnering and becoming part of the Uber family has definitely helped us reach a wider audience. From my own perspective, no one mode of transportation is able to compete with a personal car. By joining a platform that already had so many members and had such a global reach, it allowed us to really grow and expand in a way that we had only dreamed of. At the time we were acquired, we weren’t in Europe; now as part of this larger vision under this Uber umbrella, we're able to expand and to grow into these new markets.

Dumbo is just the perfect place for all of our needs; it’s a really connected and vibrant place

What brought you here to Dumbo?

Well we started here in Dumbo before we joined Uber, I believe it was around the end of 2016. We were one of the first tenants of 55 Prospect St. In working with a bunch of transportation companies, we care a lot about commute time and convenience. Dumbo in particular is a great place because we wanted to be within walking distance to the Navy Yard, and we can be connectable to Manhattan where some of our investors are and where we often have to take meetings. Dumbo is just the perfect place for all of our needs, it’s a really connected and vibrant place.

There has been some headlines in the news criticizing the use of pay-per-minute scooters and bikes. People will sometimes not leave them in designated parking areas and they can end up littering the streets and can be hazardous to pedestrians. How does Jump try to improve upon these issues?

We are very mindful of how to facilitate responsible riding and responsible parking. When we developed our bike and e-bike products, we did so in a way that was very mindful of the cityscapes and the public right of way. We continue to work on innovative solutions related to parking zones and different locking solutions, and we focus on user education. We are seeing that user education and parking tools can be truly effective. It's about making sure that the communication channels to users are varied and consistent. It would be our goal to have a situation where in a city, we’re working with our city partners to make sure that the public right of way allows access to micro-mobility but also doesn’t tamper the rights and enjoyment of non-riders. We’re looking to target riders and non-riders alike. We think of our interest system as one that involves our city partners, the riders, and the person who might not want to have anything to do with the scooters or bikes. We’re thinking holistically about the whole city or town.

For example, with CitiBike, you have to dock at one of their stations otherwise you get charged for the whole bike. I feel like there’s room for an in-between. The perfect system is one where riders have some flexibility: they can take their device close to where their endpoint is, but they don’t have to take it to one specific dock, and one that also promotes responsible riding and parking. There are some statistics with the Citi Bikes where riders say they have to ride about halfway home to park their bike because either all the docks are filled or there isn’t one close by. There isn’t responsibility in terms of parking on the other end of that spectrum, so there is definitely room to find a happy medium and a good balance between the two. For us it’s all about working with our city partners in finding solutions to make sure that the rules of engagement with the system are not only consistent but well publicized and well understood.

Why should people choose to rent a bike or a scooter rather than take a cab or public transit?

It’s about the right option at the right time. What works for me in the morning is different from what works for a two mile commute during rush hour, or after a dinner out, or when I’m picking up my kids after school. It’s all about providing options that work best in the situation. We do see that scooters tend to be for shorter trips of a mile or so, while e-bikes tend to be around 2-3 miles. In my dream transportation network, there’s multiple options for different use cases and needs.

The theme of this year’s annual meeting is futurists! Where do you see the future of transportation going in general? And how is Jump going to try and shape that future?

Transportation is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and personal cars a big part of that. We all have a part to play in creating more sustainable cities and a more sustainable future. Jump contributes to that sustainable vision by innovating. We definitely haven’t figured everything out yet, but the future needs to look a lot more like Amsterdam, with protective bicycle lanes and an emphasis on sustainable transportation, and a lot more shared vehicles.

We need to create options so that individuals can actually choose to leave their personal car at home, and make real time transportation decisions based on their specific needs and on how their day unfolds.

We all have a part to play in creating more sustainable cities and a more sustainable future. Jump contributes to that sustainable vision by innovating.

And finally, what’s your favorite place in Dumbo?

I like to go for a walk right by the carousel. Sometimes I’ll take meetings where we’ll leave the office, take a loop, say hello to the bridges and come right back.

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