Posts from Blogging On The Road

Biking In Paris

We have been coming to Paris regularly for about 15 years and back in 2008, I started using the Velib bike share system and wrote about it here.

A lot has changed in a decade and a half when it comes to biking in Paris. There are more bikes, more bike lanes, and more bikers.

Velib is still a big piece of the Paris bike scene and they have a ton of pedal assist e-bikes in the system now. At most kiosks I see about half regular and half e-bikes. I wish NYC’s Citibike system had that mix in their kiosks.

But I’ve been using a service called DOTT this stay in Paris. Every morning I like to go out to a coffee shop that is a twelve minute walk but a four minute bike ride. So I launch the DOTT app and find the nearest bike which is usually less than a block away and unlock it with my app.

I took this one for coffee this morning:

There are bike parking stations on almost every block in Paris and so it is easy to find a good and appropriate place to leave your bike.

There are also a ton of scooters in Paris but that’s always been the case here. It does seem like the use of car transport is down a bit since we were here two years ago.

Biking around Paris is great. It’s a wonderful city to see in slow motion. Walking is certainly the best way to get around Paris but biking is a close second.

#Blogging On The Road

Traveling Again

On Tuesday night the Gotham Gal and I boarded an overnight flight at JFK and arrived in Paris on Wednesday morning.

That sounds like a normal thing to do and it is something we have been doing together since we met forty years ago.

But we have not done any international travel since November of 2019 due to the Covid pandemic. So for us, it is quite a thrill to be traveling again.

I took this photo last night walking back from an evening out on the town.

Being in Europe is different. The language is different. The people are slightly different. The culture is slightly different. Soaking all of that up and in is so great.

We are here on vacation and I’m not working or seeing folks outside of friends and family. So it is going to be a great couple of weeks and I think it will bring out some great posts about things I’m seeing and thinking. I’ve already got one on e-bikes and biking forming in my head.

#Blogging On The Road

Bearing Witness

Normally when we travel, The Gotham Gal posts about the things we do. She is a way better travel blogger than I am.

But today we did something that I want to talk a bit about.

We visited the Auschwitz concentration camps in southern Poland.

This is the first time I have visited one of these camps.

I have been to the various Holocaust memorials and have seen the photographs and heard and read the stories.

But being there in person is something else.

Staring into the rubble of a gas chamber (one of four at Birkenau) where hundreds of thousands were murdered because of their ethnicity and faith takes your breath away and fills your heart with dread.

It is not a pleasurable experience in the least.

But it is a very moving one.

One of the things I have come to understand about life is that bearing witness is something we must all do. We cannot avoid the pain of humanity. We must stare it in the face and feel it.

We did that today and I am glad we did.

#Blogging On The Road#life lessons

The USB Standard

We are sitting in the gate at London City Airport waiting for an early morning flight. Next to every seat in the waiting area is a bank of power outlets that look like this:

You will notice that there is one UK standard outlet and four USB outlets.

And, no matter where in the world you are from, it is likely that you have a USB cable for your phone.

I am charging my phone while I write this and I don’t have a UK power adapter on me.

That’s the power of a standard like USB which is only getting better and better over time.

I wonder if someday we won’t even have to deal with all of this:

#Blogging On The Road

Mobile Ticketing

The Gotham Gal and I walked into the Musee de l’Orangerie yesterday and found a line of about 20 people waiting to purchase tickets to enter. The Gotham Gal whipped out her phone, went to the Orangerie website, and bought two tickets that were sent to her phone. It took her less than a minute to do it and we walked in. As we were leaving we noticed the ticket line had almost doubled. We shook our heads and made our way to our next stop.

The mobile phone we all have in our pocket or purse can do so many things but one of its superpowers is a point of sale terminal. Increasingly there is no reason to wait in line for tickets to anything. You can just get them on your phone.

I really like just in time ticketing with the phone. I have the NYC East River Ferry app on my phone and whenever I want to take a boat to Brooklyn or Queens, or back, I open up the app, provision a ticket or two if I’m round tripping it, and I’m good to go. I am seeing more and more mass transit systems adopt this approach.

And then there is the NYC subway system which has started to roll out new turnstiles which you can tap and pay at:

I remember the days of carrying metal tokens in my pocket. It wasn’t that long ago!

The smartphone is twelve years old at the end of the month. It is remarkable to step back and think about how much it has changed how we live and work.

#Blogging On The Road

Low (No) Barriers To Entry

There are a dozen electric scooter companies operating in Paris right now. There are so many that the Mayor just announced that she will reduce that number to three with new rules for electric scooters in Paris.

But before we get into the new rules, I want to stare at that first sentence for a bit.

In less than a year, twelve companies have started operating electric scooter services in Paris.

Paris is the largest electric scooter market in the western world right now.

To enter this business, you need capital to purchase the scooters from China, you need a mobile app on iOS and Android to allow users to locate, unlock, and pay for the use of one, and you need a small team to handle the local logistics.

Apparently those are not significant barriers because a dozen different companies have been able to do it in less than a year.

There are many things that are attractive about the electric scooter business. It has taken off as a transportation option for consumers and is the fastest growing new transportation technology in terms of revenues in history.

Electric scooters also are a much cleaner way to travel than cars or other gas powered technologies.

So there is a lot to like about this business.

But if anyone can open up shop and compete with you with little to no differentiation and your only defensibility is the time it takes to download a new mobile app and put in your credit card, well then one has to ask if this is or will be a good business.

And that is where the Mayor of Paris comes into the picture. She wants to limit the number of scooter providers to three, by requiring licenses and issuing only three of them.

That will sufficiently lower the competition in Paris, lead to a triopoly which may stabilize pricing and margins, and possibly reduce the number of scooters littered all over Paris.

Winning a license will be a political process and there are many issues with that. And the three companies that win a license will become acquisition targets for the big players which are increasingly the ride share companies (who themselves have very low barriers to entry but now have public currencies to buy with).

There are many who have wondered whether ride share will ever be a good business. The public market caps of Uber and Lyft suggest that it will be or that there are plenty of people who currently think it will be.

Scooters are ride share on steroids. Even easier to get into the game with possibly a larger market opportunity.

It will be quite interesting to see how this plays out and how much regulation will be needed to tame this market.

#Blogging On The Road

Fly Like A Bird

We arrived in Paris this morning and, after dropping off our bags, we walked to our favorite cafe for breakfast and on the way we passed a Bird scooter waiting patiently for a rider.

We don’t yet have Bird scooters in NYC, at least to my knowledge, but apparently they are available in Paris.

It is impressive how quickly Bird has built out its international footprint. In the winter of 2018, I started seeing them in our neighborhood in Venice Beach Los Angeles.

And now less than 18 months later they are in Paris (and likely many other cities in Europe).

I have no idea how good of a business electric scooters is. There is no shortage of competition and, as I’ve written about here before, the dockless system can be a nuisance leading to inevitable regulation.

But Bird is not waiting to figure all of that out before building out a global footprint. It is impressive. I hope it works. The benefits from an environmental perspective are significant.

#Blogging On The Road

Getting Out Of Town

The Gotham Gal and I are going on vacation for a couple weeks.

I will turn on my out of office responder and stop responding to most emails.

I plan to continue to write here daily but the timing of the posts will change. They will probably happen much earlier in the day on US time.

I am hoping for a bit of distance and reflection from the world of tech and startups and maybe that will result in some good writing. Who knows? One can hope.

#Blogging On The Road

Gone Skiing

We arrived in paradise (as this photo shows) last night and we will be here with our family and friends for the next ten days.

I plan to write daily but maybe not about tech and startups as much as I usually do.

It has been an eventful year and next one is shaping up to be a doozy. So I am looking forward to some time to relax and reflect and recover before things get crazy again.

#Blogging On The Road

Navigating Blogging Across Time Zones

I like this blog to come out in the morning east coast time. 

I am a big fan of a routine, a ritual, a cadence.

That is partly why I blog every day, and that is why I like the blog to come out at roughly the same time every day.

It is also true that I have the most free time right after I wake up and then things get busy. So if I don’t blog right away, it is possible that I won’t find time to write that day.

When we go west for the winter, I do the same thing, writing as soon as I wake up, but 5am PT is 8am ET so readers will notice, and have noticed, that AVC comes out later in the winter months.

Traveling poses a bigger challenge. The last two Octobers, we have spent considerable parts of the month in Asia, twelve to fourteen hours ahead of NYC and even further ahead of the west coast of the US.

If I wrote my daily posts when I woke up in Asia, as I was tempted to do, they would have posted the night before in the US. And I didn’t want that.

So I waited until late afternoon, in the lull before heading out to dinner, and wrote then. That resulted in them posting early morning east coast time and the middle of the night on the west coast.

Honestly, that was not ideal for me. I found writing late in the day much harder with a full day of activity in my head. It was very challenging for me and I think the blogging suffered from that.

I’m back in the US now and yesterday’s post, which got a lot of pickup, was my first back in my regular ritual. 

I am glad to be back and I think this blog is too.

#Blogging On The Road