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Uber's next big thing is Lime scooters to get around town

Alphabet, Uber and Google Ventures invest $335 million in the scooter startup turning it into the latest unicorn.

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A man rides a Lime scooter in downtown San Francisco.

James Martin/CNET

The scooter wars are on.

Lime announced a new funding round of $335 million on Monday that was led by Alphabet's Google Ventures. This is after its rival, Bird, announced less than two weeks ago that it received $300 million in new funding. 

Along with Google Ventures, Lime also confirmed that Uber was involved with this funding round. The ride-hailing company additionally plans to partner with Lime to start renting scooters through its app.

"Our investment and partnership in Lime is another step towards our vision of becoming a one stop shop for all your transportation needs," Rachel Holt, Uber's head of new modalities, said in an emailed statement. "Lime already has an expansive footprint, and we're excited to incorporate their scooters into the Uber app so consumers have another fast, affordable option to get around their city, especially to and from public transit."  

Scooters have become a controversial topic as they take over more and more cities across the US. As regulators hurry to write laws around the new form of transportation, lots of people say they love being able to scoot block-to-block around congested cities. Other residents complain that riders don't follow the laws of the road and endanger pedestrians by riding on sidewalks and leaving the scooters wherever they feel like it -- blocking parking spots, bike racks and wheelchair accesses.

But the venture capital world is onboard with the scooter phenomenon. Scooter companies have raised funds at a breakneck pace. Bird became the fastest startup to become a unicorn -- having a valuation of more than $1 billion -- with its last round of funding. And now Lime has joined that billion-dollar startup club too. To date, Bird has raised $418 million and Lime has now raised $467 million. Both companies were founded in 2017.

Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden has a complicated relationship with both Uber and Lyft. He founded on-demand car washing startup Cherry, which was then acquired by Lyft in 2013. With the acquisition, he became Lyft's chief operating officer. He was poached by Uber the following year, causing a scandal when Lyft sued him for allegedly pilfering confidential information. The two sides settled the lawsuit in June 2016. Then, VanderZanden left Uber in September 2016.

Uber didn't disclose how much it's investing in Lime, but Lime said it's "sizable." With Uber and Lime as strategic partners, the scooters will be co-branded and available in the Uber app. Uber launched a similar partnership with Jump bicycles in January and eventually acquired the dockless bike rental in April. 

While Lime and Bird lead the pack for electric scooters, several other companies appear to be getting involved. Lyft has said its eyeing rentable scooters, as has Scoot, Razor, Ofo, Ridecell, Uscooter, Skip and CycleHop.

Lime is now in more than 70 cities across the US and Europe and has given six million rides through its network of electric scooters, electric bicycles and pedal bikes. Along with Uber and Google Ventures, other investors in Lime's new round of funding include Alphabet, IVP, Atomico and Fidelity Management and Research Company. With this additional cash, Lime said it plans to continue expanding.

"As we continue to push the boundaries of urban transportation, we're thrilled to work with our new partners, along with our riders and cities, to bring the next chapter in this emerging narrative to life," Lime co-founders Toby Sun and Brad Bao said in a statement.

First published July 9, 9:31 a.m. PT. 
Update, 12:16 p.m.: Adds additional investors in Lime's new funding round.

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