Brent: Happy Monday, amigos. The future is here: You can buy a jar of salad from a vending machine.
On another green note, I will be having a conversation about medical marijuana innovations in Texas at the Austin Cannabis Entrepreneur Conference on Thursday with Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, which is the first Texas-based medical cannabis company since the state passed a limited marijuana law last year. Hope to see a few of you out there.
Now, let’s kick a Beat…
The Big One
A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.
Austin Speeds Up Dockless Scooter and Bike Laws
The City of Austin has had plans to create a dockless bicycles pilot program for more than two months. But that’s snail pace for dockless bike and scooter companies that are doing anything they can to win over new markets before their competitors.
By now, you’re probably aware that Bird launched its dockeless electric scooters April 5. After twice complaining to the city about Bird’s apparent flaunting of Austin’s dockless pilot project, LimeBike this morning launched its dockless electric scooters (and apparently a few bikes, too), dispatching more than one hundred of them.
Austin doesn’t have any laws to deal with this. The city has impounded at least 55 Bird scooters. It wasn’t immediately clear if the city had already impounded LimeBike scooters found in city right-of-way — but at least one photo on Reddit seemed to indicate authorities were ticketing or impounding a LimeBike scooter.
This morning, Austin Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar sent a memo to city council members and the city manager suggesting the city speed up the launch of its pilot project to May 1.
The basics: Companies would pay a $30 permit for each device that pays for management, education and parking. Each company would be limited to 500 devices. And the companies would have to share some travel data and list any known injuries or incidents.
But it wasn’t exactly clear what the penalties for violating these rules would be — or if the city will allow LimeBike and Bird to take part in the pilot project, given that they seem to have defied the city’s wishes (even if the city doesn’t have any laws to enforce them).
The danger here is that Austin furthers its reputation as being overly-sensitive to disruptive technologies. The Uber and Lyft debacle certainly put us on the regulatory map. The city’s restriction of short-term rentals — and the subsequent lawsuits — seemed to give people more evidence that Austin may over-regulate these emerging innovations.
But it seems that this time the city is trying to be as responsive as it can be to citizens’ concerns about keeping sidewalks and streets clear of abandoned scooters and bikes. Meanwhile, it’s moving quickly to create guidelines in hopes of not having the bike pile problems that have been reported in Dallas and other cities.
No one wants to wait for government approval or regulations to launch their product. But, in this case, it seems to me that the city is moving about as quickly as representative government can to accommodate a new transportation option. After all, the presence of dockless scooters and bikes is hardly the city’s biggest problem or even its biggest transportation problem.
Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.
PeopleAdmin Merges with PowerSchool
PeopleAdmin, an Austin ed tech software company that helps institutions recruit and onboard teachers and find substitutes, is merging with PowerSchool, Reuters reported. Both companies are owned by Vista Equity Partners, and the deal was facilitated by an investment from Onex Corp. The combined company is said to be valued at about $3B.
That Other Mr. Dell
Goldman Sachs has acquired Clarity Money, the fintech startup founded by Michael Dell‘s brother, Adam Dell, the Wall Street Journal reported. Clarity Money is based in New York. The deal was said to be “a high eight figure sum.” Austin’s Next Coast Ventures is one of Clarity’s investors. Next Coast Ventures co-founder Tom Ballapplauded the deal and said he’s excited for what comes next.
Buda Looks to Lure Tech Companies
Austin’s friendly neighbor to the south, Buda, is hoping to attract tech companies to bolster its economy. To that end, the city is prepping three tracts of land for development to provide housing options, recreation and office space. Learn more about it in this Community Impact Newspaper story.