Technology

Lime is buying up remnants of electric skateboard company Boosted

Scooter sharing company Lime is scooping up assets of defunct electric skateboard startup Boosted, The Verge has learned. At least five of Boosted’s core patents were assigned to Lime’s holding company on April 15th in the government’s database, and two former employees say Lime has been working on acquiring Boosted’s intellectual property dating back to the end of 2019.

The move comes after a proposed acquisition from Yamaha fell through for Boosted earlier this year, according to the two former employees familiar with the deal, who were granted anonymity because of non-disclosure agreements they signed with the startup.

It’s unclear if Lime will take on any of the few employees who are still with Boosted, or who will handle outstanding customer service requests. The patents were technically assigned to Lime by an LLC set up by investment firm Structural Capital, which loaned Boosted money in the second half of 2019, and has held many of the startup’s assets as collateral ever since, according to patent office documents and the former employees. Structural Capital has also had sway over Boosted’s finances as it wound down, the former employees say.

Boosted’s CEO Jeff Russakow and remaining cofounder John Ulmen did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Lime said the company isn’t “ready to discuss” what’s happening and declined to comment.

Lime’s been working on buying Boosted’s IP since late 2019, and has hired some Boosted employees
Signs of trouble at Boosted started showing up earlier this year after the company missed payments to vendors, complaints about customer service piled up, and a string of executives left for other jobs. One of them, Boosted’s vice president of engineering, left the company to become Lime’s vice president of hardware.

As The Verge first reported in February, Boosted ran into financial trouble after developing a rugged $1,600 electric scooter of its own — the release of which was delayed — and also got hit hard by Trump’s trade war tariffs. The company had also spent a lot of the money it raised to expand into more than 30 countries around the world.

Boosted announced at the beginning of March that it was laying off most of its employees and looking for a buyer, and has been radio silent ever since. That’s left some current and prospective customers in limbo, many of whom were waiting for orders to be filled or skateboards to be repaired.

In the meantime, the community that sprung up around Boosted — which got its start as one of Kickstarter’s earliest and biggest success stories — has turned to crowdsourced solutions to fix and modify their boards. And at least four other senior Boosted employees have joined Lime, according to LinkedIn, including the mechanical design engineer who lead the product and vehicle architecture design for Boosted’s scooter.

It’s not currently clear what’s happening to Boosted’s debt, which the former employees say is in the millions of dollars. Some of the vendors that Boosted spurned are now taking the company to court, too. A supply chain consulting firm sued Boosted in Santa Clara County Superior Court at the beginning of March over $55,000 in unpaid bills. And on March 30th, Boosted was sued in Utah District Court by creative agency Underbelly, which redesigned the electric skateboard company’s website and says it is still owed just shy of $80,000.

Lime laid off 14 percent of its workforce in early January and exited 12 markets, and has reportedly considered more layoffs as it pauses service around the world due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Bloomberg reported in March that Lime started the year with just $50 million in cash.