‘Unicorn' E-scooter Startup Fails; Refunds Uncertain

If you hoped to have a new e-scooter from Unicorn Rides under the tree this holiday, you’re out of luck.

The Austin-based startup announced over the weekend it is going out of business, and it cannot fulfill any customer orders. It had launched only six months earlier, and offered battery-powered stand-up scooters for $699 each. News of the closure was first reported by The Verge on Saturday.

Nick Evans, founder and CEO of Unicorn Rides, told NBC Bay Area in a phone interview the company failed because of unexpected costs and issues related to marketing and manufacturing.

"The advertising cost too much to get someone to our site," Evans said. "Costs were going up and up."

Evans first rose to prominence in the startup world as co-founder of Tile Inc., the San Mateo-based maker of Bluetooth tracking devices. Evans says he is no longer connected to Tile. He had high hopes for Unicorn Rides when it launched in June of this year, but he said a Facebook advertising blitz failed to deliver results.

"I wish I was better at what I do and I wish I could find a way to get out of this," Evans said. "Right now, I have to be really honest, and find a way to get refunds out to people."

That's little consolation to customers like Andy Keating in City of Industry, near Los Angeles. Keating contacted our NBC L.A. Responds colleagues Monday when he learned his scooter order wouldn't be fulfilled.

"Unicorn Rides stole people's money," Keating wrote. "This pre-order for an electric scooter took people's money and is not giving refunds back."

Evans says some of the 350 scooters customers paid for were at least partially manufactured. But when he asked the manufacturer if it could ship fewer than Unicorn Rides initially ordered, the manufacturer declined -- and kept both the scooters and the company's money.

"We had put down a big down payment," Evans said. "It was something we couldn't undo. We had to tell everyone now. As soon as we made the announcement, there's no way of going back.

Evans expressed remorse and regret to customers, and offered a blunt explanation for the failure of Unicorn Rides.

"It was almost like we ran out of time and money," he said. "We just couldn't get it started."

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