With almost 40,000 e-scooters available in Paris, some are bound to end up in the Seine. One company has made it their mission to fish them out.
- Four friends and co-founders of Guppy are keeping the Seine clean by fishing out e-scooters and bikes using only a magnet and string.
- The business idea emerged after the group of friends went on a fishing expedition and unexpectedly pulled out three bicycles from Paris' famous river.
- Guppy is now partnering with electric scooter companies to organize river clean-ups and is speaking to local authorities about how to improve traffic.
- E-scooters have been disliked by Parisians ever since their introduction to the city in June 2018.
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Sacha Kleynjans still remembers his first catch very well. It was a cold day in November 2018, when he arranged an unconventional fishing trip with three of his friends. Their aim? Getting to the bottom of the Seine's garbage problem.
Armed only with homemade equipment consisting of a cheap magnet bought from Amazon and a string, the four friends pulled a bottle opener and three bicycles out of the murky water in Paris that day.
"We could hardly believe it and were also a little shocked when we saw that we caught with our simple fishing rod. One can only guess what still has to lie down there," Kleynjans, 23, says in a conversation with Business Insider.
The friends didn't stop there. Their first successful fishing trip was followed by more excursions with even bigger groups and soon enough the business idea for their startup Guppy developed. "The first time we pulled 10 e-scooters out of the Seine, the second time there were maybe 20," says Kleynjans as he describes how pictures of the muddy devices attracted so much attention on social media that the team not only gained more volunteers but also got the attention of e-scooter rental services.
By May, the company's mission statement was listed in the French commercial register as "the collection of non-hazardous waste". One month later, nine of the Parisian e-transport companies (Lime, Tier, Circ, Voi, Bird, Mobike, Bolt, Dott, Wind) sponsored a large fishing event in a joint campaign. In less than three hours, they caught 97 items, including 58 electric scooters, 15 bicycles, 10 fences and two scooters.
Since their introduction in June 2018, e-scooters haven't been very popular with Parisians. Injuries from the devices are at an all-time high, streets are consistently blocked and pedestrians are angry about the e-scooters being driven on sidewalks.
Kleynjans and his co-founders now hope that the unique cooperation with Lime, Tier, Circ and Co. will lead to long-term contracts. The Guppy team is currently in talks with the rental companies, even discussing some form of cooperation with the local authorities in Paris.
"We want to work on a larger scale, but for that we need better equipment and more staff," says Kleynjans. Currently, Guppy's fishing trips are based on the work of volunteers, and the four founders are only "fishing" part-time while working full-time as engineers and business economists in Paris.
—Kenneth Schlenker (@kschlenker) June 2, 2019
But the interest in the e-scooter "fishermen" seems to be there even though financing the project could get expensive. However, the young founder is convinced that Guppy will find the necessary money — even if this means having to crowdfund.
"The Parisians have just donated millions for the reconstruction of Notre Dame – so would they not donate to help keep the Seine clean? " ask Kleynjans.