Silicon Valley startup Tortoise co-founder, Dmitry Shevelenko, has said that one can do too many things at the same time and achieve astounding results.
The company has made some quick pivots into new business models over the past year.
Co-founded in 2019 by ex-Uber executive (Shevelenko), the company began with a mission of being the operating system for micromobility vehicles, one that uses remote operators to reposition shared electric scooters to locations where prospective riders are or send them back to the warehouse for a charge.
In January 2021, Tortoise began working with shared micromobility operator Spin to test three-wheeled scooters embedded with Tortoise’s repositioning software.
But right before the company scored its Spin pilot, it started realizing the potential behind remote positioning and all the cameras and sensors the company had placed on scooters. With COVID-19 causing the burgeoning shared micromobility industry to take a nosedive at the same time as people, huddled indoors, began to demand quick delivery services, Shevelenko realized it “would be malpractice” not to pursue the robotic sidewalk delivery.
Tortoise started delivering with smaller local clients first, and then with big names like grocery story chain Albertson’s, nationwide logistics company AxelHire, and convenience store chain KRS. All signs were pointing to sidewalk delivery being a success.
In early March 2022, Tortoise pivoted again, vowing to focus entirely on mobile smart stores, which are essentially fancy vending machines placed on top of Tortoise’s delivery robots and located outside retailers. Now, Tortoise has moved from a hardware-as-a-service model to a take-rate scheme that gives it 10% of any sales made from its card payment-enabled bots, whether it’s a box of pastries from a bakery or brand new headphones from an electronics store.
Shevelenko, who served as Uber’s director of business development and was behind its acquisition of Jump bikes, says these pivots are just the beauty of a startup that’s responsive to market changes. The founder has advised or been on the board of a number of mobility and tech companies, including Skip, Superpedestrian, Codi, Payfare, Skyryse, SpotHero and Cargo Systems.
While Tortoise is his first time starting a company, Shevelenko is well versed in the factors that can cause a startup to win and lose.