Euwyn Poon ’04, JD ’07 puts his spin on urban transportation

Euwyn Poon '04, JD '07 in front of a shelf of books

Euwyn Poon ’04, JD ’07 is co-founder and president of Spin, a micromobility company whose dockless, rentable electric scooters provide communities with low-cost, convenient transportation. In November 2018, Spin was acquired by the Ford Motor Company to spearhead its urban mobility efforts.

What does Spin do, and what problem does it solve?

Spin is an electric scooter sharing company. We solve the last-mile problem, helping people to get from transportation hubs to their final destinations. We’re currently operating in over 37 cities, including Washington, DC; Austin, Texas; and Los Angeles, California; and on several university campuses.

Two young men riding Spin electric scooters down a city street backed by mountains.
Spin’s dockless electric scooters offer convenient transportation.

How did you get the idea for your business?

In 2016, I was living in Beijing, where I spotted the first dockless bikes launched by Mobike and Ofo. I realized that this concept would solve a transportation problem back home, and I got to work immediately. We launched Spin at South by Southwest in March 2017. A year later, we switched our fleet from bikes to electric scooters, which have proven much more popular with users.

Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks. What’s the most pivotal risk you’ve taken, and how did it change your path?

I certainly wouldn’t call this calculated, but: In 2009, I quit a well-paying job at an international law firm in New York City to live on a friend’s couch in San Mateo, California. Once in Silicon Valley, I met programmer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham, who co-founded the seed capital firm Y Combinator. I was accepted into an early Y Combinator batch, where I made connections that ultimately helped me to launch Spin.

A young person holds a mobile phone in one hand and a scooter handle in the other.
Riders use smartphones to locate and rent Spin’s electric scooters.

How has your experience at Cornell impacted how you approach business?

Above all, my experience at Cornell taught me to survive and excel in tough conditions. Ultimately, a startup is about survival and perseverance. I learned a lot of that in Ithaca, making my way through a rigorous computer science and then law curriculum.

Is there a particular faculty member or class that has influenced you the most? If so, how?

I was most influenced by my Law and Economics course with professor George Hay, possibly not for the right reasons. I was a computer science major and had spent my first two years largely in engineering classes, where I got used to being at the top of the class. In my junior year I wanted a challenge, so enrolled in this course. The first prelim hit, and I got the lowest score in the class of a few hundred. It was a great wake-up call. I ended up brushing up on my writing skills, got into Cornell Law School, and eventually got a job at one of the top law firms in the world.

Above all, my experience at Cornell taught me to survive and excel in tough conditions. Ultimately, a startup is about survival and perseverance.”
—Euwyn Poon
Co-founders Derrick Ko, Euwyn Poon, and Zaizhuang Cheng..
Co-founders (left to right) Derrick Ko, Euwyn Poon and Zaizhuang Cheng launched Spin at South by Southwest in 2017.

What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Why?

This is an easy one. My proudest moment at Spin was closing on our acquisition by Ford. This was the culmination of eight years of hard work and sweat. In the months since we were acquired, Spin has grown to over 400 team members and expanded quickly into new markets. It has been an immense pleasure teaming up with a company with as rich of a legacy as Ford’s and working with their leadership.

Who or what inspires you?

Connecting people and ideas from different places.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Move to Silicon Valley, apply to Y Combinator, and meet other Cornell alumni.

This interview was conducted by Savannah Whiting of Cornell Strategic Communications.

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