Euwyn Poon got the idea to start Spin, the dockless bike company being acquired by Ford, after visiting Beijing in 2016. Poon saw the rent-by-the-minute, app-enabled bikes for the first time in the Chinese capital and thought the ridesharing platform could work back in the U.S.

Poon and his co-founders Derrick Ko and Zaizhuang Cheng started  Spin in San Francisco and first launched in Seattle's pilot program in the summer of 2017. But within a year, the company would ditch its bikes and pivot to electric scooters. Spin is now available in approximately 12 cities, including Long Beach, California, Detroit, and Coral Gables, Florida.

Ford is investing about $200 million in Spin, a source close to the deal says. Since founding, the company raised $8 million from Grishin Robotics, Exponent, and others--a small sum compared to more formidable competitors in the red-hot e-scooter industry.

Spin is small fry compared to competitors Bird and Lime, which are both in more than 100 cities. Lime, which raised $467 million from the likes of Uber and Alphabet at more than a $1 billion valuation, and Bird, which raised $415 million and valued at more than $2 billion.

Spin markets itself as an e-scooter company that "asks for permission" before launching, but it is perhaps best known for taking part in what is referred to as "Scooter-geddon" in San Francisco. In March, Lime, Bird, and Spin deployed about 3,000 e-scooters on the streets and sidewalks and chaos ensued. Many people started riding the scooters on the sidewalks and breaking other traffic laws.

A community backlash led to public hearings, cease and desist letters, and eventually the city issued a temporary ban on e-scooters. This summer, the city issued permits for its e-scooter pilot program to lesser-known companies Skip and Scoot, but regulators denied Lime, Bird, and Spin. 

Ford confirmed the deal, via a blog post, on Thursday. Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford X, the car company's startup incubator, wrote that the acquisition is a way to diversify its offerings and capture customers who do not want to own a car. 

"Spin adds an exciting new offering to Ford's mobility portfolio as we try to help our customers get places more easily, more quickly and less expensively," writes Madra.

Ford will eventually expand the e-scooter program to more than 100 cities, Madra told Reuters. Spin is Ford's fourth investment in the micromobility space--the company also invested in Jelly, another e-scooter company, Chariot, a ride-sharing service, and bike-share company GoBikes.