Company

With $115M to feather its nest, this Bird is ready to soar nationwide

By    |   April 19, 2018, 4:26 am EDT

Bird Cover Image
Source: Bird Website

“Today, 40 percent of car trips are less than two miles long. Our goal is to replace as many of those trips as possible, so we can get cars off the road and curb traffic and greenhouse gas emissions”, said Travis Vanderzanden, the Founder & CEO of Bird.

Bird is an on-demand service that allows you to hail electric scooters. The scooters are available in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and now San Francisco.

The Santa Monica, California-based startup completed a $100 million on a $300 million valuation last month. The series B round was by led Valor Equity Partners and Index Ventures. Craft Ventures and Goldcrest followed up on their original investment in the previous round. Tusk Ventures and Upfront Ventures joined afresh. This was the company’s second round of funding and much more than the first round of $15 million back in February. This round was led by Craft Ventures – David Sacks’s investment firm and included Valor, Lead Edge Capital, and Goldcrest.

The company sees its product as an affordable, eco-friendly mode of transport that people can use for the last mile of their trip. Julie, at WaPo, describes an ideal route for the scooters – “a trip too long to just walk, that doesn’t offer a reasonable bus or Metro route, that doesn’t start or end downtown”.

College campuses meet all the three criteria. Students at colleges and universities are likely to find Bird as a cool alternative to skateboards. “I’d never ridden a scooter before this. I’ll go maybe a mile at a time, maybe once a week, if I don’t feel like skating or walking”, said Isaac Galan, a 20-year-old student at Santa Monica College.

How does it work?

You’ll take to Bird’s Scooters Like a Duck to Water. It’s that simple.

Birds are parked in ‘Nests’, a group of, usually 3, parked scooters. You can find one near you by using Bird’s mobile app. Use the QR code, and pay a $1 to unlock it. With a simple 3-step kickstart, you are on your way. It costs 15 cents a minute to ride the Bird. When you are done, you can park it anywhere, as long as it doesn’t obstruct a pedestrian path.

To see it in action, check out a review of Bird’s electric scooter by The Rideshare Guy.

Now, the scooters need to be charged every night. Bird relies on an on-demand fleet of ‘Bird Chargers’ who ‘capture’ the birds every night, charge them and ‘release’ them back into the ‘wild’ every morning. People are reportedly making $20-30 an hour charging birds.

However, this startup’s story isn’t all roses and sunshine.

Bird has quite a few Albatrosses around its neck

In the 6 months that it has been around, the startup has faced criticism (and criminal suits) for more reasons than one.

To begin with, at $10 an hour, Bird comes out to be more expensive than even a shared car. Other bicycle and scooter providers charge anywhere from one-tenth to one-fifth of that amount. If Bird can pull it off, it will set an example for a highly profitable business model.

People have also come to accuse Bird of causing a ‘Wheelmageddon’ on the city’s sidewalks. Bird riders have been involved in 281 traffic stops, and have been issued 97 tickets in the first two months of this year itself. At least 8 accidents have occurred including minors and adults, including a head trauma incident and an arm fracture.

Third, the startup seems to pay little heed to public rules and regulations. The company launched in Santa Monica with as much as a LinkedIn message to the Mayor, on the day of launch. In multiple citations, the city directed Bird Rides Inc to obtain necessary business licenses, keep scooters away from public sidewalks and stop storing them within the public right of way.

When it didn’t cooperate initially, the city filed a criminal suit last December. Though the startup settled and agreed to pay more than $300,000 in fines, such a behavior discredits Bird’s own social responsibility initiatives, like the SOS pledge.

Bird SOS Pledge
Source: Bird’s Website

But, this bird isn’t exactly pooping on you

In flouting regulations, Bird is simply following the Silicon Valley textbook written by the likes of Uber and Airbnb.

Besides, having Bird on the street means we log fewer miles traveled by automobile. Our streets are safer. The air is cleaner. Congestion is reduced. Neighborhoods avoid all the noise and more people pressing for separated bike lanes.

I side with Jim when he suggests that the cities and states recognize Personal Electric Transport (PET) as a new mode of transport and make preemptive laws that take care of public interest and allow startups like Bird to flourish at the same time.

Since its launch in September, last year, more than 50,000 people have taken 250,000+ rides on Bird’s scooters. With the recent round of financing, the company plans to be in 50 U.S. markets by the end of the year.

Keep the eagle eye out for them, will you?

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