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Electric Scooter Startup Bird Raises Another $150 Million, Pushing its Valuation to $1 Billion

Electric Scooter Startup Bird Raises Another $150 Million, Pushing its Valuation to $1 Billion

Author: Eric Walz   

For residents of San Francisco, seeing Bird battery-powered scooters parked along the sidewalks is a common sight. Bird, the Santa Monica, California-based mobility company, has placed hundreds of its small electric scooters for people to rent around the city since late March.

The scooters have been drawing complaints from city officials and residents alike about the scooters cluttering the city's sidewalks, but top venture capital firms are taking notice.

Bird's ‘last mile' mobility solution has attracted big investors, including a latest round of $150 million, pushing the company closer to a $1 billion valuation, Bloomberg reported. The funding round led by Sequoia Capital that will value the company at $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous.

Bird is becoming known as the "Uber of scooters". The new round of funding comes after Bird raised $100 million on a $300 million valuation back in March.

Two weeks ago, Axios reported that Bird rival LimeBike is also raising up to $500 million in new funding, possibly via a combination of equity and debt.

Bird, along with other startups including Lime and Spin, are racing to dominate the burgeoning electric scooter market. The three startups have have distributed hundreds of their scooters on city streets nationwide, including San Francisco, Nashville, Washington DC, San Jose and Austin.

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A Bird scooter rider in San Francisco

Bird was founded by Travis VanderZanden, former COO of Lyft and then as VP of driver growth for Uber in September of 2017. The company has grown exceptionally fast while catching the attention of major investors. Renting small electric scooters in urbans areas is growing in popularity and has the the potential to grow into an entirely new transportation option—just like Uber did.

VanderZanden plans to have Bird scooters in 50 cities by the end of 2018.

To use a Bird scooter, Riders simply need to signup and use the company's smartphone app to unlock a scooter nearby and rent it by the minute for a small fee. The scooters can travel up to 15 mph and offers a quick and easy way to get around around in urban areas without summoning a Uber, Lyft or using a personal vehicle.

Other companies, including Uber, are adopting the same business model as Bird, except they are using a fleet of electric bicycles for short trips. Uber purchased electric bike company Jump in April for a reported $200 million, while rival Lyft said it was exploring electric scooter rentals.

"If the unit economics and the technology is there, our appetite to invest is infinite," Uber's Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said earlier this month.

San Francisco to Require Permits for the Scooters

Bird hopes to work with cities as its expands to new areas. "We work closely with cities to help make transportation better & more environmentally friendly" the company wrote on its website. However, despite Bird's willingness to work with city officials where it operates, San Francisco is pushing back on the electric scooters.

The city was unprepared for the hundreds of scooter appearing seemingly overnight and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent cease and desist letter to Bird on April 16.

In an effort to regulate the electronic scooters, the city is demanding that the three major scooter rental companies, including Bird, to move their scooters off city sidewalks starting June 4 and not resume renting until permits are issued.

Shared powered scooters found on city streets or sidewalks after the June 4 deadline will be subject to impounding and the companies will be fined $100 per scooter per day.

"San Francisco supports transportation innovation, but it cannot come at the price of public safety," said Herrera.

Scooter companies have until June 7 to apply with a $5,000 fee for SFMTA's Powered Scooter Share Permit Program. The permit fee will run $25,000.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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