US e-scooter startup Bird set to join unicorn club: report

May 31, 2018 14:43
A person riding a Bird shared electric scooter. The new service has exploded in popularity in cities in the US. Photo: Bloomberg

Bird, an electric scooter-sharing startup in the US, is raising US$150 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Sequoia that will value the company at US$1 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Founded in 2017 by a former Uber and Lyft executive, Travis VanderZanden, the Santa Monica-based startup has become a phenomenon on the streets in the US cities where it is available.

If the funding round closes at the reported thresholds, Bird will become the first scooter unicorn.

Similar to the bike-sharing service, users of Bird sign up with an app, reserve an electric scooter for quick transport, unlock the scooter and ride for a small fee, and then drop it off at their destination.

As a low-cost transport service, the initial charges of the electric scooter ride are about US$1, and users have to pay 15 cents per minute traveled, TechCrunch notes.

Starting from Los Angeles, Bird has deployed its scooters in San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington D.C, expanding at a fast pace. According to a Forbes report in February, Bird has recorded over 250,000 rides taken on its 1,000 scooters.

Bird announced that hit 1 million rides on April 22 with an Instagram post.

The latest financing comes after Bird raised US$100 million on a US$300 million valuation in its Series B round back in March. According to a Bloomberg source, the startup plans to raise even more capital.

Its existing investors include Tusk Ventures, Craft Ventures, Valor, Lead Edge Capital and Goldcrest Capital, according to data from CrunchBase.

Bird is one of the earliest entrants to the electric scooter sharing industry, alongside rivals Lime and Spin, where the service has been rapidly adopted across the country.

Venture capital is chasing this new business of a last-mile mobility solution providing fast rides. Lime has already raised US$132 million and is closing another round of financing.

The burgeoning industry has also attracted the ride-sharing giants, with Uber acquiring dockless electric bike service firm Jump earlier this year. Uber’s US rival Lyft is also reportedly eyeing the electric scooter business.

While electric scooters are clogging up sidewalks in cities, city governments have vowed to curtail the congestion.

According to a Washington Post report, the Santa Monica police made 281 traffic stops and issued 97 tickets involving Bird scooters since the beginning of the year. 

Elsewhere, San Francisco authorities have announced that they will ban all shared, dockless e-scooters from June 4 unless the firms operating them have a permit. 

The article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 31

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

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Hong Kong Economic Journal