The bikes of the future are looking more and more like the bikes of your past. We’re talking, of course, about the renaissance of the scooter, which seems to have hit a new stride now that it’s found electricity. Escooters seem to be popping up all over the country these days and have become so popular that a number of companies are now looking to offer escooter sharing systems. The latest to enter the scene is Bird, a company founded by a man who knows a little something about mobility solutions. His name is Travis VanderZanden, who was previously the vice president of growth at Uber, and previous to that, the chief operating officer of Lyft.
But now, he is on his own, and launching a new company that doesn’t offer car services, but rather scooter services. Bird is based in Santa Monica, California, and over the course of the last six months, VanderZanden has launched around 1,000 of these escooters around the city. So far, he tells TechCrunch, 50,000 people have taken around 250,000 rides.
Now, those numbers will burgeon even further. Bird has raised $100 million on a $300 million valuation, as per a new report from TechCrunch. As one investor noted, “It feels like investing in Uber when it first launched.” The new cash influx should help the company expand beyond its native Santa Monica, and it certainly ought to do so quickly — indeed, there are already a number of competitors who have taken note of the e-scooter sharing model, including LimeBike.
But even with existing competitors, Bird has captured the attention of investors. “Bird has a transformative, last-mile electric vehicle solution with a powerful community of enthusiastic riders, and it’s by far the first-mover in the field,” Antonio Gracias, Valor’s founder and a Tesla and SpaceX board member, said in a statement. “We believe Bird is writing the next chapter in transportation and is poised to become the next great company in this space.”
Getting started on Bird ought to be pretty easy. New riders need a driver’s license and a credit card number (which they enter into the Bird app). Once that is done, you are charged $1 to unlock the scooter and an additional 15 cents for each minute. You will be able to go as far as the scooter can take you and at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Apparently, some folks have made Birds take them all the way to Los Angeles International Airport, while others have ridden from Santa Monica into downtown L.A. (about a 15.5-mile commute).
For the time being, the dockless escooters are only available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Once that timeframe is up, Bird employees collect the scooters to clear them off the streets, and then replace them in front of coffee houses and other small businesses, as requested, beginning early the next morning.
“People are taking notice of how quickly Bird is growing,” VanderZanden said, noting that a number of copycat companies have already popped up. “Preventing car ownership is the goal of all these companies. I think if all of us are successful, that’s fine.”
Updated on March 10: Bird has raised $100 million to help expand its services.
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