No Big Tech bet on the real world was as omnipresent, at least in major cities, as annoying and as senseless as Bird scooters.
Convinced that the end of cars were here and that everyone wanted to ride around on app-based scooters, the streets filled with Bird scooters and then other electric bike companies, which were soon vandalized and sent to ‘Bird graveyards.’ Widely hated and heavily financed, the end of the Bird is here.
Almost exactly five years ago, the scooters came. That’s when Bird, the first unicorn in this once sizzling startup sector, launched its inaugural scooter-sharing service… Early adopters saw scooters as a fast, fun and cost-effective way to get around. Non-adopters saw them as a quick way to end up in the ER. Motorists mostly wished they’d get off the road.
No matter what you thought of scooters, by late 2019 their ubiquitous urban presence seemed a fait accompli. By that point, VCs had poured over $2 billion into so-called micromobility upstarts globally, most of which relied wholly or partly on electric scooters.
Fast-forward a few years, and it’s apparent this bet hasn’t gone particularly well, with Bird now a penny stock
Why in the world did investors assume that having unattended scooters locked by apps lying everywhere was a great business model that would yield massive returns?
The answer is mostly cultural. This was the world how urban lefties envisioned it, and it didn’t matter that it had no connection to how people actually wanted to live.
There’s a cautionary tale there that no one is willing to learn and applies equally to electric cars, especially now that Manchin is touting his Inflation Increase Act of 2022 which throws billions more in subsidies at that industry, and so many of the other urban hipster fetishes, not to mention the amounts of money dumped into Netflix.
In total, well over $5 billion in venture funding went into assorted startups engaged in the renting, charging and making of scooters in roughly the past five years…
At some point, we hit “peak scooter.” City dwellers at the time recall this as a period when sidewalks were regularly blocked with hastily parked two-wheeled tripping hazards of varying brands…
In late 2020, the depth of the pandemic, Lime CFO Andrea Ellis chatted with Crunchbase News about why “open-air single passenger forms of transportation” (i.e. scooters and e-bikes) seemed especially desirable…
Bird announced in May of 2021 that it would go public through a merger with a SPAC, Switchback II, at an initial valuation around $2.3 billion.
In truth, Bird’s financials didn’t look great at the time. Its 2020 revenue was down over 40% year over year to $79 million. Net loss exceeded $208 million.
Still, Bird forecasted revenue would hit over $400 million by 2022. And even that number would represent just a tiny slice of a global micromobility services market it estimated at $800 billion.
Part of the history of this era is going to consist of the utterly insane economic forecasts and projections totally detached from reality and the equally insane amounts of money wasted on ideas that never would have stood a common sense test, but with a logo, a font and a cultural narrative behind them somehow seemed bulletproof.
Bird keeps chugging along. The company reported Q1 revenue of $38 million, up about 46% year over year. In addition to rentals, it also sells branded scooters and bikes and runs a service for independent operators to set up their own scooter networks.
Folks, you too can set up a money-losing scooter network. Oh well, there’s always cryptocurrency. That one’s bound to work, right?