Bird is spreading its wings to neighboring communities despite an ongoing legal dispute with the City of Santa Monica.
The company has rolled out its electric vehicles in several new markets near and far including the UCLA campus and San Diego. At the same time, officials have announced a new round of investment.
“Bird, a last-mile electric vehicle sharing company, today announced it has raised $15 million in its Series A funding round,” said a statement Tuesday. “Led by Craft Ventures, the new fund launched by David Sacks and Bill Lee, the investment will drive the continued expansion of Bird’s fleet of environmentally friendly, shared electric scooters. The investment comes as Bird experiences rapid ridership growth in its current cities and enters new markets across the United States. Tusk Ventures, Valor, Lead Edge Capital, and Goldcrest Capital also invested in the round.”
Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird, said the expansion and funding were a sign of confidence in the company.
“More riders are taking flight on Birds each day – on their way to work, lunch, the bus stop, or campus – because it is a safe, low-cost transportation solution for short trips around town. We look forward to bringing our Birds to new communities across the country,” he said.
Bird spokesman Marcus Reese said San Diego was chosen because it has similar conditions to Santa Monica.
“It boils down to we picked San Diego because it has a reputation for embracing innovators and fostering an environment for tech companies,” he said.
San Diego is close enough to make sense logistically but Reese said the location had more to do with where the company thought it could succeed.
“San Diego also has similar problems with traffic, parking,” he said. “We’re looking at areas where we could provide safe eco-friendly solutions to traffic and parking.”
Closer to home, the scooters are now distributed in Venice and east of Santa Monica reaching to UCLA.
Reese said the expansion is part of the company’s natural growth but they plan to remain based in Santa Monica.
“We’ve chosen Santa Monica because we believe that Santa Monica is a bit of a tech hub,” he said. “It’s friendly to tech companies and as long as it remains so we have no intention of moving our headquarters and we intend to grow rapidly here and add a lot of jobs to Santa Monica.”
According to the company, more than 250,000 rides have occurred since launching in September of 2017 with more than half of those occurring in the previous month alone.
The company’s model is similar to a bikeshare or carshare program. Scooters are dispersed throughout an area and users can unlock one using a smartphone app. Each ride costs $1 plus 15 cents per minute. At the conclusion of a ride, the user can leave the scooter at their destination and lock the scooter using the app.
The dockless nature of the system has run afoul of local regulators. The City of Santa Monica has accused the company of lacking the proper permitting and has said the scooters illegally block the public right of way when they are left on the sidewalk.
In addition to filing a criminal complaint, the city has targeted riders who do not follow state law pertaining to the use of electric vehicles, including age restrictions and the mandatory use of a helmet.
Bird has downplayed the dispute with the city and said it’s working with the City to resolve any concerns. The criminal complaint was continued to the end of February and Reese said the additional time is to allow both sides time to come to an agreement.
Reese said the company has stepped up safety information. Riders can request free helmets from the company, the scooters now carry additional warnings, safety information is now more prominent in the app and the company recently hired a plant to circle the city with a “Ride Safely” banner.