CLARA HARTER

SMDP Staff Writer

Santa Monica based e-scooter company Bird made its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange (BRDS) on Nov. 5 via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Switchback II.

Bird initially traded at $8.34 per share and traded up slightly to close its first day at $8.40. Since then, the stock has dropped sharply to $6.17 at the close of market November 24, a 26% loss since being public.

Bird was launched in Santa Monica in 2017 and in 2018 became the fastest startup at the time to achieve unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation. Its business strength has fluctuated since then and, as reported by dot.LA, the company saw a 37 percent decrease in year-on-year revenue in 2020, largely due to the drop off in ridership during the pandemic. 

The SPAC deal valued the company at $2.3 billion, which is down from its $2.85 billion valuation at the start of 2020 when the company was still private. The deal made $414 million in cash and credit available to Bird, minus merger-related fees. 

“Going public gives Bird an incredible platform for future growth,” said a Bird spokesperson. “The added capital will be used to expand our operations in existing cities, enter new regions in the U.S. and Europe, and build out our retail business.”

Bird has utilized several different business models since its launch. It initially conducted scooter maintenance in house before shifting to a contract model, where fleet managers are in charge of collecting, charging and deploying devices. It has since launched e-bikes and moved into the retail space by selling its devices directly to consumers. 

The company has a complicated relationship with the Santa Monica community, which began on a rough note when its scooters were dumped en masse on the city’s street without coordination with City officials.

At the start of the pandemic Bird also drew criticism for the manner in which 406 employees were simultaneously laid off  — via a 2 minute Zoom webinar at which no top Bird executives spoke. 

On July 1, Bird was required to remove all of its devices after failing to be selected as one of the four operators allowed in the City under its second shared mobility pilot program. The company remains based in Santa Monica, although it has subleased a significant portion of its office headquarters at the Colorado Center. 

Bird is the first major US micromobility company to go public, and was the catalyst of the e-scooter craze. Bird’s initial success inspired many other companies to jump into the micromobility market, which became rapidly crowded. 

Recent years have seen a consolidation of players. Scoot was purchased by Bird in 2019, Zagster by Superpedestrian in 2020 and Jump by Lime in 2020.

Lime, one of Bird’s major competitors, announced on Nov. 5 that it had raised $523 million from investors in debt financing to produce more of its latest models of e-bikes and e-scooters. The company has shared its intent to go public in 2022, although it is unclear whether this will be via a SPAC deal or traditional IPO. 

Bird is currently operating in 350 cities around the world. According to a spokesperson, the company plans on scaling up its retail sales and existing operations, while also looking to rollout its devices in new cities. 

Clara@smdp.com