The upcoming Bird Rides IPO is interesting not because it’s a quirky startup going public, but because it’s all about electric transportation. Renewable energy is a popular investing category, especially since the recent IPCC climate change report showing dire human impacts on the environment.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says, “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.” Can electric transportation help turn the tide by moving society away from fossil fuel-dependent cars?
E-scooter company Bird Rides is going public with a blank check company. The SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) that’s merging with Bird Rides is Switchback II Corporation, which raised $275 million in January for its goal of acquiring a company that can help the world reach net-zero carbon emissions.
- Bird Rides is an electric scooter company based out of Santa Monica, California.
- City officials, including the Santa Monica mayor, weren’t enthusiastic about the original 10 “Birds”.
- CEO Travis VanderZanden believes e-scooters are a necessary component of transportation because they’re greener and reduce the dangers of car traffic.
- Bird Rides offers shared electric vehicles in over 300 cities along with products for purchase online at bird.co.
- In May 2021, the firm announced plans to go public through a merger with a blank-check company focused on clean energy solutions.
- Following the merger, the newly combined company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange, with a $2.3 billion post-merger valuation.
A short history of Bird Rides
Bird Rides began offering electric scooters for consumers to rent in the beach community of Santa Monica, California. Founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden was inspired by his young daughters’ enthusiasm over their scooters, which he thought would translate to adults if the scooters were electrified.
The company proceeded with the launch in September of 2017 without obtaining consent of the mayor.
The first six months of business saw myriad issues including dangerous behaviors on the scooters, customers ignoring local laws, and abandoned “Birds” causing pedestrians to trip. After accidents, tickets issued, and protests, the city attorney’s office filed a misdemeanor criminal complaint against Bird.
The company settled that lawsuit for $300,000. Later, a suit brought by the city of Milwaukee led Bird to settle for $65,000 in 2019.
Within fourteen months, Bird Rides had flown into over 120 cities.
In 2019, Bird published a safety report with the cooperation of David Strickland, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Essential takeaways of that report were:
- Injury rates were similar for bicycles and e-scooters.
- Reducing car travel makes everyone, drivers and pedestrians, safer.
- Clearly marked bike lanes increase safety.
The company claims that each Bird on the road “results in about 1,500 pounds of avoided carbon emissions each year.”
In summer 2021, Santa Monica decided to permit only three scooter firms in the city: Spin, Veo, and Lyft, effectively kicking Bird out. In August 2021, Bird introduced its new electric Bird Bike for consumer purchase for $2,299.
Year to date revenue ending June 30 increased by 181% from last year, which was 30% above expectations. Gross transaction value also rose by 182% compared to the first half of 2020. a solid 30% above expectations.
Bird Rides fundraising history
Bird Rides fundraising has raised a total of $623 million:
- Seed Round: In June 2017, Bird Rides held a seed fundraising round through Goldcrest Capital.
- Series A: A few months later in October 2017, the Series A raised $15 million from seven total investors led by Craft Ventures.
- Series B: In March 2018, the company’s $100 million Series B round of funding came from Index Ventures, Valor Equity Partners, and others.
- Venture Round: The company raised venture capital in May 2018 from Bracket Capital.
- Series C: A June 2018 Series C funding raise brought in $158 million from 18 investors and was led by Sequoia Capital.
- Convertible Note: In April 2019, Bird raised funds via a convertible note.
- Series C: The Series C concluded in April 2019 with an investment from Greycroft.
- Series D: Bird held its largest funding round to date in October 2019, a Series D to the tune of $275 million. Sequoia Capital invested again, along with Caisse de Depot et Placement du Québec.
- Series D: January 2020 saw an additional $75 million from 5 investors.
- Convertible Equity Round: In April 2021, Bird Rides held a convertible equity round for $208 million, tapping prior investors Bracket Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Valor Equity Partners.
A look at the path to the Bird Rides IPO
Bird Rides chose the faster path to the public market by merging with a SPAC instead of pursuing a traditional IPO.
VanderZanden began talks with Switchback II early in 2021 and felt the two companies complemented each other’s environmental concerns.
Another micro-mobility startup called Helbiz also just went public via a SPAC. Bird is looking for similar benefits in its IPO: An injection of capital will help the company to scale, expand, and pay off debt.
As part of its upcoming iPO, Bird disclosed its involvement in more than 100 lawsuits involving “brain injuries, internal injuries, and death.”
CEO VanderZanden said he wasn’t concerned that the valuation had dropped to $2.3 billion from $2.85 billion early in 2020, but was focused on seeking long-term investors.
When is the Bird Rides IPO date?
Switchback II, the blank-check company merging with Bird in the transaction, had set its sights on a clean energy company for a target, and Bird Rides fit the bill.
Switchback II is led by co-CEOs and directors Scott McNeill and Jim Mutrie. Its predecessor Switchback I also joined with a clean energy company, ChargePoint, which provides EV charging networks.
The combined entity will have access to $428 million in cash from private investors, plus $160 million from Fidelity Management & Research Co. and others. Bird also will have access to $40 million in financing from specialty finance companies Apollo Investment Corp. in New York and MidCap Financial Trust in Maryland. An official Bird Rides IPO date hasn’t yet been announced.
Risks and opportunities for investors in Bird Rides
While nations aim to reduce carbon emissions, the e-scooter market is growing slowly and steadily. The total e-scooter industry was estimated to be worth $19.4 billion in 2020 and has an expected compound annual growth rate of 7.6% from now through 2028.
Bird isn’t only about e-scooters, but has been expanding its product line. For example, the addition of e-bikes “enables us to increase our serviceable addressable market by billions of trips per year,” according to chief vehicle officer Scott Rushforth.
Bird faces competition from the likes of Razor, Lime, Scoot, Skip, and Spin (which sounds like a line of early 2000’s cell phones). Bird isn’t yet profitable and revenue declined in 2020, but the company’s latest financial report showed it exceeded earnings expectations
Perhaps the most obvious risk factor to consider is the physical dangers of riding e-scooters, which has resulted in numerous lawsuits over the years. However, VanderZanden has pointed out that automobiles are also dangerous, and that the risk of e-scooters is worth the benefit of reducing the number of cars on the road.
As companies begin to veer away from fossil fuel-driven products, could it drive Bird and other electric transportation brands up in value? Bird continues to push for fewer carbon-emitting vehicles on roads everywhere with its electric scooters and bikes. Bird Rides stock could help the efforts if the public is willing to put their money in an e-scooter investment.
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