How Bird went from being the best to bankrupt in 12 months

“The golden age of micromobility seems to have come to an end, and the conclusion of this trend comes from Bird, one of the most widespread companies in the field of rental scooters, which recently filed for bankruptcy after facing several legal disputes and a significant drop in demand.

This is reported by Wired, and the story of the former giant is ultimately a summary of what has happened, even in Europe, in recent years.

Bird and shared scooters: a swift trajectory

For a long time, companies like Bird positioned themselves as the future of transportation, fueled by the explosion of the electric scooter trend that led even prestigious brands to produce them, often subsidized by questionable bonuses.

However, they have always raised many concerns, not so much private ones, but those of sharing services, such as Bird’s: abandoned in the middle of the street, often thrown into the rivers of European metropolises, and in many cases, ridden irresponsibly.

Complaints were not lacking, and especially since the pandemic, some administrations did not tolerate it: Copenhagen, for example, was among the first cities in October 2020 to literally ban scooters (but not mobility) from the city center because they caused problems for pedestrians and cars.

Bird
Image: Bird

Restrictions gradually increased in various cities, up to this year when Paris held a referendum asking if Parisians wanted to abolish scooter-sharing services. And they voted to abolish them.

Yet, these were not insignificant companies. In early 2023, Bird was the largest micromobility company in North America and among the main ones in Europe, having even acquired Spin, its competitor in the USA.

A company that was valued at $2 billion in 2018 and continued to receive investments for many years. COVID was somewhat the beginning of the end: a drastic reduction in usage because no one could go out, combined with the above-mentioned limitations.

This led to expulsion from the New York Stock Exchange in 2023 for failing to maintain its market capitalization of $15 billion and, finally, filing for bankruptcy using Chapter 11, the same one used by Scandinavian Airlines in 2022.

“They brought it on themselves”

Those who cause their own downfall have only themselves to blame, and Bird operated in a way that led to its own demise. From the beginning, Bird outsourced all its logistical aspects to contracting companies that would handle issues like stolen or mistreated scooters. Initially, this seemed to work, but when Bird decided to cut payments to the contracted companies, things took a turn for the worse.

Another problem was Bird Two. The new model replaced the mechanical brake with a hydraulic one, but for vehicles left outdoors, this was a flawed solution because in winter, calipers and handles froze, reducing the effectiveness of the brakes.

In summer, when they were used too much, they tended to wear out. Even the third model compromised safety, despite having a rear hydraulic brake and a front mechanical brake.

As a result, having constantly malfunctioning scooters combined with a reduced demand and decisions by European administrations, and Bird collapsed.

Source: Wired

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