An electric-scooter rental startup led by a former Uber and Lyft executive that has sparked a legal battle in Santa Monica, California, has landed $15 million in funding to expand across the US.
Rob Price | Business Insider
Bird is a startup that lets customers rent dockless electric scooters (or “Birds”) with the tap of an app and then leave them on the street when they’re done. It first launched in Santa Monica, the ocean-facing city near Los Angeles, in September — sparking disruption, hundreds of traffic stops, and a criminal complaint against the startup and its founder.
The startup has since expanded to other neighborhoods in Los Angeles County and San Diego, and on Tuesday it announced it had raised $15 million in venture-capital funding led by Craft Ventures to support its expansion throughout the US.
The company says it has 50,000 active users and has seen 250,000 rides on its platform. (It isn’t disclosing its valuation or revenue.) The startup aims to have a presence in 50 US markets by the end of 2018, its founder and CEO, Travis VanderZanden, told Business Insider.
But Bird’s rollout thus far hasn’t been entirely smooth.
The first the mayor of Santa Monica heard of Bird’s scooters was when VanderZanden sent him a message on LinkedIn after the company launched, The Washington Post previously reported, and the city has since filed a criminal complaint against the startup over its failure to obtain a permit.
“These scooters literally just began showing up on our streets last fall,” Santa Monica’s director of policy, Anuj Gupta, told the paper. “The challenge is that they decided to launch first and figure it out later.”
Asked if he thought Bird made mistakes with its launch, VanderZanden answered carefully: “Our approach is to work with cities very early on in the process, so we reached out, started a dialogue with Santa Monica the week we actually launched … Any time there’s new innovation it’s never clear exactly where you fit into the permitting and regulatory scheme.”
He added: “I’m happy to say in the last month we’ve made a ton of progress working with the city of Santa Monica … Santa Monica is an environmentally friendly city. I think ultimately we all agree Bird is a good thing for the city.”
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