Bird says it will spend $150 million on a major expansion in Europe. The Santa Monica-based scooter sharing company announced that it will bring its battery-powered two-wheelers to 50 new cities on the continent in the coming months, in addition to growing its fleet in its current markets. The move comes as scooter sharing continues to perform strongly in Europe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To help oversee this new initiative, Bird is promoting to two employees to its executive team: Renaud Fages is named head of global operations; and Brendan O’Driscoll will be head of product, growth and data, overseeing both Bird’s global product strategy and its implementation.
“Europe is playing a leading role not only in embracing micro-EVs, but in redesigning cities to safely promote their use,” said Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird, in a statement.
Bird said that portions of its $150 million investment will be spent “implementing the next generation of recycling and second life applications for vehicles, investing in industry-leading equity programs and securing partnerships across the region designed to improve transportation for all Europeans.”
Since it first arrived in Paris in 2019, Bird has seen huge potential for growth in Europe, with its more robust network of bike lanes and a culture less dependent on personally owned vehicles. Bird acquired Circ, a leading electric scooter rental business in Europe and the Middle East, in January 2020. And the company now operates in over 50 cities on the continent, meaning this new investment will represent a doubling of Bird’s current footprint.
But the company has also seen a number of setbacks too. Bird did not ultimately win one of the coveted permits to operate its scooters in Paris, nor does it appear to be on track to be granted a license in London either.
Bird has grown increasingly reliant on revenue from its franchising program, in which the company sells its older scooters to small operators and takes a cut of each ride. The program, which is called Bird Platform, has led some operators to fall into deep debt, OneZero reported last year. The company has since launched Bird Platform in countries like Switzerland and Estonia, cheering investors who hope it will lower Bird’s labor and capital expenses.
In January, The Information reported that Bird was nearing a deal to raise more than $100 million in convertible debt from some of its existing investors. The debt, which could eventually be converted into stock, would help Bird avoid selling shares at a lower price than in earlier fundraising rounds.
The company is also doubling down on direct-to-consumer sales, unveiling its $599 Bird Air last year.