The e-scooter wars continue to heat up with US-based Bird announcing it’s acquired rival Circ for an undisclosed sum. Circ operates in 43 cities across a dozen countries in Europe and the Middle East. Bird also announced its Series D round of funding now totals $350 million thanks to the latest addition of $75 million, suggesting investors still have plenty of interest in e-scooter companies despite the difficulties they face is turning a profit.
As part of the deal, Bird will add Circ’s 300 mostly Berlin-based employees to its European operations. Travis VanderZanden, Bird’s founder and CEO says what attracted him to Circ was its “laser-focus” on treating the cities in which it operates as its primary customers and the “mindset of prioritizing profitability over growth.”
Rivals are contracting not expanding — In December, Bird rival Lime launched an unlimited weekly pass that allows users to take as many rides as they like using its e-scooters for $4.99 a week. But, only a month later, both Lime and competitor Bolt both announced they were scaling back their operations and pulling out of a number of cities.
Meanwhile, a study from UC San Francisco found e-scooter-related injuries have shot up since the controversial two-wheelers first arrived on some U.S. streets five years ago. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill aimed at legalizing the use of e-bikes and e-scooters in the state, in large part because wearing helmets isn't obligatory, something the UCSF study found was a major contributing factor to the odds of serious injury in the case of an accident.
But investors remain keen — Three months ago, Bird announced it had raised $275 million in a Series D funding round led by CDPQ and Sequoia Capital. It’s now added $75 million to that thanks to investments from Target Global, Team Europe, Idinvest Partners, and Signals Venture Capital.
“Investors today are looking for financially disciplined companies with a clear path to profitability,” says VanderZanden, adding that recent changes mean the company is positioned “to deliver the strongest unit economics and longest-lasting custom-designed vehicles of any micro-mobility company today.”
The key to success is cutting unit costs — It’s those “unit economics” and “custom-designed vehicles” that are likely Bird’s biggest drawcards investors. If it’s going to stop losing money and actually make some it needs to make scooters more durable so that their cost is covered and they generate revenue before breaking down... or being flung in a lake.
Thanks to the warnings against endless expansion with no actual money-making plan delivered by the likes of WeWork and Uber, the winner of the e-scooter wars may well be the company that can work out how to turn a profit first and attempt global domination second.