SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Scooter rental company Bird rolled into Europe on Tuesday, a month after the two-wheeled electric vehicle startup was valued at $2 billion in its latest funding round.
Bird announced its foray into Paris, followed by a launch in Tel Aviv in the coming weeks, suggesting the company is dipping into its venture capital funding to stake out a global footprint. The company said it will start with small pilot programs of 50 to 100 scooters, with plans to add more.
It has raised $418 million and spread its operations to more than 30 cities in the United States.
Since its debut in September, Southern California-based Bird has become one of several electric scooter companies that have upset city transportation patterns and vexed regulators, while capturing the imagination of tourists and commuters looking for an alternative to cars, bicycles and city buses.
Bird said officials in Tel Aviv and Paris had advance notice of the scooter rental launch, an effort to avert possible regulatory battles.
The scooters will only be available on the campus of Tel Aviv University and in three districts in the center of Paris. Bird will gather data on how the vehicles are used and collaborate with city officials before deciding on a longer-term presence.
Bird said its global expansion is led by Patrick Studener, who oversaw Uber Technologies Inc’s international growth into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Bird has about 30 employees in Europe.
It has plans to open an office in China and is entertaining an expansion into Latin America, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Bird trails competitor Lime, a San Francisco-based e-bike and e-scooter company that launched in Paris in June and has “hundreds of scooters available throughout the city”, a company spokeswoman said. Lime is also in Switzerland and Germany.
Lime earlier this month raised $335 million from investors at a valuation of more than $1 billion, and signed a partnership with Uber to include Lime’s scooters in the ride-hailing company’s smartphone app. The lofty valuations of scooter companies have led some investors to caution that the sector has become over-hyped.
Scooter companies tout their product as an efficient transportation method for distances under three miles, reducing carbon emissions from cars.
However, basic issues remain unresolved, such as how cities will regulate scooters, where scooter users should ride the vehicles, helmet laws and fixing the backlog at scooter manufacturers. Approaches to regulations so far include capping the number of scooters allowed and requiring permits and fees.
Reporting by Heather Somerville