October 5, 2018 / 7:49 PM / 18 days ago

Scooter company Bird enters Latin America with launch in Mexico City

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 5 (Reuters) - California startup Bird said on Friday it has launched its electric scooters in Mexico City, in a key global expansion, as the company seeks to shake up urban transportation.

The launch marks Bird’s entry into Latin America, a market transportation startups and investors see as ripe for growth. The company also said it would expand its operations to Brazil.

Bird is operating out of a shared office space in Mexico City and has been recruiting locally for weeks, according to public job postings.

It has hired some local staff and is building up a network of workers tasked with keeping the electric scooters charged, the company said.

Bird is still looking for a country manager, and in the interim a general manager based in Austin, Texas, will oversee Mexico operations, the company said.

Latin America has put into place fewer regulatory hurdles for electric scooters than for car-hailing companies such as Uber Technologies Inc, according to a Bird investor.

However, questions about where scooter users should ride the vehicles, helmet laws and liability have concerned regulators globally. The dockless scooters have also posed safety issues when they are abandoned on sidewalks and in driveways.

Transportation startups of all kinds have looked to Mexico and Brazil for growth. The countries are two of Uber’s biggest markets globally, and China ride service Didi Chuxing last year acquired a Brazilian ride-hailing startup, 99, and in April brought its own ride-hailing network to Mexico.

Bird’s biggest competitor, Lime, is focusing on expansion in the North American and European markets and has no immediate plans for Latin America.

Bird said last month that its e-scooter service has completed 10 million rides since launching a year ago. The company has raised $418 million and is valued at $2 billion.

A proliferation of scooter startups and new scooter services from companies such as Uber and Lyft could lead to a price competition that could eat into profits and force consolidation in the industry. (Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco. Additional Reporting by Julia Love in Mexico City Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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