Bird makes SPAC Official as it Reveals Spate of Injuries

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

Bird makes SPAC Official as it Reveals Spate of Injuries

Bird Rides Inc. made official Wednesday what dot.LA first reported Sunday night: The Santa Monica unicorn that started the e-scooter craze in 2017 will go public via SPAC at a $2.3 billion valuation.

The company also provided more details about its finances as well as potential risks to its business model, one of which is a spate of serious injuries and even deaths involving the company's e-scooters – which frequently have to navigate busy streets and sidewalks.

For the first time, Bird revealed it has been involved in more than a hundred lawsuits involving "brain injuries, internal injuries, and death," many of which are still pending.

Bird added that it has seen "significant" increase in litigation costs the past two years. It said if that continues the company may have trouble getting insurance.

Some law firms have already set up pages dedicated to e-scooter injuries, helping injured users navigate Bird's user agreement.

The $2.3 billion valuation Bird is going public at is well below the $2.85 billion it fetched in the beginning of 2020, something founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden shrugged off in a rare interview with CNBC on Wednesday.

He said he views going public as merely a financing event and he is focused on returns many years from now.

"We didn't want to be greedy on valuation," VanderZanden said. "We wanted to figure out what price made sense for getting long term investors into the stock."

VanderZanden also dismissed concerns about an unraveling SPAC market while acknowledging "the SPAC market has had its ups and downs."

Speaking about last year, he said "It felt like things were a little frothy where you had some science projects." But he said this year is different.

"I think we've really entered SPAC 3.0 where you're going to see companies with real business models and real revenue starting to SPAC," VanderZanden said. "We're excited to be part of this new wave of SPAC 3.0."

VanderZanden said he first started talking to Switchback II, the SPAC taking Bird public, at the beginning of this year. He found their visions and missions aligned, despite the fact that Switchback focuses on clean energy.

VanderZanden was criticized for selling tens of millions worth of shares in the company in 2018, but he said Wednesday he felt confident enough to buy more shares last year and that no Bird employees are getting cashed out in the SPAC.

The CEO put his 10,000 foot Bel Air mansion on the market in April for $25 million, just six months after purchasing it for $21.7 million from The Daily Show's Trevor Noah.
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Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

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Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

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Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

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