How Bird Could Benefit From a Post-COVID World

Santa Monica-based Bird could benefit from a post COVID-19 world where fewer people are using public transportation, especially in urban areas in Europe and Asia where car ownership is more expensive, according to an optimistic new research note published by Pitchbook.

"We believe the thesis for shared mobility remains intact, and expect public aversion to mass transit to drive a $15 billion addressable market expansion for the industry," Asad Hussain, an emerging technology analyst at Pitchbook, wrote late Wednesday . "Anecdotally, we are hearing of an uptick in interest in mobility among investors seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."


As of earlier this month, public transportation ridership was down approximately 70% in the U,S and 80% in Italy and France. Metro ridership in Los Angeles has fallen from about 1.2 million average weekday boardings to 360,000.

Scooters have often been billed as a compliment to public transportation, helping riders reach the "last mile." However, Bird is already seeing evidence riders are replacing buses and trains with scooters, a habit the company is optimistic will stick. Bird also hopes that the closing of city streets during the pandemic could make using scooters more appealing since they have always struggled with being too fast for sidewalks and too slow for weaving in and out of vehicle traffic.

"Over the past month, we've seen sustained increases in trip duration of more than 50%," wrote Ryan Fujiu, chief product officer at Bird in a blog post. "Initially we attributed this to a desire to be back outdoors experiencing fresh air and open space, but we're seeing strong indications that it may be a much longer-term trend related to things like public transit concerns nearly a thousand miles of new open streets and a spike in the construction of protected cycling infrastructure."

Last month, cash-strapped Lime raised emergency funding at a steep 80% discount, with Uber as the lead investor. Bird had the good fortune to raise new financing this year before the coronavirus slashed valuations but still has tried to preserve cash, laying off 40% of its workforce in a widely criticized Zoom call at the end of March. More deals and consolidation could likely be ahead.

"The pandemic will exacerbate a trend that we were already starting to see early signs of, which is consolidation in the industry," said Daniel Hoffer, managing director of Autotech Ventures.

Meanwhile, Bird unveiled its latest new feature Wednesday called Quick Start, which allows riders to activate a nearby scooter via bluetooth on their mobile phone simply by walking towards it instead of scanning a QR code. Bird says early testing shows the new process, which is gradually being rolled out to markets, cuts the time it takes to unlock a scooter in half.

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Fred Turner, the 25-year-old founder of Curative Inc., is the man behind L.A.'s push to bring universal testing to the region. But, he has bigger plans.

Turner, an Oxford dropout, just landed a deal with the Air Force to test military worldwide and he's now eyeing national expansion for his startup. By the end of this month, the company he started months ago is expected to pump out more than a million test kits a week.

"We are a strange company because our goal is to essentially put ourselves out of business," Turner said.

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