'It Felt Like a Black Mirror Episode' The Inside Account of How Bird Laid off 406 People in Two Minutes via a Zoom Webinar
Last Friday morning, 406 Bird employees – who had been working from home for two weeks because of the coronavirus and bleary-eyed from putting in longer than usual days in an unprecedented effort to rapidly wind down global operations in cities around the world – received a generic-sounding Zoom webinar invitation titled "COVID-19 Update."
Travis VanderZanden, 41, a former top Uber executive who founded Bird only three years ago, had abruptly cancelled the previous Thursday's regular biweekly all-hands meeting, referred to internally as Birdfams. He had not addressed Bird's thousand-plus employees since they were forced to leave their offices, so most employees assumed he was giving an update on the company's response to the worsening global pandemic.
But some grew suspicious when they noticed the guest list and host were hidden and they learned only some colleagues were included. It was also unusual they were being invited to a Zoom webinar, allowing no participation, rather than the free-flowing meeting function the company normally uses. Over the next hour, employees traded frantic messages on Slack and searched coworkers' calendars to see who was unfortunate enough to be invited.
"It should go down as a poster child of how not to lay people off, especially at a time like this," said one employee.
Bird Rides Inc., whose ubiquitous rental scooters are a staple of Los Angeles street corners, is getting into the electronic pay business.
The Santa Monica-based company said Tuesday it will unveil Bird Pay, allowing customers to purchase items from local businesses through the company's app. This is considered a logical next step for customers since the company estimates nearly 60% of riders are heading toward local businesses like bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
Continuing its recent acquisition strategy, Santa Monica-based Bird announced Monday it has acquired Berlin based Circ, the leading shared e-scooter company in Europe and the Middle East. With the deal, Bird will add 300 employees to its operations.
"I founded Bird nearly three years ago because we need to change the status quo and take a transformative stance to combat the traffic and pollution that affect our cities and endanger people globally," Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird said in a statement. "To further advance our mission, we're excited to acquire Circ which is the clear European leader. We like their laser focus."