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.
Bird Rides, the Santa-Monica e-scooter company that was once a startup darling but saw ridership plunge during the pandemic, is planning to go public through a so-called blank-check company, dot.LA has learned.
Bird is preparing to merge with Switchback II Corporation, a Dallas-based blank check company focusing on companies reducing carbon emissions, according to documents reviewed by dot.LA. Switchback has been marketing a $200 million PIPE offering in recent weeks that allows investors to buy shares of Bird at the IPO price.
Bird will receive hundreds of million in cash through the deal, which it can use to fund its operations as it struggles to achieve profitability and to expand to more markets. Last month, the company announced plans to double the size of its European operation, spending $150 million to enter 50 new cities.
The transaction values Bird at $2.3 billion, below the $2.85 billion valuation it reached in the beginning of 2020. But that was before the pandemic, which drove 2020 revenue down to $95 million, a 37% decline from 2019, according to a deck pitching the deal seen by dot.LA.
Neither Switchback nor Bird's media relations team responded to a request for comment.
The financials included in the slides reveal a company quickly burning through the $1.1 billion of cash it has raised since 2017, with a $226 million adjusted EBITA loss in 2019 and a $183 million loss last year.
However, Bird expects to trim this year's losses to $96 million and to $28 million in 2022 before reaching profitability in 2023. But that is predicated upon bringing in $815 million in 2023 revenue. In pre-pandemic 2019, the company generated $151 in revenue. It expects to bring in $188 million this year.
Bird, desperate to preserve cash soon after the seriousness of COVID became clear, laid off 406 employees via a Zoom call that former employees described as dystopian. The move reduced the company's Santa Monica staff by half. In another cost cutting move, Bird put its recently remodeled offices up for sublease last Fall.
In its pitch deck, the company says ridership has rebounded as much of the world emerges from strict lockdowns. Topline revenue increased 81% over the past month, though part of that reflects the seasonality of the e-scooter business with increased demand during warmer months of the year.
Bird touts an $800 billion market opportunity in micromobility in its pitch to potential investors, a more favorable regulatory environment post-COVID, more durable scooters, as well as consolidation in the industry. It also says it is valued relatively cheaply at 2.8 times 2023 projected revenue.
Formed in 2019, Switchback is led by co-CEOs Scott McNeill and Jim Mutrie, both former executives at RSP Permian, an oil and gas driller that was acquired by Concho Resources in 2018, which this year was acquired by ConocoPhillips.
Switchback merged with the electric vehicle charging company ChargePoint last year.
The Information reported in January that Bird was raising $100 million in convertible debt and has held discussions over the past few months with at least three special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), including former Uber executive Emil Michael's DPCM Capital. Bloomberg first reported in November Bird was exploring the possibility of going public via a SPAC.
Founded by the brash former Uber executive Travis VanderZanden in 2017, Bird became the fastest company in history to reach unicorn status in 2018, a milestone that has become less rarified of late as startup valuations have soared ever higher.
Offering startups a quicker and less scrutinized route than traditional IPOs, SPACs became all the rage last year, with 248 companies going public through that route compared to 59 the year before, according to SPAC Analytics. There have already been 315 this year though recently the market appears to be cooling.
LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021
- Fidelity Seeking to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss
- Warner Bros.' 2021 Films Will Be Released in Theaters, HBO Max Simultaneously
- Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021
Fidelity Reportedly Seeks To Unload Bird Shares at a LossEscooter Unicorn Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQ upload.wikimedia.org
Fidelity Investments is attempting to unload some of its shares in Bird Rides Inc. at a loss, according to a report published Wednesday night by Business Insider.
The move comes after dot.LA reported in October that the mutual fund giant has marked down the value of its Bird investment by 17% since the beginning of the year.
As a private company, Bird does not have to share its financials. Nor do the venture funds that hold most of its shares. However, Fidelity is required to account for shares at their fair market value so it provides a rare glimpse into the company's health.
But a source close to the matter said the sale should not be seen as any indication of Bird's financial performance. The shares represent less than ten percent of Fidelity's position and the intended sale is the result of a new portfolio manager taking over who does not want to invest in pre-IPO companies, the source said.
Neither Bird nor Fidelity would respond to dot.LA's request for comment.
Bird became the fastest company in history to reach unicorn status in 2018 and achieved a $2 billion valuation less than a year later. But as the pandemic hit, it abruptly laid off 406 employees via a Zoom call and was forced to remove its fleet from city streets just as it was gearing up for its normally lucrative summer season.
dot.LA reported in October the company put its Santa Monica offices up for sublease less than a year after completing a costly renovation.
Last month, Bloomberg reported Bird is looking to go public via a blank-check company. Bird said it had no plans to go public "this year," which did not exactly rule out a SPAC sometime in the near future.
Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021
Plug In South LA's Accelerator Program is returning in 2021. The outfit is looking for 10 Black and Latinx founders who have proof of product-market fit and traction. The organization, founded in 2015 by Derek Smith, aims to build a network for Black and Latinx founders in South Los Angeles.
Last year was the inaugural accelerator program funded by Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank and Nike. The 2019 cohort hosted five startups including Spooler, a tech-based clothing design startup that credits the program with helping to increase revenue two fold since March. During the program, the company received a contract to launch a Sesame Street active wear product line.
The last day to apply for the program is Dec. 9
Warner Bros. will be streaming all its 2021 theatrical releases on HBO Max in a blow to already struggling theater chains as the pandemic continues to reshape Hollywood.
The AT&T-owned studio's 17-film slate, including "Godzilla vs. Kong," "Mortal Kombat," "The Suicide Squad" and "Matrix 4," will be available on the streaming platform exclusively for one month, starting when they are released in theaters and then will disappear from the platform.The move comes shortly after the company announced it would bring its expected blockbuster "Wonder Woman 1984" directly to HBO Max.
"We're living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group," said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, in a statement released on Thursday. "No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."
Sarnoff said the model is a temporary one, but the decision will reverberate across an industry that has taken away screening exclusivity from theaters and reshaped how studios function.
"With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren't quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films," Sarnoff said. "We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors."
AT&T's decision to favor its streaming service over theaters comes in response to the pandemic, but it also aligns with CEO John Stankey's public comments that he wants to center his company's strategy around streaming. It's part of a broader blueprint meant to goose AT&T's broadband business, which led the company to acquire Time Warner in 2018 for $85 billion. Comcast, AT&T's chief broadband rival, is pursuing a similar game plan with its own streaming service, Peacock, which falls under its subsidiary NBCUniversal.
AT&T last month announced layoffs at WarnerMedia to focus the company around HBO Max. Elsewhere, Disney — which logged nearly 74 million paid subscribers to its Disney Plus streaming service last quarter — has refocused on that format. It's another example of a shift toward streaming that was already underway but which has been accelerated by the pandemic.
- Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss - dot.LA ›
- Bird Scooters Could Benefit From a Post-Covid World - dot.LA ›
- Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQ - dot.LA ›
- Bracket Capital Closes $450M Pre-IPO Fund - dot.LA ›