escooter

escooter

Photo by Maylin Tu

It’s Friday night in Downtown Los Angeles and fleet manager Adan Aceves is cruising the streets in his Ford Ranger pickup truck looking for a bird — not an e-scooter, but an actual bird.

“First time I saw the bird I was wondering what the hell is it doing in Downtown?,” said Aceves. “It doesn't seem like a city bird, like a pigeon or a seagull…The second time I realized, ‘Damn, I only find this fool in Skid Row.’”

We never come across the mysterious bird who acts like a human. Instead, we drive the streets of Downtown, dropping off and picking up scooters — a different type of Bird — under the bright lights and amid throngs of people, many of them dressed to the nines and out on the town, looking for a good time.

By day, Aceves, 41, works in his family’s business repairing power tools in South Central. By night, he deploys, charges and rebalances e-scooters for Bird, one of eleven fleet managers located Downtown. The zone that he covers includes Dignity Health on Grand Avenue (once called California Hospital) where he was born.

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Image courtesy of Zac Estrada

While the electric scooter market might appear flooded based on how many of the vehicles are scattered along sidewalks in major U.S. cities, there is yet another company on the block trying to make the case for alternative mobility solutions across the country, including here in Los Angeles.

Founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 2013, transportation robotics startup Superpedestrian launched its LINK e-scooter network in its hometown (which is also home to Harvard and MIT) in early 2020—just as the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on demand for shared services like ride-sharing, bike-sharing and, of course, e-scooters.

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Bird Rides is looking to go public via a blank-check company, Bloomberg reported Monday. The Santa Monica-based e-scooter unicorn is working with Credit Suisse Group and is in early-stage discussion on a deal with a special acquisition company or SPAC, the news outlet said citing sources close to the matter. Those sources said there is no guarantee a deal will go through.

But, the move could provide a lifeline for venture-backed Bird, which is still not profitable and has been trying to slim down during the pandemic. dot.LA reported last month that the company is looking to offload its headquarters and that Fidelity Investments marked down the company's value by 17% since the beginning of the year.

Credit Suisse declined to comment but Bird released a statement to Bloomberg playing down the report.

"We have no plans to go public this year and remain dedicated to partnering deeply with the cities and neighborhoods we serve during this significant time of need —providing free rides to front line health care workers and discounted rides to community members — and building a sustainable business that is complementary to public transit while continuing our path to profitability."

Bird became the fastest company in history to reach unicorn status in 2018. Shortly after that, it achieved a $2 billion valuation in less than a year. But in March, it abruptly laid off 406 employees via a Zoom call that former employees described as dystopian. Headquarters was particularly hard hit, with the layoffs reducing the staff by more than half.

SPACS have become a popular way to go public this year, providing a quick route to Wall Street without the typical underwriters. But the recent decline of electric car maker Nikola has raised questions about projections companies make as they go out for a SPAC.

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