travis vanderzanden

travis vanderzanden

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.

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."

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