Fly Like A Bird

We arrived in Paris this morning and, after dropping off our bags, we walked to our favorite cafe for breakfast and on the way we passed a Bird scooter waiting patiently for a rider.

We don’t yet have Bird scooters in NYC, at least to my knowledge, but apparently they are available in Paris.

It is impressive how quickly Bird has built out its international footprint. In the winter of 2018, I started seeing them in our neighborhood in Venice Beach Los Angeles.

And now less than 18 months later they are in Paris (and likely many other cities in Europe).

I have no idea how good of a business electric scooters is. There is no shortage of competition and, as I’ve written about here before, the dockless system can be a nuisance leading to inevitable regulation.

But Bird is not waiting to figure all of that out before building out a global footprint. It is impressive. I hope it works. The benefits from an environmental perspective are significant.

#Blogging On The Road

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Enjoy Fred, love Paris.The idea that our cities could transportation wise move to electric and with it flexibility of how we get around is a terrific thought that actually could come to pass for us to see it.I’ll take that as pragmatic optimism.

  2. anthonybissell

    The business model is currently net break-even just for the hardware. They cost $500, last 10 months, and make $50 a month.Bird released a portfolio explaining the problem recently. Lots of room to innovate. I love my personal scooter.

    1. Paul White

      What kind do you have?

      1. anthonybissell

        I have a Gotrax GXL v1 that I’ve modded with hand brake and solid rear tire.'re still pretty early in development and aren’t commuter quality yet.

        1. Paul White

          Looks pretty cool ! Thanks for sharing.

          1. anthonybissell

            Thanks! Of course.

          2. Jeff J

            Have you looked at Boosted’s Rev scooter? Curious what you think of them given you own a scooter.

          3. anthonybissell

            Definitely. The latest reviews says that the materials are solid, but the speed and battery life don’t match up with similar product price points.The Qiewa Q1Hummer and Nanrobot d5+ are basically the same price point, are commuter grade, and go almost twice as fast and twice as far.$1500+ is a lot in any case though, but I’m mulling over the Nanrobot, right now.

    2. Jeff J

      I’ve seen recent reports that the scooters are lasting about 30 days due to rider neglect.

      1. Richard

        And sabotage

  3. EricScherer

    Favorite Café : Les Deux Magots ! Of course. Welcome back in Paris

    1. awaldstein

      Good one. Has analogs to the old Ten Bells maybe moreso so a Paris sort of Ruffian.Natural wine community in Paris is deep and connecting. Great wines honestly everywhere.

  4. kenberger

    I attended their Paris launch last summer. They are supposed to be (here) in Berlin by now, but somehow no standup scooters have showed up here yet (Lime should be in both cities, too, by now). Paris on a standup scooter with its traffic, narrow streets, aggressive drivers, holes, cobblestones is not for everyone, but I love it anyway. Coup is there (sit down, 2-big-wheel scooters) and excellent (but rel pricey), Cityscoot units are (noticeably) older, but ubiquitous in paris.The Venice, CA scene is ridiculous– way too many companies and units littering the streets. My fav right now is a hybrid sit-down one that recently launched (same startup time as Bird since no helmet case to unlock, but goes faster than Bird), would have to lookup the name.PS: I was an early friend/adviser to Scoot Networks in SF, a former Gotham Gal investment and the first major player in this space– that service is still a world leader and I use it a lot when in SF. I can answer around the “how good an investment is this space?”, privately.

    1. kenberger

      update: here is the Los Angeles area hybrid scooter I mentioned: is my fav offering, but they need time, as the service has serious flaws so far.

      1. JaredMermey

        Bird just announced a bike as well

      2. Vasudev Ram

        How come so many different scooter models? IIs it easy to make them, or is it some sort of white-labeling? (I did notice from what you wrote elsewhere in this thread, that there are different sizes and models, so maybe some of them are from different manufacturers.)

    2. fredwilson

      She is still an investor in Scoot

      1. kenberger

        that’s awesome to know, I standup corrected ! 🙂

        1. kenberger

          yep, but other way ’round of course (Scoot acquired by Bird).

  5. David Pethick

    Micro-transport seems to make a lot of sense, but I’m far from convinced by the business model. I’d prefer a “swap and go” approach that provided some sort of incentive for users to treat the vehicles with care (particularly in the location they are left). Someone will crack this…

    1. Jeff J

      Exactly. The law in their model was assuming the scooters would last 6 months. With no incentive to treat them well they last about 30 days.

      1. Richard

        The are routinely battered and Bruised in DTLA. Time to ride a few hundred into Skid Row.So few launches are in south LA where the transportation is needed

  6. David C. Baker

    Bird is one of seven such companies in Nashville. Tourists and some residents love them—most residents hate them. The mayor will ban all if they don’t do a better job of compliance within 30 days.

  7. kenberger

    Per my other comment: just to confirm dates, Bird launched in LA in Sept ’17, and in Paris August 1 2018 (so even more impressive that it went internationally in less than a year).

    1. fredwilson

      Moving fast

  8. pointsnfigures

    Take the train to Caen. Go to the museum there and hire a guide to take you through Normandy. Gonna be pretty crowded there today, but maybe by the end of your trip it will clear out. #DDay75

    1. fredwilson

      We did it with our son a decade ago. Very memorable

  9. kenberger

    I’ll submit a different biz model: where a parent co doesn’t really care if the bike/scooter co even loses money. 2 examples:1. Jump bikes, bought by Uber, Uber (at least tries to) justify by enhancing its greater value and perhaps hedging on its main business.2. Coup scooters (in Berlin and Paris): subsidiary of Bosch, who sees this as a big IoT experiment hoping to add to the parent company’s other business units’ revenues (you didn’t see that coming, eh?)

  10. Paul White

    I was recently in Prague and saw them everywhere there, and I even tried one just to see how the whole process worked. Bird has done a very good job with the process! Took a picture of the QR code which took me to the right app in the App Store. Easy signup and. Refit cars entry in the app. Easy to check out/in the scooter and the payment process was also easy.The one thing I did not see, however was many people riding them… and I got lots of stares when I did (in my mid-50s I am probably not fitting the “standard rider profile”.Hope it catches on and Bird flys… it will help the environment – but bikes were also big there.As a side note, Uber worked really well there are well and was less than 1/2 the price of a cab.

  11. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Scooters are so passe. It’s all about le pogo sticks now, no?

  12. Jeff J

    Have a wonderful time in Paris with the Gotham Gal! With regards to the dockless scooter business, the problem with the business is the lifespan of the scooters. They cost about $600 and only last about 30 days, due to the abuse they are out through. Bird and others can’t recoup the costs in that model. They need to either manufacture the scooters more cheaply or they need to assure riders won’t abuse them so much. Docks might improve their longevity.

    1. Patrick

      Is that right? They only last 30 days? And it’s totaled after that, no residual value or refurb potential?

      1. Jeff J

        According to the report I saw.

    2. Richard

      Yep, let’s see if Bird et al set aside $ to handle the cleanup?

  13. Tom Labus

    Long twilights this time of year, enjoy!!

  14. Tommaso Trionfi

    I would guess favorite cafe is cafe de Flores, this is more suitable for the Wilson’sBeautiful place.

  15. James Fayal

    Started seeing Bird Scooters with Bird bike locks recently. I wonder if that’s an attempt to restrict where people leave them and clean up the messiness of the dockless model.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Cities can Geo-fence parking locations. If the user leaves the vehicle outside of a Geo-fence they get fined (if the city passes such ordinances)

  16. DJL

    They are all over San Antonio. Saw lots of people using them. Have fun in Paris!BTW – Love that “boardwalk” in Venice Beach. Last time there saw people selling art and others making art of themselves.

  17. sigmaalgebra

    The first time I knew some people from NYC I was ingrad school. Since I was a car guy., quickly I noticedthat they hated cars. Later being 70 miles north of Wall Street,I learned more: It is really common in NYC to hate cars.Okay: In NYC, instead of cars we could have bicycles, Vespa scooters, Segways, motorcycles, and, now, battery powered scooters such as Bird. Maybe I’m also supposed to include taxis, Uber, Lyft, etc.Hmm ….Seen any Segways recently — actually I’ve never seen one!Somehow it seems that the social pattern is, all together, recite (1) “I hate cars”. And then, again all together, say (2) “I love X.” for X the candidate car alternative fad of the day, week, month, likely not more than a year. Recitation (1) will remain but (2) will vary from Segways, etc. to, for now, Bird. If soon we can’t think of a new option for X, we can just recycle from the beginning of the old list of options for X.For these alternatives, not so good in rain, snow, and really cold winds.Also on sidewalks these alternatives are a threat to other people. On streets, cars are a threat to the alternatives.Curious that people don’t notice rain, snow, cold winds, and threats!

    1. Khürt L. Williams

      The pesky weather thing! I have noticed that Citi Bike usage in the Financial District of New York City trends toward zero during inclement weather.Some interesting links that provide more food for thought.Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars.) by Jonathan English (CityLab):…2018 Was the Year of the Car, and Transit Ridership Felt It:

      1. sigmaalgebra

        No sense in saying that the people in NYC are stupid! As in yourThe pesky weather thing! I have noticed that Citi Bike usage in the Financial District of New York City trends toward zero during inclement we have evidence, even if we didn’t before, that the people in NYC are smart enough “to come in out of the rain”!!!!

  18. Richard

    More VC BS. Not buying the environmental Impact. Build private lanes & off the sidewalks, support the public buses.

    1. fredwilson

      I have no vested interest in this business. If it is BS it is simply BS. Leave out the VC

      1. Richard

        A little defensive, I didn’t comment AVC BS. The Bird VCs having been pitching this line for sometime. Say things enough times and people believe it, but that doesn’t make it the truth.In Beverly Hills, Scooters are confiscated on the sidewalks.PS I was early in getting rid of my car (2013). You?

      2. Richard

        The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses two of the largest e-scooter companies, Lime and Bird, as well as other e-scooter firms, of “gross negligence” and “aiding and abetting assault.”Los Angeles regs prohibit operating a scooter on the sidewalks. Bird et al are grossly negligent.It will probably be an injured dog / or a infant that gets the attention of the press, it’s not about if, it’s only about when.

  19. Dan Epstein

    FWIW, Birds and Limes (just those 2) in Charlottesville, VA. Apparently geo-fenced to only be usable in certain parts of town, but I haven’t tested that.

    1. Richard

      Don’t even try to ride them in Beverly Hills – confiscation and $450 impound fee.

  20. Khürt L. Williams

    The challenge I have with these scooters is with the people using them. The sidewalks become danger zones for the elderly and young children when some idiot attempts to zoom past.

    1. Richard

      And pets, and the visually impaired, and the hearing impaired ….. (btw where are the f’in horns on these vehicles, the lighting, the signal changers).

  21. Andreas Mahringer

    Seen them in December 2018 in Paris. Super fast expansion…

  22. jason wright

    Are scooters to be driven/ ridden on the road or on the pavement? I don’t get their legal status. As a cyclist i find them to be troublesome, especially when used by people wearing the now ‘obligatory’ street accessory of headphones or ear buds. It’s getting ever more hazardous out there.

    1. obarthelemy

      I France they’re supposed to be in bike lanes or on the street with cars, and headphones are prohibited while riding.

  23. Susan Rubinsky

    Bird isn’t in NYC yet due to the exclusive agreement the city signed with the current bike vendor. Uber is currently pressing NYC to break the exclusivity order with the argument that the current contract only covers shared vehicles with kiosks, not kiosk-less wheeled vehicles.

  24. obarthelemy

    This has recently been regulated in France:- should drive on road or bike path- 25km/h (15mph) max speed- tolerated on sidewalks at 5 km/h- cannot use headphones- must have horn, front and back lights- must park in designated areas (fines for owners and users)- no kids <8yo, helmet until 12yo- no passengers- each city’s mayor can amend the above, some are outright banning from sidewalks.- enforcement is TBD, as usual I expect quite a lot of variance

  25. scottythebody

    My informal observations on the Scooters, if anyone cares:1. We have no fewer than 5 competing companies here in Vienna, Austria2. I do not ride them because I think it’s dangerous without a helmet and I usually just ride my bicycle.3. Vienna is probably one of the best markets for them because they do not become a pile of nuisance wherever they are left — the Viennese are simply the right amount of orderly to keep it relatively sane4. My friends and colleagues who I have observed using the various scooters in various European cities have no brand loyalty. They simply sign up for every company they notice offering the service — either in advance or standing next to the scooter before their first ride5. The scooters are sometimes in terrible condition and malfunction rates are somewhere around 1 in 10, but there are so many scooters, people barely care if their scooter doesn’t work. They just report it and get another one (or a competitors). 6. The same people who hustle for “crumb economy” (Foodora riders, paper delivery, uber drivers) are the same people who have organized and monopolize the “charging revenue”. They sweep through the city in vans, snap up every scooter they can, charge them somewhere en masse, and delivery them to dropoff points.7. Almost without exception, whenever I’m with a bunch of colleagues or friends who decide to do scooters in a group, somebody either clips a car or crashes. In Lisbon, we ended up at the police station after a friend broke the turn light of a parked car. The police had us wait a while before saying “get out of here!” and explaining that the driver’s insurance would pay for it and there was no reason to deal with paperwork.

  26. AMT Editorial Staff

    We had bird droppings ALL over san diego. Now there are way less…replaced by others.