Late last year, we wrote a story about how electric scooters are going to transform the $7 trillion global mobility market. Electric scooter is a new mode of transportation and it’s rapidly changing how people navigate the urban space. The scooter market size is expected reach $42 billion global market by 2030. Today, the sector is dominated by new startups such as Ojo, Bird, Lime, others.
Everything was going well for these startups. Then came the deadly coronavirus. The entire world came to a grinding halt and governments around the world issued a stay-at-home policies. People were forced to stay indoors and the electric scooter market came crashing down. Many of the affected startups took drastic measures to stay afloat. Bird, a California scooter sharing startup is one of the many startups that had to layoff some staff to stay in business.
Back in January, just about a month before coronaavirus started to spread in Europe and the US, Bird acquired Berlin, Germany-based electric scooter rival Circ. Now, due to the impact of coronavirus, Bird is reportedly destroying between 8,000 and 10,000 scooters in the Middle East. The scooters belong to Circ, an e-scooter company that Bird acquired for about $25 million back in January. An e-scooter entrepreneur in Berlin offered to take the vehicles off Bird and save them from going to the scrapheap, but Bird declined.
The story gets even worse. Bird has reportedly laid off the entire Circ team in the Middle East as a result of the coronavirus. The team includes about 75 people spread across Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The recent layoff is addition to March 27 layoff announcement when Bird laid off around 30% of its workforce on a Zoom call, or 406 people out of 1,387 employees prior to the layoffs.
According to CNBC, Bird said it has “temporarily paused operations” in the Middle East because of the hot weather, adding that it is using the break to “recycle” some vehicles. Bird will continue to operate its own scooters in Tel Aviv.
“During this pause, we are taking the opportunity to responsibly recycle parts of the old Circ fleet that were previously used in the region,” a Bird spokesperson said.
“Following extreme wear and tear, the Circ vehicles no longer met our rigorous quality standards. Selling or re-use of these vehicles would potentially result in safety and reliability issues, which would not have been fair or ethical to the purchasers or potential riders. We look forward to resuming our service throughout more parts of the region later this year.”
Founded in 2017 by Travis VanderZanden, the Santa Monica, California-based Bird designs a vehicle sharing platform that provides affordable transportation solutions to communities across the world. The company’s platform coordinates with cities to provide citizens with access to shared personal electric vehicles that can be picked up and dropped off anywhere, enabling users to receive sustainable and environment-friendly local transport. According to publicly available funding data, Bird has raised a total $623 million since inception.