Scooter Unicorn Clips its Wings. The Cautionary Tale of Bird’s Bankruptcy

Roman Janson Follow Jan 02, 2024 · 2 mins read
Scooter Unicorn Clips its Wings. The Cautionary Tale of Bird’s Bankruptcy
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Bird, the electric scooter darling once soaring at a $2.5 billion valuation, has fluttered to the ground. This former startup unicorn now seeks shelter in bankruptcy, serving as a sobering reminder amidst the micromobility mania.

Founded in 2017, Bird pioneered the model of dumping fleets of app-rentable e-scooters across cities for residents’ short distance transport. At their peak popularity pre-pandemic, Birds zipped down sidewalks as investors showered the company with over $275 million in 2019. But as COVID emptied downtowns, Birds lost their nest.

Despite a 2021 SPAC deal taking Bird public, brutal market forces gradually eroded its market cap from $2 billion to just $70 million in a year. Its stock consistently traded below $1, prompting delisting warnings. Unable to reverse course under new leadership, the board filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this January.

While excluding the still operational Canadian and European subsidiaries, the filing enables Bird to restructure debt and sell off assets within 90-120 days under court supervision. Existing lenders submitted the “stalking horse” bid likely to serve as a value floor, although it remains open to rival offers before finalization.

For urban mobility companies, Bird’s crash landing spotlights the difficulty of finding a viable business model, even with strong traction and initial fanfare. Public transit disruptors like micromobility ultimately rely on convenience over ownership. But retaining users through daily utility versus novelty joyrides poses sustainability issues, now exacerbated by remote work flexibility.

PandemicExceptions certainly challenged Bird’s best laid plans. But the road to profitability was already questionable given unit economics and seasonal demand. For each scooter to break even, months of consistent rides are required to cover the hardware and charging costs. Consumer boredom and fickle loyalty further stack the odds.

While mobility pioneers rarely turn immediate profits, at some point flights of investor fancy must land. For Bird, bankruptcy appears the only remaining viable nest after other options crashed. They join electric vehicle peers Fisker and Faraday Future in resetting ambitions after stumbling out of the gate. The runway towards mainstream adoption remains long and pot-holed.

Bird’s initial popularity and meteoric funding round now render a cautionary tale for mobility unicorns with heads in the clouds. Innovators in sustainable transit solve real urban problems. But lasting revolutions remain grounded in realistic expectations balanced against operational realities beyond the hype cycle spikes. Bird’s successors would be wise to temper lofty visions with gravity’s inexorable pull.

Written by Roman Janson Follow
Senior News Editor at