All posts in “bird”

E-scooter injuries keep piling up

E-scooters can cause way more than a few scrapes and bruises.

A UC Los Angeles study from last month looked at two Southern California hospitals and the number of electric scooter injuries reported there for about a year. It totaled 250 people sent to the ER and 100 with head injuries. Now Consumer Reports has found throughout the country more than 1,500 scooter-related injuries that can be blamed on the two-wheeled vehicles.

In a report released this week looking at e-scooter crashes since the end of 2017 when the motorized scooters started arriving en masse, CR found 1,545 patients treated for scooter-related injuries. This number was determined by contacting 110 hospitals and five transportation agencies. Sixty medical centers and other police, city, and transportation agencies responded. All cities had a major e-scooter-sharing company like Lime or Bird introduced to the area in the past year.

The publication conceded this isn’t a complete picture of scooter-sharing and crashes. 

CR’s analysis is limited, to be sure. Without average trip lengths in each city, for example, it’s impossible to calculate the rate of incidents,” the report read.

Insurance and risk management specialist Thom Rickert at Argo Group emphasized that comparing scooter crashes to motorcycle or bicycles crashes is too early and not a fair match-up. If you take CR‘s limited number of injuries reported, it’s nothing compared to the millions of trips on the e-scooters.

In a $310 million funding announcement Wednesday, Lime said it counted 34 million trips on its scooters. Bird back in September reported 10 million rides.

Paul Steely White, Bird director of safety policy and advocacy, said in an email last month in response to the UCLA injury study, “it fails to take into account the sheer number of e-scooter trips taken—the number of injuries reported would amount to a fraction of one percent of the total number of e-scooter rides.”

Rickert predicts if scooter injury data continues to show more and more skull fractures, bleeding brains, and broken shoulders, “people will be afraid to use them.”

That’s why companies like Lime and Bird continue to emphasize their safety campaigns and helmet giveaways. But as New York City looks into the possibility of e-scooters in the city, the more injuries reported won’t help persuade politicians, residents, and other critics worried about the dangers of scooting.

Ultimately, “the person riding it has to take responsibility for their own safety,” Rickert said. So put on a helmet.

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Bird CEO on scooter startup copycats, unit economics, safety and seasonality

Bird’s electric scooters were on full display at the Upfront Summit in Malibu last week, a two-day event that brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite. 

Not only were a dozen or so brand spanking new scooters available to ride throughout the event but Upfront general partner Mark Suster, an investor in the startup, was seen riding a Bird on stage to the tune of Chamillionaire’s ‘Ridin’ Dirty.’ Plus, Bird founder and chief executive officer Travis VanderZanden was on site to mingle with attendees before closing the summit with a fireside chat with Suster himself.

The pair hit on a number of topics, including the unit economics, safety and seasonality of the scooter business. Neither confirmed Bird’s latest raise; the startup is said to be in the process of securing another $300 million at a $2.3 billion valuation, according to PitchBook. In a 12-month period, the company brought in more than $250 million at a roughly $1 billion valuation.

On unit economics: When Bird bursted onto the scene in 2017, VanderZanden knew he had to move quickly to beat copycats, he explained. Operating under Reid Hoffman’s ‘Blitzscaling’ philosophy, he dispersed hundreds of Alibaba-imported electric scooters that were, well, pretty shitty.

“Those things were fragile,” VanderZanden told Suster. “Clearly the unit economics didn’t work on those scooters but that was a test anyway … Once we knew people liked riding them, we quickly scrambled and started creating our own scooters. Bird Zero is the first iteration of that. What we see on the unit economics of those, it’s like night and day.”

The company unveiled Bird Zero, in October, equipped with a digital screen to display riders’ speed, a tougher exterior and improved battery life.

“2018 was about scaling,” he said. “2019 is about really focusing on the unit economics of the business.”

On seasonality: Some have critiqued Bird for poor unit economics, while others have pointed out that the success of the business is heavily dependent on…weather. No one wants to ride a Bird in the snow, slashing its revenue potential in the cold months. VanderZanden said he’s not concerned with seasonality and revealed Bird operates on a $100 million revenue run rate even in the winter. He did not, however, clarify if that run rate is based on fourth quarter 2018 projections — when Bird introduced Bird Zero — or 2018 annual revenue.

“Obviously, there is seasonality in the scooters business, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Yes, it’s slower in December but this market is so big, even in our slow [weeks] most companies would love to have that in their worst [month] … We used to say when we’re heading into the holiday season that the Birds would migrate south but it turns out the logistics are really expensive, so the Birds hibernate. That’s a lesson we learned.”

On safety: In the year or so that scooters hit the mainstream in the U.S., there were casualties. Moreover, many — kids included — realized just how easy it is to get away with scootering sans helmet, while others rode throughout the night. Bird, to keep children off scooters, at least, requires customers to provide a driver’s license when they sign up. Given the number of issues that have arisen as scooters become increasingly popular, improved safety measures are bound to be in the news in the year ahead.

“Safety has to be prioritized over growth,” VanderZanden said. 

On electric bikes: Bird is one of few scooter businesses that doesn’t offer bikes. With all the capital its raised, will Bird make the leap? VanderZanden seemed lukewarm toward the prospect.

“Yeah, we think about it,” he said. “We [aren’t] religious [about] scooters per se, we just think it’s the thing people like the most so that’s where we started and we think that’s the best thing to do now. We get excited about micromobility generally… We are open and looking at all sorts of different short-range electric vehicles in the future.”

On Bird Platform: Last year, Bird began selling its electric scooters to entrepreneurs and small business owners, who can then rent them out as part of a service called Bird Platform. VanderZanden said the service has opened Bird up to tons of new markets.

“From early on at Bird, we had people asking ‘hey, how do we take Bird to my city,’” he said. “We thought why don’t we empower the local entrepreneurs to take Bird to their market… Now we have people from 77 countries from around the world that are interested in taking Bird to their market, which is exciting because there is no way we as a company could get there in the short-term. This is a way to bring Bird to the world.”

On growth: Given the number of stories on Bird and its competitors in the tech press, it’s easy to forget that most of the startups in the space have launched in the last year or so. VanderZanden took a moment to remind the venture capitalists in the audience that in that time, Bird has expanded to 100 cities. Impressive, yes, but let’s remember the manner in which Bird introduced scooter fleets to new markets. The company showed up unannounced in Santa Monica, for example, a decision that resulted in a lawsuit in the startup’s own hometown.

“It’s pretty incredible that 100 cities have opened their arms and embraced electric scooters,” VanderZanden said.

On Bird’s future: VanderZanden explained that despite a long-held interest in transportation — his mother was a public school bus driver for 30 years — he’s only recently come to understand the industry’s most urgent needs. He plans to put more energy in transportation infrastructure in 2019 as a result.

“The deeper I get into transportation, the more I realize we don’t need autonomous vehicles, we need tunnels, all we need are more bike lanes,” he said.

Yup, e-scooters are dangerous, study confirms – especially since nobody wears helmets

A new study tracking injuries from riding e-scooters confirms what we all knew: electric scooters can be dangerous as hell. 

Also, nobody wears helmets. And these vehicles go as fast as 15 mph.  

A study published in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network Open on Friday observed e-scooter riding in the Los Angeles area (the birthplace of e-scooter sharing) for about a year from Sep. 1, 2017 through Aug. 31, 2018. In that time period, about 250 people ended up in the emergency room.

The most common injuries were to people’s heads. More than 40 percent of incidents, involving 100 people, resulted in some sort of head injury. Five people had serious bleeding in the brain from a scooter crash. These weren’t just cuts and bruises: two riders were sent to the ICU.

With all those noggins hitting the pavement you’d think more people would wear a helmet. But “helmet compliance” was recorded at only about 4 percent.

The study’s lead author, UCLA emergency physician Tarak Trivedi, a scholar in the National Clinician Scholars Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said he’s seen nearly every bone broken from improper scooter riding. And yet, he rides e-scooters in LA and even encourages their use. 

In a phone call, he said while working in emergency departments in the LA area he started to see more injuries like broken elbows and dislocated shoulders around the same time he started seeing Bird and Lime e-scooters in his Santa Monica neighborhood. 

“It woke us up to the fact that these injuries are serious,” he said. 

Trivedi said the two emergency rooms had 193 bicycle accidents in the same time period, but the study’s doctors can’t pin down an injury rate for e-scooters since the study was only a limited look at all incidents. 

Even so, Trivedi said e-scooters shouldn’t be underestimated. “They have the potential to be dangerous,” he said. “You need to be careful while riding these things.” While they’re also fun, easy to ride, and convenient, there’s extremely easy to injure yourself with. For instance: 92 riders observed came out of their accidents with head injuries. 

“Helmet use is of utmost importance,” Trivedi said after seeing the damage done. California just implemented a new law that allows adults over 18 to decide if they want to wear a helmet while riding an e-scooter. He can’t understand why you’d ride so fast amongst cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other scooter riders without protecting your head.

Trivedi said the study members did not work with or reach out to any e-scooter companies during the course of their research. Bird’s director of safety policy and advocacy Paul Steely White said in an emailed statement that the company would like to work with the authors “so that we can have a productive and collaborative conversation that focuses on proven preventative measures and education.”

He called the report “very limited,” and went on to criticize its shortcomings, such as overlooking the big picture of all road injuries and deaths from cars and motorcycles.

“[The study] fails to take into account the sheer number of e-scooter trips taken—the number of injuries reported would amount to a fraction of one percent of the total number of e-scooter rides.  Moreover, the report fails to put e-scooter injuries into context as they relate to the high number and severity of injuries and deaths caused by motorcycles and automobiles,” White wrote.

Beyond the LA area, San Francisco started tracking scooter-related injuries when its pilot program kicked off mid-October with two e-scooter operators, Skip and Scoot. A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson said 17 injuries have come in since – all from Skip, with two reported as “severe.” Scoot didn’t report any injuries to the transit agency.

In Portland, Oregon, a pilot program closely observed how residents were using e-scooters last year. The city’s transportation department reported 700,000 e-scooter trips during the four-month program. Between July 25 and  Nov. 20, the county reported 176 emergency room and urgent care visits related to scooter incidents. 

The Portland findings look very similar to what the UCLA study found. Broken down, the majority (83 percent) were people falling off scooters. Only one scooter-on-scooter accident was reported. In only six reported incidents the rider was wearing a helmet. In 23 of the 176 incidents, it was explicitly noted the rider wasn’t wearing one. 

In 16 percent of incidents drunken scooting was determined as the cause. (Now’s a good time to remind everyone you can get a DUI for riding a scooter under the influence.)

The scooter-sharing companies don’t want a reputation for providing a dangerous, emergency-room experience, but their efforts haven’t done much to curtail bad practices. Sure, there are helmet giveaways, safety campaigns, and in-app instructions on how to ride properly, but the incidents keep piling up.

Lime said in an email statement, “At Lime, the safety of our riders and the community is our number one priority. That’s why every day we’re innovating on technology, infrastructure and education to set the standard for micromobility safety.”

A spokesperson pointed out that Lime has new scooters to make for an improved (and hopefully safer) riding experience. The company also gave away 250,000 free helmets and put $3 million into a safety education campaign.

As far as helmets, a Lime spokesperson said “Lime supports the [American Medical Association’s] recommendations to further innovate helmet designs and for the industry to continue focusing on safety.”

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Spin, which Ford acquired late last year, has a partnership with folding helmet company Overrade Plixi in an effort to encourage head protection while scooting. A spokesperson said safety demos are held in cities where they operate. The next one will be in Boise for Spin’s upcoming launch there.

But the company believes safety goes beyond helmets. Spin says it’s just as much about designing city streets and sharing the road and about maintaining a healthy fleet of vehicles. 

Scoot, which operates motorized mopeds and standing e-scooters, said in an email that they track incidents from riders that come in through the app, website, and social media. Every moped comes with two helmets and the vehicle is put out of service if one is missing. If you’re caught not wearing a helmet, you could be booted off the Scoot platform. 

Ride safely!

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Startups Weekly: Squad’s screen-shares and Slack’s swastika

We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018.

Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk about is Slack’s new logo… As part of its public listing prep, Slack announced some changes to its branding this week, including a vaguely different looking logo. Considering the flack the $7 billion startup received instantaneously and accusations that the negative space in the logo resembled a swastika — Slack would’ve been better off leaving its original logo alone; alas…

On to more important matters.

Rubrik more than doubled its valuation

The data management startup raised a $261 million Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, an increase from the $1.3 billion valuation it garnered with a previous round. In true unicorn form, Rubrik’s CEO told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden it’s intentionally unprofitable: “Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

Deal of the week: Knock gets $400M to take on Opendoor

Will 2019 be a banner year for real estate tech investment? As $4.65 billion was funneled into the space in 2018 across more than 350 deals and with high-flying startups attracting investors (Compass, Opendoor, Knock), the excitement is poised to continue. This week, Knock brought in $400 million at an undisclosed valuation to accelerate its national expansion. “We are trying to make it as easy to trade in your house as it is to trade in your car,” Knock CEO Sean Black told me.

Cybersecurity stays hot

While we’re on the subject of VCs’ favorite industries, TechCrunch cybersecurity reporter Zack Whittaker highlights some new data on venture investment in the industry. Strategic Cyber Ventures says more than $5.3 billion was funneled into companies focused on protecting networks, systems and data across the world, despite fewer deals done during the year. We can thank Tanium, CrowdStrike and Anchorfree’s massive deals for a good chunk of that activity.

Send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Fundraising efforts continue

I would be remiss not to highlight a slew of venture firms that made public their intent to raise new funds this week. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures filed to raise $350 million across two new funds and Redpoint Ventures set a $400 million target for two new China-focused funds. Meanwhile, Resolute Ventures closed on $75 million for its fourth early-stage fund, BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth effort, Maverick Ventures announced a $382 million evergreen fund, First Round Capital introduced a new pre-seed fund that will target recent graduates, Techstars decided to double down on its corporate connections with the launch of a new venture studio and, last but not least, Lance Armstrong wrote his very first check as a VC out of his new fund, Next Ventures.

More money goes toward scooters

In case you were concerned there wasn’t enough VC investment in electric scooter startups, worry no more! Flash, a Berlin-based micro-mobility company, emerged from stealth this week with a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in 2019. Bird and Lime are in the process of raising $700 million between them, too, indicating the scooter funding extravaganza of 2018 will extend into 2019 — oh boy!

Startups secure cash

  • Niantic finally closed its Series C with $245 million in capital commitments and a lofty $4 billion valuation.
  • Outdoorsy, which connects customers with underused RVs, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.
  • Ciitizen, a developer of tools to help cancer patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Footwear startup Birdies — no, I don’t mean Allbirds or Rothy’s — brought in an $8 million Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Slow Ventures and earlier investor Forerunner Ventures.
  • And Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth $125 million with new funding.

Feature of the week

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine introduced readers to Squad this week, a screensharing app for social phone addicts.

Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I marveled at the dollars going into scooter startups, discussed Slack’s upcoming direct listing and debated how the government shutdown might impact the IPO market.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

E-scooter startup Bird is raising another $300M

Electric scooter startup Bird is said to be nearing a deal to extend its Series C funding with an additional $300 million led by cross-over investor Fidelity, according to an Axios report. Bird declined to comment.

Fidelity has not previously invested in Bird and is reportedly doing so at a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion, which Bird earned with a $300 million Sequoia-led financing in June. Santa Monica-based Bird has raised more than $400 million in venture capital funding to date from investors, including Accel, CRV, Greycroft, Index Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Craft Ventures and Tusk Ventures.

The investment comes at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Lime, Bird’s biggest e-scooter competitor, has at least expanded its suite of micro-mobility offerings from bikes and scooters to LimePods, a line of shareable vehicles available in Seattle, to peak investor interest. San Francisco-based Lime has been seen pitching to investors in Silicon Valley recently, too, with reports indicating it’s looking for a $400 million investment at a $3 billion valuation — more than three times the valuation it garnered with a $335 million round in July.