THE SCOOTER TALENT WARS
Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
Two high-level Uber employees have left the tech giant to join electric scooter startup Bird.
Dennis Cinelli, who was head of finance of global rides at Uber, will serve as Bird’s vice president and head of finance. Yibo Ling, who was Uber’s director of corporate development, will now be the vice president of corporate development at Bird and will also lead the startup’s China team. Both Cinelli and Ling will report directly to Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden.
“As Bird enters its second year, we’re continuing to expand our talented executive team to build on and scale our momentum,” VanderZanden said in a statement. “Dennis and Yibo both bring valuable experience expanding markets and I look forward to working with them closely as we continue on our mission.”
VanderZanden himself spent two years at Uber as the vice president of global driver growth before he left to launch the electric scooter company. Bird has since raised more than $400 million in venture funding and expanded its operations across 100 cities worldwide.
Scooters have become a recent area of interest to Uber, which deployed Jump-branded scooters onto the streets of Santa Monica and invested in Lime while adding the scooters as an option on its app, in effort to compete with Bird.
But VanderZanden doesn’t see Uber’s existing customer base of millions of people as much of a threat, touting Bird’s first-mover advantage as key to outmaneuvering his rivals.
“We were the first in the world to do electric scooter sharing, and we launched a little over a year ago,” VanderZanden said on Tuesday. “We’re the furthest along from a supply chain standpoint as well as from a government relations standpoint.”
And Bird wresting two experienced executives away from Uber may be testament to the scooter company’s rising profile. An Uber spokesperson confirmed the departures and declined to comment further.
Cinelli, who spent two years at Uber helping build and lead the finance team responsible for Uber’s global rides operations, said “coming from Rideshare 1.0,” he sees that Bird has “taken the transportation space to the next level by pioneering Rideshare 2.0 and solving many transportation problems.”
Whether its 1.0 or 2.0, there’s only one transportation problem that really matters: Is there enough room on the road for all these ridesharing companies? And if not, who will end up left in the dust? Read the story on Fortune.com.
FEEDBACK FRIDAY: On a related note, yesterday I asked Term Sheet readers the following question: Who do you see winning the scooter wars, and why?
Below is a selection of your responses:
Ajay: There will be multiple winners. I think the scooter wars will play out much like the ride-sharing wars with regional players having significant advantage even as global players take a lead. In the US, most people tend to think of only Uber and Lyft as ride sharing companies but around the globe there are several others: Didi, Grab, Ola, 99Taxi; all unicorns!
Similarly, we believe, regional players in the scooter world who understand local regulations and norms and have local connections, will grow rapidly. As Travis points out, it’s easier to launch scooters in geograpies where there are lax regulations. We feel Asia and LatAm are therefore ripe markets. LatAm, in particular, has cities with some of the largest usage of ride-sharing so we believe that area will be particularly interesting for scooters.
Ian: I believe Lime will win the category, although I think there can be multiple winners in the space. I think Lime's mix of solutions (dockless bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters) meets more customers where they are (helps lower barriers to entry). Plus, probably doesn't hurt to have Uber on your side. That said, I think the Bird scooters are the best-looking of the bunch.
Zach: Unlike the ride-hailing world, where you have Uber and Lyft, I don’t foresee much, if any, customer loyalty to any of the scooter companies (Bird, Lime, etc.). As mentioned by Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden, with Uber and Lyft you first go onto the app and then get in the ride, whereas with scooters, you see the scooter and then get on the app. I believe this view of how the consumer will operate is spot on. Having done it myself while in the States, people will have the apps to all the scooter companies in their city, and when they come across a scooter, no matter which company, they will simply go to the appropriate company’s app.
So what does this mean? To me, the winner of the “scooter wars” will be whoever is in the most cities, with the most number of scooters, located in the most prime areas. Beyond this fairly basic idea of how the “war” will be won, I think local operations will play a key role in this race. The local operators who can best quickly redistribute, charge, and repair their scooters will dominate their cities.
Thomas: Actually, I think e-bikes will win the scooter war. Slightly faster, safer and they don't take that much more space. I hear stories about increased patients with e-scooter accidents. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find statistics of e-bike (Jump) vs. e-scooter accidents per mile driven, but I am quite sure that the pothole covered streets of Los Angeles are not a great place to ride 16 mph on those tiny scooter wheels. The cost of Jump e-bike right now is the same as on Bird or Lime or Lyft — and they are giving away free rides in Santa Monica right now — so I think Uber / Jump e-bikes will win.
Anonymous: Who wins the scooter wars? People who own gyms. Lime bikes require everything scooters don’t: effort. Will I bike 5 minutes to the gym? Of course not. Will I scooter? Absolutely.
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