Bird vs. Lime: It’s the scooter money wars

May 12, 2021, 2:35 PM UTC

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It’s official.

Scooter startup Bird Rides is going public via merger with a special purpose acquisition company in a deal that values the business at $2.3 billion—about 19.3% below its last-known private market valuation in January 2020. The news, announced Wednesday, confirmed an earlier report from

The news comes after Bird and rival Lime struggled in the pandemic (Bird took on debt, while Lime took a downround). But investors and operators later said that consumers avoiding enclosed public transportation shifted toward such short-distance mobility options like e-scooters and bikes. Even cities seemed more willing to accept the trend: New York City, a staunch holdout, approved Bird, Lime, and VeoRide for coveted pilot deals in April. 

And now expansion seems back on the books. In March, Bird said it would invest massively in Europe, spending $150 million on the market.

I’m getting a sense of deja vu: It feels like 2018 all over again, when scooter startups were hotly competing for placement in U.S. cities, but now with a different region of focus. In the past year, heartened by cities’ friendlier attitudes toward scooter startups, investors have poured hundreds of millions of funding into many European scooter businesses like Dott , Tier, or Voi—not to mention the less well-funded businesses like Zeus and Superpedestrian

It mirrors the explosion in funding to companies like Bird, LimeBike, Spin, and Skip back in 2018.

But companies in the space vy for business in the same cities by virtue of the problem scooters are trying to solve—last-mile travel (which is why each has turned so quickly and early toward international expansion). And many now argue European cities are better configured for scooters. In short: Across the pond, it’s heavy competition.

Back before the pandemic, massive funding made way to quick acquisitions: In 2018, Ford acquired Spin (which was then largely focused on the U.S.) for an estimated $100 million. In 2019, Bird acquired Scoot for about $25 million—a measly sum given the company had raised $47 million in venture funding.

As the pandemic galvanized a new wave of scooter upstarts, no doubt the M&A wave will come again. And as with Scoot’s acquisition, not everyone will be getting a good deal.

IS INVESTING IN ASTROLOGY STARTUPS ETHICAL? Yesterday, I highlighted Sanctuary, an astrology startup that also sells psychic readings to users for no low price. U.S. laws around psychic readings are patchwork at best, with CEO and founder Ross Clark arguing the app is offering entertainment rather than fortune-telling—exempting it from the more onerous of state laws. The readings, Clark says, is a practice in empathy rather than actually peering into the crystal ball. But still, the question remains, is funding the practice ethical? 

Some investors think otherwise. Lux Capital’s Josh Wolfe on Twitter did not mince his words upon hearing news of the startup’s seed funding: “Seriously shame on anyone funding or encouraging this bullsh*t. No doubt there is demand, but this isn’t peddling entertainment, it’s encouraging slippery slope snake oil flapdoodle.” Here too is Vinod Khosla at Khosla Ventures in response to Wolfe’s tweet: “Agree. There is also demand for heroin, fat, sugar… I’d be ashamed to fund such a venture.” 

Proponents argue that astrology and psychic readings play a similar role as religion or therapy, while its detractors argue the practice is rooted in pseudoscience. 

So readers, what do you think?

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda

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