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Bird Canada merger offers cash infusion for e-scooter firm

IMAGE: A Bird e-scooter in use
A Bird e-scooter in use. (Courtesy Bird Canada)

As part of a merger with its more successful Canadian counterpart, financially troubled Bird Global, Inc. will integrate Bird Canada’s micromobility operations into its wider business this quarter.

The integration is part of a $42.6 million funding transaction with Bird Canada which was announced in December, as well as a shakeup of the global operation's senior management and board.

Headquartered in Miami, Bird Global (BRDS-N) offers electric scooters for short-term rentals, as well as direct-to-consumer electric scooters and bikes.

The Canadian equivalent is based in Toronto and also operates in Ottawa, Windsor and several cities in Alberta including Airdrie, Okotoks, Calgary, Edmonton, Leduc, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and St. Albert.

“I’m extremely excited by the road ahead and what we can do as one team,” said Shane Torchiana, Bird Global’s CEO, in a statement on the transaction. “With this additional capital, we have bolstered our liquidity outlook and believe we are positioned to reach our goal of adjusted EBITDA profitability in 2023.”

Bird Global was founded in 2017 by former Lyft and Uber executive Travis VanderZanden. The global operation currently has a fleet of around 117,000 e-scooters.

Bird Canada was founded in 2019 as Bird’s platform partner and has operated independently using Bird branding, vehicles and technology. The Canadian arm is looking to grow in Toronto and expand into in Vancouver and Montreal.

The funding is split into approximately $40 million in convertible notes, as well around $2.6 million investment from VanderZanden and a “personal investment” from Torchiana.

Bird Global first went public on the NYSE in November 2021 valued at US$2.3 billion.

Bird Canada and Bird Global

With the transaction closed, three Bird Canada executives have joined Bird Global. The first is Stewart Lyons, CEO and founder of Bird Canada, as president. 

“After four years of building the most successful operator in the Bird Global network, we are very excited to bring our lean operating philosophy and proven experience in shared micromobility to Bird Global,” Lyons said in a statement.

Michael Washinushi will join Bird as CFO after serving in that role previously for FreshBooks and SiriusXM Canada. Current CFO Ben Lu will become a strategic advisor.

JJ Bitove, the CFO and co-founder of Bird Canada, will join as the vice president of corporate development and strategy. 

There are also three additions to Bird Global’s board: John Bitove, Bird Canada chairman and co-founder; Antonio Occhionero, managing partner at MKB; and Kevin Talbot, managing partner of Relay Ventures and Bird Canada co-founder.

Bird Canada’s operations will be integrated into the global brand.

Bird Global’s 2022

Bird Global suffered a rocky 2022, part of the reason for the merger with, and cash infusion from, its Canadian counterpart.

In June, the company laid off 23 per cent of its employees and then received a warning from the NYSE that it was at risk of being delisted if its stock continued to trade under $1.

In October, Bird Global exited Germany, Sweden and Norway. It also began preparing “to wind down operations in several dozen additional, primarily small- to mid-sized markets across the United States and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).”

A Bird Global spokesperson told SustainableBiz in an email exchange it has continued to operate in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

In November, the company announced its financial reports for 2020 and 2021 were inaccurate after the firm incorrectly accounted for preloaded ‘wallet’ balances as revenue. The reports were restated on Nov. 18. 

In its Q3 2022 earnings call, Bird Global reported it had lost $322 million in the first nine months of the year.

In the call, Torchiana explained the company’s future strategy: “Looking ahead, we plan to grow our business through measured geographic expansion and optimization of our pricing and deployment strategies, leveraging our best-in-class vehicles, technology platform and global brand.”

By contrast, Bird Canada reported strong growth, announcing in November announced its riders had taken over three million trips and travelled over eight million kilometres since its inception.

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