The electric scooter provider now counts Montreal’s MKB as an equity investor, as it reports encouraging growth in ridership and continued expansion into more cities
Bird Canada is out with a rush of positive news for the company: more riders, more locations and more money as the summer 2021 season reaches the halfway point — with plenty more time to go before the shared electric scooter programs close for the year.
Over one million rides have now taken place on Bird scooters across six different locations: Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Okotoks, Ottawa and Windsor. Bird Canada says ridership this summer is double that of 2020. That growth was no doubt a factor in attracting a new round of funding from Montreal-based MKB (MacKinnon, Bennett & Co. Inc.), a venture capital firm focused on clean energy and transportation, to finance Bird Canada’s expansion into more jurisdictions and acquisition of more talent and equipment.
“This fresh injection of capital will enable us to bring our industry-leading, safe, and sustainable operations to more cities across Canada, and at the same time ensure we continue to meet the needs of the cities in which we operate,” said Stewart Lyons, CEO of Bird Canada. “We’re proud to add a Quebec-based fund to our roster of investors, especially as we work to add cities in the province to the growing number of Bird Canada municipal partners across the country.”
Biggest presence in Alberta
Bird Canada is owned by Toronto Raptors founder, John Bitove, who is also the founder of private investment company Obelysk — one of the main investors in Bird Canada.
Bird Canada’s electric scooter service debuted in Alberta in 2019. Calgary was the first city to host the micro-mobility solution (now it’s the location for the company’s operational headquarters) and Bird Canada has since expanded from there, with its biggest presence remaining in Alberta.
Bird Canada owns the rights to operate the Bird Rides Inc. platform, but it is an independently owned company. Bird Rides operates in over 200 cities worldwide, has over 95 million rides to date and was recently valued at US$2.3 billion in a recent merger, according to public company materials.
The company is estimating it will have US$308 million in profits by 2023 and see 114 per cent growth between 2021 and 2022, but claims the global market share for electric micro-mobility scooter rides is an eye-watering US$800 billion per year.
Regulations stymie widespread adoption
It’s been a difficult slog in Canada for Bird. Choppy regulations around electric scooters being allowed (or not) on public roads, with significant discrepancies between the provinces and municipalities are onerous for companies offering electric micro-mobility solutions and Bird has been particularly vocal in calling for wider policy cooperation.
In May 2021 Bird Canada released a statement condemning the City of Toronto for declining to grant permission to Bird to run an electric scooter pilot. Bird said the decision “flies in the face” of research into micro-mobility vehicles and saying “positive data and learnings from other jurisdictions were routinely ignored” by city officials.
“[W]e are disappointed by the decision today,” reads the company statement in part. “Let’s not have Toronto be the city that only sees challenges when others see opportunity.”
In contrast, Bird Canada presented some encouraging preliminary results from its first program in Windsor this summer. In July the Windsor Star reported Lyons said at a safety conference and that the city’s 500 Bird scooters were used for 60,000 rides in the first two months.