Scooter Startup Bird Plans International Expansion

The company will launch pilots in Paris and Tel Aviv.

Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Scooter-sharing startup Bird was founded just about a year ago, but it's already plotting to expand into international markets. Bird will deploy scooters in Paris and Tel Aviv in a pair of pilot programs as the California-based company looks to spread its wings.

Bird will start with 50 to 100 scooters in each city. In Paris, the company will charge an initial fee of one euro ($1.17 at current exchange rates), and 0.15 euro ($0.17) for each minute of use, according to TechCrunch. In Tel Aviv, the initial fee will be five shekels ($1.36), and 50 agorot ($0.14) per minute.

Paris and Tel Aviv were chosen because they are "tech- and innovation-forward" cities, and are looking at transportation options beyond cars to reduce traffic congestion, Patrick Studener, Bird's head of Europe, Middle East, and African markets, said in an interview with The Verge. Paris, in particular, has made aggressive moves to reduce the number of cars on its streets, including attempting a "day without cars," in which cars were banned from the city's core.

Bird currently operates in 30 U.S. cities and has raised over $400 million since launching last year. The company is now valued at $2 billion, according to The Verge. That explosion in growth and value testifies to the booming popularity of scooters, but regulatory issues threaten to take the wind from beneath Bird's wings.

Bird got into a scuffle with its hometown of Santa Monica, California, where officials complained of accidents and scooters being left in doorways and on wheelchair ramps. While that argument appears to have been resolved, Bird has encountered similar issues in other cities. The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has asked Bird to remove its scooters until the company gets the proper permits, and Milwaukee is mulling legislation that would allow the city to impound scooters.

Bird's rapid growth in some way parallels that of Uber, a company which the aforementioned Studener and founder Travis VanderZanden both have experience with. Like the ride-hailing company, Bird is riding a wave of popularity in order to quickly expand into new markets, while regulators are left scrambling to deal with the changes wrought by a new transportation service. Asking for forgiveness rather than permission worked for Uber initially, but the company's recent troubles show how that attitude can backfire.