Uber may buy one of the two largest scooter-sharing startups, according to The Information. The ride-hailing company has reportedly held talks with Bird about a "multibillion-dollar" acquisition and has reportedly talked with rival Lime as well.
Scooter sharing has become a major area of expansion for both Uber and rival Lyft. The explosive growth of Bird and Lime hasn't gone unnoticed by the two ride-hailing companies. Uber and Lyft are also seeking alternatives to their core ride-hailing business, which is beginning to get pushback from regulators due to issues like driver wages and traffic congestion.
Uber already has a stake in Lime, as well as an agreement to rent Lime scooters through its app. Lime has refused to comment publicly about a possible Uber acquisition, while Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden has told multiple media outlets that "Bird is not for sale," without denying talks with Uber.
Uber has tried to develop its own scooter-sharing program through Jump, the startup it acquired earlier this year. But buying Bird or Lime would speed things up for Uber. Both startups are more established, with existing operations in multiple United States cities. Bird also operates in a handful of international cities.
Time is of the essence for Uber. Lyft is working to expand its own scooter-sharing service, which launched in Denver earlier this year. Lyft previously leapfrogged Uber by purchasing Motivate, the largest bike-sharing operator in the U.S. Acquiring Bird or Lime could allow Uber to pull off a similar upset as both it and Lyft head for initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2019.