Covid-19: Coronavirus prompts layoffs at eScooter startup Bird

Bird has already paused shared scooter operations in many markets around the world and drastically cut spending, and is now ‘saying goodbye’ to 30% of its workforce, VanderZanden said. — Los Angeles Times/TNS

SAN FRANCISCO: Electric-scooter startup Bird on March 27 said it is laying off nearly a third of its workforce to survive damage done to its service by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bird has already paused shared scooter operations in many markets around the world and drastically cut spending, and is now “saying goodbye” to 30% of its workforce, founder and chief executive Travis VanderZanden said in a memo to employees at the Southern California-based company.

“We've watched the Covid-19 pandemic radically and quickly transform our lives, the world, and our business in less than a month,” VanderZanden said in the memo, a copy of which was shared with AFP.

“Given the unknown timeline and current economic situation, we were forced to cut back in this way to elongate the trajectory of Bird and our mission.”

Bird recently raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, but is slashing costs to ensure it has enough money to keep it running through next year, according to VanderZanden.

Bird is curbing all spending not related to keeping the startup afloat, according to the chief executive.

“History suggests that people will demand a large scale mobility option that still allows for personal distancing,” VanderZanden said.

“And Bird will be there.”

Bird workers losing jobs were assured severance pay and extended health plan coverage.

“This once in a decade black swan event presents one of the greatest challenges in history,” VanderZanden said in the memo.

Transport company Lime last week pulled its electric scooters from nearly two dozen countries, including the United States, as the new coronavirus spread worldwide.

“Like you, we are worried about the cities we love and call home, the people we serve, and our colleagues on the ground,” said Brad Bao, the chief executive and founder of Lime.

Bao said in cities where the scooters will still be available, the company is taking extra precautions including “cleaning all parts of the scooter that are touched by people”.

Nonetheless, Bao said, customers should wipe down scooters or bikes before using them and wear gloves as a precaution. — AFP

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