I distinctly remember the fist time the concept of a “Bird” scooter crossed my path. It was the summer of 2018 and at the time I was regularly going to a noon class at the local Crossfit gym. One fateful day, a fellow Crossfitter pulled up to the class on an electric scooter. That wasn’t particularly unusual. What was unusual was what this person did with the scooter upon arriving. Instead of bringing the scooter safely into the gym or locking it up to a bike rack outside, the guy just left it right in the middle of the sidewalk. No lock or anything to prevent it from being stolen. This was highly bizarre considering in this particular neighborhood, bikes get stolen if they are left unattended for 30 seconds.
Confused, I asked what was going on. And that’s when I first learned of the concept of Bird scooters.
Within a few months of that first encounter, you literally could not walk 10 feet in Los Angeles without either tripping over a parked Bird or being clipped by a rider zooming down the sidewalk.
Bird was founded in Santa Monica, California in 2017 by an entrepreneur named Travis VanderZanden. Travis started his tech career at Qualcomm. He then spent a few years at a company called Yammer before founding an on-demand car wash service called Cherry. In 2013 Cherry was acquired by Lyft. With the acquisition, Travis became the Chief Operating officer of Lyft, a position he held for about a year before he jumped ship to become VP of International Growth for Uber. Lyft actually sued him for allegedly breaking a confidentiality agreement. Travis stayed at Uber through October 2016.
As we stated a moment ago, Travis founded Bird in 2017. The company’s first scooters were distributed around LA in September of that year. In February of 2018 the company raised $15 million in Series A financing. A month later, Bird raised $100 million in a Series B round. Just two months after that, Bird raised another $150 million in a Series C round. At this round, Bird’s valuation breached $1 billion for the first time. That’s also known as reaching “unicorn” status.
From founding to unicorn in less than a year. Bird is the FASTEST company to reach a $1 billion valuation.
In June 2018 Bird raised $300 million at a $2 billion valuation. After several additional funding rounds, Bird eventually reached a private valuation of $2.8 billion.
In total, Bird raised $415 million in a half dozen private rounds. It has been estimated that company founder Travis VanderZanden personally took home $100 million of that $415 million selling his personal equity. Perhaps as much as $200 million. Even after these private sales, Travis still owned an estimated 20% of Bird’s stock. At the $2.8 billion valuation he had a paper net worth of…
With that newfound paper wealth (and actual real wealth from his stock sales), in November 2018 Travis paid $8 million in cash for a newly-constructed mansion in Santa Monica, California. He sold this home in June 2021 for $9 million.
In January 2021 Travis paid $21.7 million for a mansion in Bel Air. The seller was Trevor Noah.
Six months later, Travis decided he didn’t want this mansion anymore so he listed it for $25 million. It sold in March 2022 for $26.4 million. Here’s a video tour of this mansion:
In November 2021, Travis decided to take his talents to Miami, with the purchase of a $22 million mansion in the town of Coral Cables.
The very same month of the Miami mansion purchase, almost exactly one year ago, Bird went public via SPAC. Bird went public at price of $8. That gave the company a market cap of…
At that point, Travis owned 13% of Bird. That stake was worth $325 million on paper.
Fast forward to the present. Want to guess how much a single share of Bird (ticker symbol “BRDS”) will cost you? Remember, one year ago today a single share would cost you $8.
That is not a typo.
As I write this article, Bird’s market cap is a little over $70 million. Again, not a typo.
If Travis did indeed cash-out $100 million, he received more than the company’s entire current valuation. His Florida mansion is 1/3 as valuable as the whole company. Today Travis’ 13% equity stake is worth about $9 million.
Just a few weeks ago Bird issued a statement to the SEC warning it may not have enough funds to continue operating over the next year.