Two electric scooter startups, fresh off raising hundreds of millions of dollars last year, are now raising hundreds of millions more, according to multiple people familiar with the details. But the latest hard-fought deal terms for Lime and Bird Rides both peg the companies’ worth at far less than the lofty valuations the startups once sought.
New funding rounds for Lime and Bird value the San Francisco-based companies at about $2 billion, said the people, all of whom asked not to be identified because the details are private. That’s down from the roughly $3 billion-or-higher valuations the companies were said to be chasing as recently as a few months ago.
Founded in 2017, Lime and Bird became two of the youngest startups ever to reach unicorn status, after interest in electric vehicles exploded last year. But as the new valuations attest, winter has finally come for scooter companies.
In recent months, as the weather has turned colder, wet and rainy conditions have deterred riders, forcing companies to reshuffle scooters to warmer climates. Cities have been limiting the number of scooters allowed on their streets. And competitors have flooded many markets — prompting investors to begin to question the companies’ ambitious financial targets.
Startups in the industry will also now increasingly find themselves up against Uber Technologies, which is exploring introducing an electric moped pilot later this year, according to people familiar with the plans. The ride-hailing giant would follow startups like Scoot Networks, Scoobi LLC and Spain’s Sharing Muving, which already offer the vehicles in some cities. The advantages to the moped format over the scooter is that it’s faster and more useful for longer distances, but it also usually requires a license, and may feel riskier for some than the lighter-weight scooter.
Uber and Lyft Inc. both plan to go public this year, and are eager to show investors that they’re positioned to cash in on new transit trends. In addition to offering scooters of its own, through its brand Jump, Uber is also producing nearly 1,000 electric bikes a day in China, people familiar with the plans have said. Lyft has also launched scooters in nine cities, including Washington and Los Angeles.
With so many companies vying for the same customers, many believe that consolidation in the scooter industry is inevitable. Though no deal has come together, both Lime and Bird have discussed a potential acquisition by Uber. And SoftBank Group Corp., Uber’s largest investor, is said to have talked with most of the major scooter companies about an investment. None has been announced.
Despite the industry chill, though, money is still pouring into scooter startups. Lime is raising at least $300 million from investors at a valuation of about $2 billion, according to three people. The valuation doubled from June. Total investment in the round could expand up to $400 million, the people said.
Existing Lime investors Andreessen Horowitz and Alphabet Inc.’s GV are participating in the company’s funding round, one person said. Bain Capital Ventures, a new investor in Lime, is also joining the round. Asked about the deal, a spokesman for Lime declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Bird is bringing in $300 million, said a person familiar with the matter. The company is raising the money at a roughly $2 billion valuation, unchanged from last year. Fidelity Investments participated in the first half of the latest financing, the person said. Now, Bird is in the process of completing the second half of the round. Axios, Recode and the Wall Street Journal previously reported details of the deals.
The new funding rounds show that investors remain optimistic about scooters. Many likely still buy into the premise that small electric vehicles could transform urban transit. And there’s another upside for Bird and Lime: Spring is just a few months away.