And Uber is going with . . . Bird (looks like)

Five months ago, the Bay Area-based electric scooter rental company Limejoined forces with the ride-hailing giant Uber, which both invested in the company as part of a $335 million round and said it was going to promote Lime in its mobile app.
Its looking now like that may have been a mistake for Lime. Though Lime presumably shared information with its investor, Uber is now on the cusp of acquiring Limes fiercest rival Bird, according to several sources, none of whom quite knows at what price as of this writing.
What were hearing at the moment: talk in the neighborhood of $2 billion. Thatsthe valuationthat Bird was assigned in the spring by investors when it raised its most recent round of $300 million, and its the same valuation that was being discussed recently by investors who contemplated giving the company an extension of that last round.
Its also a price tag that could potentially double if the deal is an all-equity offering and Uber, currently valued at roughly $60 billion, is able to go public at a $120 billion valuation. Crazy as it sounds today, bankers have reportedly suggested that its possible.
A request to Bird for comment from this afternoon was not returned before we published this piece, though founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden now tells us the company is not for sale. As originally noted, VanderZanden has also told employees the company is not for sale.
For his part, Lime cofounder Brad Bao was also asked about acquisition talks with Uber and said at a Business Insider conference today that he was very flattered to be part of the speculation but, like VanderZanden, he insisted that Lime wants to remain an independent company for the time being.
The Information had reported on Fridaythat Uber has held talks recently with both Bird and Lime.
Altogether, Bird, founded just 19 months ago, has raised $415 million. Its backers include Goldcrest Capital, Tusk Ventures, Craft Ventures (the investment firm of serial founder David Sacks), Index Ventures, Valor Venture Partners, and Sequoia Capital, which led the companys most recent round.
If Uber chooses Bird over Lime, few industry observers will be surprised, given that the two have always seemed similar culturally. Before founding Bird, VanderZanden worked for Lyft as its COO, and was latersuedby the company for allegedly breaking a confidentiality agreement after he left to join Uber as its VP of Global Driver Growth.
From the outside, at least, VanderZanden wholater settledwith Lyft for undisclosed terms seemed a man after the heart of Ubers original and highly hard-charging CEO, Travis Kalanick, whose tenure at the company ended in June of last year over its many cultural missteps. (Kalanick was later replaced by current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.)Even the way that Bird launched was highly reminiscent of Uber, barreling into numerous cities without first securing their explicit approval.
That strategy backfired in some places, including San Francisco, which later forced Bird, Lime, and every other scooter company that dumped its hardware on the citys streets to remove their many scooters and apply for permits first. The city then gave out permits to just two companies, neither of which was Lime or Bird. Still, by then, Bird had already generated cool cred with users that it may still enjoy to a greater extent than Lime, which launched at nearly the same time but began life with electric bikes and only layered in electric scooters after watching Birds rise.
A months-old deal with Uber may not have helped Lime as much as the company expected, either. It was back in July that Lime joined forces with the ride-hailing giant, which invested in Lime as part of a $335 million round and planned to promote Lime in its mobile app as part of the deal. According to Bloomberg, Uber also planned to plaster its logo on Limes scooters.
The deal looked to potentially be the first step toward a permanent tie-up, based on a particular precedent. To wit,Uber had struck a similar arrangement with the electric bike company JUMP bikes before spending $200 million to acquire the company in the spring.Yet while Uber has been featuring Lime within its own heavily downloaded app, the company hasnt made a major push to promote Lime which has raised $467 million altogether otherwise.
As one source familiar with Uber said about whether its intentions all along were to collect data from Lime or otherwise use its pact as leverage against it, I could see Travis Kalanick doing that. I dont think it fits Daras [modus operandi], but you never know.
What does clearly fit into Khosrowshahi mandate is finding ways for Uber to thrive, especially as its zooms inexorably toward its IPO. On this front, Bird may be able to scoot the company along faster. Though Bird and Lime compete neck-and-neck, largely using scooters from the same China-based manufacturing company, Birds first-mover advantage, plus VanderZandens history with the company, may be enough to seal the deal in this case at least as of this moment.
Of greater interest is whether either company can help Uber reach a far richer valuation than it already enjoys, and thatsanother question altogether.
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