Gavin John / The Globe and Mail
Bird Canada has won a huge supporter for its planned cross-country rollout of shared electric scooters and e-bikes.
Toronto-based Bird Canada has raised funds from Montreal-based MKB, a private equity fund investing in sustainable transportation and energy projects, and three of its current institutional backers to help grow a network that is currently e-scooter rents six cities in Alberta and Ontario.
Bird Canada chief executive officer Stewart Lyons said the funding was “in the millions” but declined to provide an exact number.
“It will hopefully allow us to penetrate more Canadian markets faster as we see increased interest from cities across the country and we want to take advantage of this,” Lyons said in an interview. The company is a subsidiary of the US-based Bird Rides Inc.
New markets on the company’s radar include Hamilton; Richmond, BC; London, Ontario; and cities in Saskatchewan, he said.
Former Uber executive Travis VanderZanden founded Bird four years ago in Santa Monica, California and opened the doors with a fleet of just 10 e-scooters. The company now operates joint fleets in more than 120 cities in 25 countries, and recent financing has valued the parent company at over $ 2 billion.
To date, Canadians have made more than a million trips on Bird Canada e-scooters, which have a top speed of 25 kilometers per hour and a range of 40 kilometers. The scooters are used in spring and collected again in winter.
Interest in what is known as micromobility increased during the pandemic as health concerns led some commuters to avoid public transit and ridesharing, Lyons said. Meanwhile, cities have also been looking for ways to reduce vehicle traffic on congested roads while limiting greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Three domestic private equity funds – Obelysk, Relay Ventures, and Alate Partners – launched Bird’s e-scooter business in Canada in 2019. Cities like Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa were the first to host fleets, while Bird e-scooters made their debut in Windsor, Ontario this summer.
MKB recently launched a $ 150 million fund that invests in companies focused on the decarbonization and electrification of energy and transportation. Before MKB supported Bird Canada, MKB invested money in the Quebec-based auto store network company AddEnergie and the vehicle battery manufacturer Ample.
“Many larger cities and towns across Canada are taking the important step of evaluating the benefits of shared e-scooter programs as an alternative, sustainable transportation option,” said Antonio Occhionero, partner at MKB, who joins Bird Canada’s board of directors.
MKB donors include wealthy families and the Business Development Bank of Canada, Caisse de dépôt et Placement du Québec, and Investissement Québec.
Not every Canadian jurisdiction is jumping on the e-scooter train. In May, Toronto City Council rejected an Ontario-wide pilot project over concerns that e-scooters could pose problems on the streets for people with disabilities and fail to meet a number of safety standards.
At the time, Bird Canada said in a press release that it was “disappointed” with the Toronto City Council’s decision. The company said, “If the city of Toronto is serious about becoming more sustainable, greener and more livable, then micromobility in all its forms, including e-scooters, must be part of the solution, as it is in more than 200 cities around the world the case was world. “
With files by Jeffrey Jones
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