Scooter rental start-up Bird is preparing to embark on a massive new phase of expansion across Asia and Latin America, new job listings show, as it looks to head off the emergence of local rivals around the world.
Bird is looking to hire managers and logistics experts to oversee its escooter fleet and operations in almost a dozen new city hubs, including Mumbai, Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul and Hanoi in Asia; and Mexico City, Bogotá, Buenos Aires and Lima in Latin America.
Job advertisements posted online this month also point to a new office in Hong Kong, giving Bird a potential foothold in China, home to bike-hire pioneers Mobike and ofo.
A Bird spokesperson declined to comment on the job advertisements.
Los Angeles-based Bird closed a $300m funding round in June to fuel its expansion outside the US. So far, that has only taken its escooters as far as Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Tel Aviv. Lime, its main rival, has also focused on Europe for its first forays overseas and is targeting a total of 150 markets by the end of this year.
Facing intensifying competition, Bird and Lime have together raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the past year in the hopes of getting ahead.
Their rapid rollout in cities across the US has allowed millions of customers to take a combined total of more than 20m rides to date, despite ongoing regulatory and safety concerns around the novel services.
That growth has not gone unnoticed by investors and entrepreneurs in other parts of the world.
For instance, Yellow, which launched Brazil’s first dockless bike- and scooter-sharing service in Brazil in August, has already raised $75m from investors including Silicon Valley fund GGV Capital and Grishin Robotics, the hardware-focused venture capital firm led by Mail.ru co-founder Dmitry Grishin.
When it announced its most recent funding round earlier this month, Yellow said it planned to expand in Brazil and Mexico before tackling Colombia, Chile and Argentina. Yellow also plans to build its own scooter manufacturing facility.
Bird’s planned expansion in Asia comes after a tough year for China’s bike-sharing companies such as ofo and Meituan Dianping-owned Mobike, which have scaled back their own international expansion plans after problems with vandalism and struggling to turn a profit.
Alongside its international hiring spree, Bird’s job ads also point to its own growing ambitions in vehicle design and production.
So far, the vast majority of scooters available for hire have been produced by China’s Segway-Ninebot, with only limited customisation. Bird has recently experimented with more ruggedised new models produced by little-known Chinese manufacturer Electisan. Building scooters that are more specifically designed to be left on the street all day and shared between several different users could help to increase the lifespan of the vehicles and improve safety.
In recent weeks, Bird has posted ads seeking manufacturing supervisors in both California and its European hub in the Netherlands. It is also looking to hire R&D engineers to work on what the postings describe as “a large number of special projects in the pipeline ranging from small mechanical devices to complete vehicle systems”.
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