The E-Scooter Wars Are Heating Up, and Now You Can Have Your Own Fleet

Bird looks to expand by franchising

Cities are just catching up with the scooter phenomenon. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

As the scooter wars heat up, at least one major player is attempting to gain dominance through the good old-fashioned franchise model. In November, Bird announced the launch of Bird Platform, which allows people to independently operate their very own scooter fleet.

According to TechCrunch, franchisees will have “free rein to brand as they please, as well as access to the company’s marketplace of chargers and mechanics, in exchange for 20 percent of the cost of each ride.” And so far, says Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden, there have been nearly 300 “interested parties.”

If the franchise concept does catch on, it will be interesting to see what effect it has on existing safety issues, as well as urban infrastructure. After all, cities are still just catching up with the scooter phenomenon and are looking into permitting processes or debating whether permits are needed at all.

Arielle Fleisher, senior transportation policy associate at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, says transit innovations like these spur cities to evolve the public transportation system. “I think what we’re moving to is a really flexible transportation system where transportation is consumed as a menu of options,” she says.

Franchised fleets are a departure for the e-scooter business as a whole. With few exceptions—including Lime and Spin—most companies don’t even let riders charge the scooters themselves.

“We don’t think that this—managing an electric vehicle that lots of people are riding on city streets—is something that you should be able to download an app and pretend that you’re a mechanic or pretend that you know how to recharge the vehicle,” says Scoot founder and CEO Michael Keating.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 7, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.