Opportunity for local shared mobility solutions as Bird and Micromobility.com struggle to turn a profit

Shared mobility companies Bird and Micromobility.com (formerly Helbiz) stormed onto the scene by introducing innovative and convenient transportation solutions, capturing the attention of urban dwellers worldwide. 

However, as the micromobility industry enters a more mature phase, companies like Bird and Micromobility.com continue to grapple with obstacles when it comes to attaining financial stability. This has prompted them to reassess their excessively ambitious expansion strategies. 

What factors contribute to these challenges, and what implications does this hold for the industry as a whole? Could local micromobility ventures provide a superior solution to meet the increasing demand for these services? Let's delve further into the financial predicament of Bird and Micromobility.com to gain a better understanding.

Bird: downsizing and struggles in the stock market

Established in 2017, Bird is a micromobility company that provides electric transportation solutions in the USA and Europe. Their range of shared vehicles includes e-scooters and e-bikes. The company also sells vehicles to distributors, retailers, and direct customers. With its headquarters located in Miami, Florida, Bird currently employs 425 individuals and operates in 105 cities. 

Recently, Bird's first-quarter 2023 financials revealed challenges in maintaining ridership and revenue. Despite implementing cost-cutting measures, the company's performance failed to convince investors of its ability to achieve profitability – the company's stock plummeted nearly 19% after announcing its first-quarter earnings.

In 2022, Bird faced a challenging year. The company announced plans to completely exit Germany, Sweden, and Norway, as well as wind down operations in numerous other markets, primarily small to mid-sized, across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. They also reduced their staff by 23%.

Despite a positive revenue increase of 12.06% in 2022, the company faced substantial losses totaling $358.74 million, marking a significant 66.9% increase compared to 2021. The challenges continued in 2023 as Bird witnessed a decline in rides and deployed vehicles. With a net loss of $44.3 million recorded at the end of Q1 2023, it’s likely that the company will continue to downsize its operations.

Micromobility.com: similar woes despite the acquisition of Wheels and rebranding

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in New York, Micromobility.com delivers micromobility services in Italy, the United States, and Singapore (43 cities in total), which include e-scooters, e-bicycles, and e-mopeds. It also operates Helbiz Kitchen, a delivery-only ghost kitchen restaurant, and the Helbiz Live streaming platform. The company currently employs 284 people. 

In 2023, the company, formerly known as Helbiz, underwent a rebranding and transformed into Micromobility.com Inc. This rebranding coincided with the plans to launch retail stores across the United States.

In 2022, Micromobility.com successfully completed its acquisition of Wheels, a shared micromobility operator, along with promises to its investors that the merger would lead to a doubling of annual revenue and facilitate the path to profitability. The company set its sights on capitalizing on Wheels' extensive user base of 5 million riders and venturing into untapped markets.

Despite these hopes, Micromobility.com experienced less than stellar financial results in 2022. The company achieved a revenue of $15.54 million, indicating a 21.07% growth compared to the previous year's $12.83 million. However, the company also incurred losses amounting to -$82.07 million, reflecting a 13.3% increase compared to 2021.

In 2023, Micromobility.com announced a reverse stock split to meet Nasdaq Capital Market's minimum bid price requirement and make their common stock more attractive to investors. This move didn't come as a surprise, considering that the company received a delisting warning from Nasdaq in 2022. Coupled with its enduring track record of operating losses and negative cash flows over time, the overall outlook of the company's financial performance is rather discouraging.

Why are Bird and Micromobility.com facing financial difficulties and exiting markets?

The difficulties faced by Bird and Micromobility.com can be partly explained by their venture capital-backed business model. They witnessed swift expansion while hemorrhaging substantial amounts of money. And the more they expanded, the more money they bled. Now, it’s unsurprising to witness their heavily subsidized business models shifting their priorities from aggressive growth to mitigating losses and striving for profitability.

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of shared mobility special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC). These companies are created solely for the purpose of raising capital through an initial public offering and have no commercial operations of their own. The ultimate goal of a SPAC is to acquire or merge with an existing company.

Financial struggles have become a common theme among shared mobility SPACs This can be attributed to the rush of companies going public without first establishing a sustainable business model – and Bird and Micromobility.com are no exception to this trend. The challenges faced by these companies emphasize the significance of building a strong and viable foundation prior to entering the public market.

The relentless pursuit of expansion has proven to be an ineffective strategy. For instance, some experts suggest that Bird's decision to outsource its operations to franchises made it harder to persuade cities and secure contracts. Their emphasis on breadth rather than depth resulted in a lack of understanding regarding local communities and the nuances of local legislation. As a result, major players like Bird and Micromobility.com have been withdrawing their fleets from “less profitable” cities.

The soaring shared micromobility market: a golden opportunity for local entrepreneurs

According to a McKinsey study, the shared micromobility market has the potential to reach a staggering $50 billion to $90 billion by 2030, with an estimated annual growth rate of approximately 40% between 2019 and 2030. By 2030, shared micromobility could constitute around 10% of the overall shared mobility market. 

In this context, the recent financial challenges faced by Bird and Micromobility.com should not be seen as indicative of a bleak future for the entire industry. Instead, these setbacks highlight the inherent unsustainability of aggressive and expansive business models within the shared micromobility landscape. 

Local operators with smaller ground teams enjoy a notable edge over companies like Bird and Micromobility.com. By focusing on underserved markets and having an intimate understanding of their communities, these operators can deliver superior service while maintaining lower costs and stable profit margins. 

Returning to Bird's Q1 2023 financial report, they also reported 0.9 rides per deployed vehicle per day. Now, let's compare this figure to other operators. We conducted a survey involving two EU-based operators that make use of Atom Mobility: 

  • Operator 1: With a fleet of 4,000+ vehicles across over 10 cities, they recorded an average ride per vehicle of 0.9 in Q1 2023
  • Operator 2: Operating in a single city with a fleet of 200 vehicles, they achieved an average ride per vehicle of 2.7 in Q1 2023

As fleet sizes increase, the average ride per vehicle tends to decrease, as seen with Operator 1 and Bird. However, the figure from Operator 2 highlights the potential for local operators to thrive in underserved cities that larger shared mobility companies may neglect.

We have seen examples of this – Go Green City, a Swiss electric moped-sharing company, presently provides its services in Zurich and Basel. Their small, tightly-knit team prioritizes local knowledge, enabling them to operate with enhanced flexibility and agility – a level of service that larger companies like Bird or Micromobility.com will find challenging to match. Overall, more than 100 projects have successfully launched their shared mobility ventures with Atom Mobility's assistance, operating in over 140 cities across the globe.

As the desire for shared micromobility services grows – with a focus on community safety and the ethical integration of these modes of transportation into the overall urban transit system – it seems that local operators have a distinct edge over large multinationals.

Interested in launching your own mobility platform?

Click below to learn more or request a demo.

Related posts

More case studies

View allView all case studies
Everything you need to know about micromobility fleet insurance
Everything you need to know about micromobility fleet insurance

Discover why fleet insurance is important for shared micromobility operators. Learn how the right coverage provides peace of mind against unexpected challenges.

Read post

For shared mobility operators, fleet insurance should be one of the top priorities. No matter the size or composition of your fleet, having the right insurance can offer peace of mind by protecting your business from unforeseen situations

However, the insurance question can sometimes seem daunting – especially if you're new to the industry. In this article, we will explore the key things you need to know about insuring your shared micromobility fleet.

Why you need insurance

Operating a shared mobility fleet isn’t always smooth sailing. Accidents can happen – whether it's a minor fender-bender or something more severe. Insurance serves as your safety net, offering financial coverage for repairs, replacements, and even potential legal obligations after an incident.

Here are the main reasons why insurance should be one of the top priorities for shared mobility fleet operators: 

Legal compliance: In many places, insurance for shared mobility fleets is a legal requirement. You probably want to comply with these regulations to avoid any potential fines, penalties – or even the suspension of your operations.

Financial security: Insurance also helps keep your business going financially, no matter what happens. Without insurance, accidents, vehicle damage, or theft can seriously impact your finances. Comprehensive insurance coverage can ensure that you're not left scrambling to cover any unexpected expenses.

Understanding shared micromobility insurance

When it comes to insuring micromobility fleets, part of the challenge stems from the fact that the market is relatively new. Some insurance underwriters avoid dealing directly with micromobility because it's seen as an unfamiliar market. 

This is where brokers like Cachet and others specializing in micromobility insurance come in. They partner with various insurance underwriters to provide coverage for operators in this field.

When it comes to shared micromobility, insurance coverage generally has a twofold role: safeguarding assets and handling third-party engagement in the event of accidents.

person riding bicycle during daytime

Liability coverage: Securing third-party public liability insurance for shared mobility fleets is not just a matter of choice – in some places, it's mandated by law. This insurance serves to protect pedestrians and riders in the unfortunate event of accidents, providing financial coverage for injuries and damages that may arise. In other words, it's a safety net that offers peace of mind to operators.

When it comes to mandatory third-party liability insurance, the negotiations with the insurance company usually begin by figuring out what the local authorities require to give them a permit. After that, the insurance policy is adjusted to meet the specific demands outlined by these authorities.

Physical damage coverage: This covers the repair or replacement costs of vehicles if they are damaged due to accidents, collisions, vandalism, or theft. Depending on the policy, physical damage coverage may also extend to equipment like GPS devices, charging stations, and other hardware.

What decides your insurance premium payments?

The amount you'll pay in premiums depends on various factors that are specific to your business This includes your fleet's makeup, where and how you operate, and the level of coverage you're aiming for.

Fleet usage: The more a shared micromobility fleet is used, the more chances there are for things to go wrong. When a fleet is in high demand and used often, there's a greater likelihood that something might happen that requires insurance coverage.

Rider behavior: Insurance companies also consider the fleet's ability to predict and manage undesirable rider behavior. Reckless riding, improper parking, or violating traffic rules can significantly increase the risk of accidents and incidents. Operators that have better measures in place to anticipate and mitigate such behaviors can demonstrate a lower risk profile to insurance providers.

black metal train rail during daytime

Value of the fleet: How much your vehicles are worth individually and as a fleet will affect how much you pay for insurance. If your vehicles are expensive, your insurance premiums will be higher because it would cost more to replace them if they get damaged or lost.

Size of the fleet: Operators can often negotiate more favorable insurance rates for proportionally larger fleets. As the number of vehicles increases, the overall expected risk is distributed and “diluted” as a result – which translates to lower premiums per vehicle. 

However, some brokers like Cachet have embraced a broader approach, ensuring that smaller and medium-sized fleets can also benefit from insurance coverage.

Technology implementation: Shared mobility services that employ technologies like GPS tracking, telematics, and IoT devices can provide insurers with valuable data. This data can then help assess driver behavior and usage patterns, enabling insurers to offer more accurate and tailored premium rates. This also takes into account how simple it is for scooters to be stolen and how well the recovery processes function – which can also play a role in insurance expenses.

Where you operate: The location in which your fleet operates is another important factor. From the insurer’s perspective, different areas pose varied levels of risk. For example, urban mobility – which is associated with a higher risk of accidents – may incur higher premiums compared to vehicles used in rural areas.

Level of coverage: The level of coverage you choose directly affects how much you pay in premiums. Opting for higher coverage limits means you get more comprehensive protection, but obviously, it also means your insurance costs go up.

a scooter parked on the side of a bridge

Choosing the ideal insurance for your fleet

Every shared mobility fleet and business is different, so your insurance needs will depend on things like the type and size of your fleet, where you operate, how much risk you're comfortable with, and of course – how much you are willing to pay. 

For example, do you require coverage for specific risks, like vandalism, or perhaps your fleet is composed of premium vehicles that are more expensive? To make it more relatable, let's dive into a practical case of a shared micromobility operator's experience with insurance.

How Hoog found the right insurance with Cachet

The concept behind Hoog Mobility is to revolutionize transportation in smaller Estonian towns. They recognized the need for efficient and eco-friendly local travel and brought a shared mobility solution often seen in big cities but missing in smaller communities: electric scooters.

Cash-strapped mobility startups often worry about potential damage or vandalism happening to their shared vehicles. This concern is shared by traditional insurance companies too. As a result, these insurers might hesitate to provide coverage for shared scooters, and if they do – it's usually at a higher cost.

Faced with this challenge, Hoog initially operated without insurance due to the steep expenses. But that changed when Cachet provided them with a customized insurance solution that perfectly suited the company's needs. Hoog also realized that the initial worry about vandalism wasn't as much of an issue as they thought. But still – having insurance for their fleet turned out to be a sound financial decision that gave them peace of mind.

Concluding remarks

Don't underestimate insurance – it's just as crucial as having a top-notch fleet and solid software. Insurance is best approached proactively – discovering you've cut corners after an unforeseen event will cost you significantly more.

Getting insurance for shared micromobility might be a bit trickier since it's still a new concept, but we've seen that even smaller fleets can make it work – it's just a matter of finding a suitable partner who understands your needs.

At the end of the day, insurance isn't merely about meeting legal requirements – it showcases your dedication to safety, responsible operations, and the well-being of everyone involved in your mobility business.

Why and how should authorities promote shared mobility
Why and how should authorities promote shared mobility

Unlocking the power of shared mobility – how authorities can drive change and improve transportation.

Read post

Shared mobility is gaining momentum – offering prospects for reducing traffic, cleaning up city air, and providing users with more flexible transportation options. However, despite its potential, shared mobility often seems to take a backseat to traditional public transportation and private vehicles in the eyes of local authorities and infrastructure planners.

Experts see shared mobility as a game-changing revolution in transportation. It surpasses the earlier revolution of the 20th century when personal cars became widely affordable and accessible. Now, with the rise of shared mobility and environmental concerns, the old notion of "one car per person" is becoming outdated.

In light of this, authorities worldwide should proactively prepare for a future where shared mobility plays an increasingly significant role. In this blog post, we'll explore different ways authorities and legislators can encourage shared mobility – and why it's totally worth it.

The positive impact of shared mobility

Shared mobility has the potential to fix some of the problems we face with transportation today, benefiting users, cities, and the environment. Here are the key benefits of shared mobility:

  • Reduced congestion: Shared mobility can alleviate traffic congestion, leading to smoother traffic flow and shorter commute times.
  • Environmental sustainability: Shared mobility can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. This helps combat air pollution and mitigate the environmental impact of transportation.
  • Improved transport accessibility and flexibility: Shared mobility services make transportation more accessible, especially for those without private vehicles or limited mobility options. They also offer convenient alternatives to traditional transportation methods.

Considering the urgent need to combat climate change, shared mobility holds a significant promise as a greener transportation option. The European Union's Green Deal aims to achieve a 90% reduction in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Shared mobility – coupled with increased adoption of electric vehicles and a broader shift in transportation behaviors – will likely play an important role in achieving this goal.

However, for shared mobility to truly flourish and revolutionize transportation, it needs a supportive environment backed by legislative frameworks and infrastructure planning. So, let's take a closer look at how authorities can foster wider adoption of shared mobility.

1. Favorable regulations with an eye on the future

In the past, shared mobility solutions and business models have faced challenges in gaining acceptance from regulators. A prime example is the initial response of local authorities to Uber’s novel services at the time – ordering them to cease their operations immediately.

Shared mobility services can disrupt traditional transportation models – which may not be welcomed by everyone. However, the undeniable popularity of these services, exemplified by the rapid success of Uber, demonstrates the high customer demand.

Instead of battling against it, authorities might want to shift their focus to creating a supportive legislative framework, recognizing the significant benefits shared mobility can bring. It means regulations that prioritize safety, fair competition, consumer protection, and quality standards – creating an environment where shared mobility can thrive and provide reliable services to customers.

Shared mobility is constantly evolving, which means that regulations need to be flexible and adaptable to keep up with emerging technologies and new challenges. For example, as autonomous vehicles become a possibility, authorities will need to establish guidelines for their safe integration into existing transportation networks.

2. A collaborative approach

Collaboration between local authorities and businesses can be a decisive factor in creating a favorable environment for shared mobility. By working together, they can tackle common challenges, share data, and develop integrated transportation solutions.

Public-private partnerships can also involve incentives like tax breaks or subsidies to encourage the adoption of shared mobility. For example, offering tax breaks to companies that implement ride-sharing programs for their employees can encourage the use of shared transportation options instead of individual cars. Similarly, providing subsidies for shared mobility providers can help offset the initial costs of implementing and expanding their services.

Sharing data between shared mobility platforms and transport authorities is another way to benefit from this cooperation. The platforms have valuable information on accidents, trip patterns, and driver availability. Sharing this data with local authorities can help improve the transportation network, enhance travel apps, and identify underserved areas.

3. Building infrastructure to support the future of transportation

To meet evolving transportation needs, authorities should invest in infrastructure that supports innovative modes of transportation like electric vehicles and shared mobility services. By considering the needs of shared mobility users, infrastructure planners can make it a much more attractive transportation option.

Here are the key infrastructure needs for shared mobility:

Integration with existing infrastructure: To offer users smooth and effective transportation choices, shared mobility must seamlessly integrate with current transport systems like public transit. It should enable users to plan multi-modal journeys and switch between different modes of transport without hassle. For example, users should be able to seamlessly transition from a shared bike or scooter to a bus or train.

Charging stations: Keeping shared electric vehicles performing at their best relies on maintaining their charge. This requires establishing a network of strategically positioned charging stations throughout urban areas. If we're aiming for more people to use electric vehicles, we need to make charging them easy and accessible.

Dedicated parking: Shared mobility services need designated parking areas for their vehicles, such as bike racks and car-sharing parking spots. Well-organized parking infrastructure can reduce street clutter and make it easier for others to grab a shared mobility vehicle.

Information infrastructure support: Running shared mobility services smoothly, including handling bookings, payments, and logistics, depends greatly on a reliable information infrastructure foundation. With the advent of advanced networks like 6G, users will increasingly rely on this infrastructure to stay connected and make the most of these services.

The shared mobility landscape in France

Paris's recent ban on free-floating e-scooters has put France in the spotlight. To take a closer look at the shared mobility environment in France, we turned to Manon Lavergne, CEO of Viluso, a shared micromobility operator. We asked for her insights on the state of micromobility in the country.

Since the Mobility Orientation Law in 2019, the French government has been working to make shared transport easier to access everywhere. At COP 26 in 2021, France undertook to cut its CO2 emissions by 55%.

According to Manon, personal vehicle ownership in urban settings is losing favor among many French citizens, and Paris stands out as a shared micromobility epicenter. The city pioneered self-service shared mobility networks like Vélib' (2007), Autolib' (2011), and Cityscoot's shared electric scooters (2016).

However, in April 2023, Paris residents voted to ban free-floating e-scooters in the city. The reasons behind this decision included riders competing for space with pedestrians on sidewalks and complaints about e-scooters cluttering the pavements when parked. 

Captur's case study on e-scooter parking habits in Paris revealed that the majority of users encountered no problems when parking scooters in designated bays. However, outside of the designated areas, users had to compete with other vehicles, resulting in poorer parking choices.

This example again emphasizes the need for proper infrastructure to support shared mobility. Lots of cities around the world were mainly designed with private cars in mind – which can create challenges for accommodating shared mobility solutions.

Anne Hidalgo, Paris' Mayor, campaigned with a strong green agenda and has introduced various changes to tackle pollution and traffic jams. Her vision includes a "15-minute city" where people can access work, shopping, healthcare, education, and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes.

Yet, the chaotic state of free-floating e-scooters in Paris resulted in their ban. This scenario raises a question for other global cities: How can shared mobility be encouraged without disrupting other transportation choices and pedestrian movement?

According to Manon, the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which will draw many visitors, will provide valuable insight into the city's transportation system – including the viability of shared mobility.

Shared mobility is here to stay – so start planning today

By adopting a supportive approach, authorities worldwide can play a crucial role in enabling the full potential of shared mobility. While it may require a shift in mindset, the potential gains of reduced congestion, environmental sustainability, and improved transportation options make it a worthwhile consideration. 

We know that shared mobility is here to stay and will only expand in the coming years. By taking a more proactive stance, authorities will be in a better position to integrate and maximize the full benefits of shared mobility.

Launch your mobility platform in 20 days!

Multi-vehicle. Scalable. Proven.