Update: This story has been updated to indicate that the deal is worth tens of millions not hundreds of millions and includes comment from other manufacturers.
It seems like all is fair in love and scooter wars.
In the battle royal to become the last dock-less scooter startup standing (and un-besmirched by poop), Bird has inked what it is characterizing as exclusive deals with Ninebot (the parent company of Segway) and Xiaomi (yes, that Xiaomi), for rights to their supply of scooters for ride-sharing in the U.S.
Ninebot and Xiaomi are the current champions in the scooter manufacturing market, and locking in their supply may cut off a big source of hardware for competitors Spin and LimeBike, both of which used Ninebot and Xiaomi for scooters.
“That’s news to us, we have a contract with both,” wrote an executive at a leading scooter company, when asked about the deal and its implications for the scooter business.
A person familiar with the Bird transaction placed the deal in the tens of millions of dollars and declined to speculate on what the agreement with the two supplier could mean for its competitors.
Since its launch in Santa Monica, Calif. in September 2017, Bird has become synonymous with both the perils and promise that scooters hold for last mile mobility.
While they undoubtedly make traveling across campuses or in relatively small communities much more convenient than car services or shuttles, they’re also clogging sidewalks, parks, alleys, and even beaches, while creating untold numbers of minor visits to emergency rooms in the cities they’ve expanded into.
And Bird has expanded into a lot of cities. The company is currently operating in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Washington, DC, Nashville and Atlanta.
Meanwhile, other companies in the market believe that this agreement is much less than it seems. They note that the exclusivity agreement is for a particular model of scooters, but each scooter company has its own design and those contracts are still valid. Indeed, emails from suppliers seen by TechCrunch confirm that one of the suppliers mentioned in the Bird release still intends to fulfill planned orders from a direct Bird competitor.
Sources close to Bird says that the Lime and Spin contracts should be invalid, given the contracts that the Santa Monica, Calif. had signed initially signed (and then revised) with its large Chinese suppliers.
In summary, it seems like Xiaomi and Ninebot are screwing someone over. At this point, that someone looks like Bird.
San Francisco’s administrators are fighting back against the scooter companies storming the sidewalks by instituting a new permitting process. The city plans to limit the number of scooters in the city to 1,250 and will require companies to register with the MTA.
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