[SIGCIS-Members] Bloomberg: "Bird Races to Become the First Scooter Unicorn"

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Wed May 30 06:58:51 PDT 2018

These things have suddenly appeared all over downtown DC, along with the pastel-colored dockless bikeshares (LimeBike, OfO, et al). I tried a Bird scooter—they can go fast! But it takes nerves of steel to ride in traffic. The drivers don’t like it when you take up a lane, even if you ride fast. But if you go on the sidewalk, the pedestrians get mad at you, for good reason.  I think they are a great idea, especially since both the NY subways and the DC Metro are both in a state of collapse. (I use Capital Bikeshare, a system that requires docs, every day in my commute. The bikes are sturdy, a bit heavy, but well-suited for urban travel.)

Note that Bird, Uber, Lyft, LimeBike, and all these ride-sharing services, with their billion-dollar valuations, could not exist without the use of GPS, supplied by the US Air Force for free. And of course you need a smartphone, which is not free but you pay for it, not Bird. I suspect the software for these services is open-source, and the bikes and scooters are made in Asia at low cost. That explains the “unicorn” valuation right there. When the dockless bikes appeared in DC, people noted that a high percentage of them were stolen or vandalized. That was horrifying to traditional bike owners, who treasure their machines and take care to lock them carefully and bring them inside at night, etc.  But for these companies, the bikes are more or less disposable. That’s the world we live in now.

Paul Ceruzzi
ceruzzip at si.edu<mailto:ceruzzip at si.edu>

From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> On Behalf Of Thomas Haigh
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2018 7:23 PM
To: 'Julie Cohn' <cohnconnor at gmail.com>
Cc: members at sigcis.org
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Bloomberg: "Bird Races to Become the First Scooter Unicorn"

As always, the quest for historical “firsts” is fraught with controversy and depends primarily on choosing definitions. Exhaustive research shows that Bird has already lost out in the race to create the “first scooter unicorn” to an incumbent scooter firm, Razor. Its Razor Jr. Kuties Unicorn Scooter has been around since at last 2014, though Amazon reviews are mixed – one purchaser complained that the head (“the whole reason I bought this scooter”) was missing. Others suggest it has “flimsy plastic and doesn’t handle well.” Value investors may feel that despite these flaws it is still an attractive alternative, at around $40 vs. the $150 million that Bird is looking for in its current round.

[Image result for unicorn scooter]



From: Julie Cohn [mailto:cohnconnor at gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2018 5:25 PM
To: Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>>
Cc: members at sigcis.org<mailto:members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Bloomberg: "Bird Races to Become the First Scooter Unicorn"

Tom - I see perfect analogies in your bird-scooter-unicorn images for some aspect of technology history that you will discuss with erudition - and hopefully cartoon illustrations!

On May 29, 2018, at 5:15 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>> wrote:

Picking back up on a SIGCIS thread from a few years ago, on the history of “unicorn” as an odd term to apply to a tech company, I just saw this amazing headline "Bird Races to Become the First Scooter Unicorn" on Bloomberg.com<http://bloomberg.com/>. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-29/sequoia-said-to-value-scooter-company-bird-at-1-billion I am going to look for a way to work it into something I write, and perhaps in a few years it will earn its proper place as a distillation of our historic moment not unlike “Peace in Our Time” or “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

Beyond the whole idea of rival billion-dollar scooter companies, I now can’t stop thinking about a bird chasing a unicorn riding a scooter. Or maybe the bird is on a scooter, trying to catch up to a galloping unicorn as it approaches a checkered flag. Or the bird might be hovering over a cauldron, trying to turn itself into a scootering unicorn via a hurriedly cast spell of transformation. There are so many possible readings.

I know this is somewhat tangential to list business, but I just couldn’t resist sharing it given the growing sense of doom hovering over most other news stories, including the global financial turmoil I visited Bloomberg to check on.

Best wishes,


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