Bird, an electronic scooter company that is ranked as the fastest start-up ever to reach a $1 billion valuation, is to invest $150 million (€125m) expanding in more than 50 European cities and towns, including some in Ireland.
The company has also announced the appointment of Irishman Brendan O’Driscoll to its executive team as its new head of product, growth and data.
Bird is one of the largest and best-funded e-scooter companies globally, operating in about 160 markets.
It said it has stepped up engagements with local councils, businesses and other organisations locally, and was interested in operating not just in cities such as Dublin and Cork, but also in smaller towns.
"Obviously the larger cities are important to us, but we really think that the introduction of greener transport options should be available to everybody. So we're looking to launch in smaller towns as well," said Charlotte Bailey, general manager for Ireland and Britain.
“That is something that we’ve done across Europe. We’ve launched in about 90 smaller towns to date with population sizes of between 10 and 25,000.”
Ms Bailey said Bird hoped to hire 50 people locally, although she stressed this number was dependent on the Government passing legislation allowing e-scooters on Irish roads as is expected, and on councils giving it the go-ahead to operate locally.
While Bird has grown rapidly, it has experienced difficulties along the way, including having to let 400 employees go last year as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
Ms Bailey said the company’s experiences – both good and bad – make it a good partner for councils as it has the know-how to introduce services.
Bird said it would be introducing new mobility products and safety initiatives, as well as implementing recycling programmes for older scooters.
Mr O’Driscoll, who will oversee Bird’s global product strategy and implementation, previously co-founded Irish music discovery app Soundwave, which was acquired by Spotify in 2016. He joined Bird in 2019, and is based in the US.
“We have some big challenges with studies showing that people spend considerably more time than average sitting in traffic than in other countries, and we can help to resolve this,” he said.
“The way that cities have been shaped has changed as a result of the pandemic and first mile and last mile transportation options such as e-scooters have a role to play in ensuring fewer small car trips and in joining up other transportation services.”