Scooter giant Bird will announce its official launch in Canada on Thursday

Large group of new Bird electric scooters parked await riders on Brickell Ave in Miami, Florida on June 22, 2019. Shutterstock.com

Scooter giant Bird will officially announce its launch in Canada on Thursday, following months of hiring senior staff and quietly lobbying government officials, The Logic has learned.

Stewart Lyons, former president of wireless carrier Mobilicity and CEO of cloud company TeraGo, will lead Bird’s Canadian operations, according to multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. The firm has already been approved to launch in Kelowna, B.C., and is now looking to launch in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

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Talking Point

Bird will officially announce its launch in Canada on Thursday. The company has already been approved to launch in Kelowna, B.C., and is now looking to launch in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. Its arrival comes as Canadian regulators are increasingly warming to e-scooters on public roads, and rivals including Lime and Spin are expanding their Canadian presence.

Bird’s launch comes as regulators across Canada are opening their arms to shared e-scooters. Montreal will host an e-scooter pilot this summer. Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, and Windsor, Ont. have all taken steps to change regulations to allow e-scooters on their streets; none of those cities have yet announced with which companies they’ll be working.

Lyons has significant experience scaling up Canadian companies. He was an executive vice-president of SiriusXM Canada, where he played a key role in the firm’s financing, listing on the public markets and eventual sale for $472 million. He later became president of telecommunications company Mobilicity—which Rogers Communications acquired for $465 million in 2015—and he served as CEO of TeraGo from 2014 to 2016. Ryan Lausman will join Lyons in getting Bird’s Canadian operations off the ground. He worked with Lyons at all those firms, eventually rising to COO at TeraGo in 2014.

Lyons will lead a standalone company  which will serve as a franchise of the U.S. Bird, according to multiple sources. The U.S. company Bird recently launched a new franchise system where independent firms will get Bird’s e-scooters in exchange for 20 per cent of the cost of each ride. Lyons, Lausman and the U.S. Bird did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Bird Canada announced it had raised an undisclosed amount from a group including John Bitove, founder of Mobilicity and the Toronto Raptors, who will be the scooter firm’s chairman. Toronto venture capital firm Relay Ventures and real estate technology investor Alate Partners also contributed to the round.

Electric scooters aren’t allowed to operate on Canadian roads, but there are some signs that law is about to change. British Columbia has said it will amend the Motor Vehicle Act within the year to allow e-scooters on its streets. Quebec is expected to change its laws to allow e-scooters on public roads. And, Ontario is currently consulting with industry stakeholders around similar changes; multiple sources with knowledge of the consultations told The Logic a change similar to that in B.C. and Quebec is likely.

Earlier in June, Martin Green and Geoff Owen, co-founders of Foresight Strategic Advisors, registered to lobby Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office on behalf of Bird, which wants the provincial laws changed to allow electric scooters on public roads. If Alberta doesn’t allow them province-wide, Bird wants an exemption “to permit the use of dockless electric scooters on public roads in Calgary and Edmonton,” according to the company’s registration. Also in June, Green registered to lobby Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office to “permit dockless electric scooter sharing in Ontario,” and the City of Toronto to “permit dockless e-scooter sharing.”

In January, The Logic reported that Bird was hiring a general manager in Toronto; that it was registered to lobby City of Edmonton and the provincial governments of British Columbia and Ontario; and that it had lobbied City of Toronto officials 40 times in December. The company has since switched its lobbying registrations from Bird to Bird Canada in most of those jurisdictions.

Bird’s launch puts it well behind its rival Lime, which has e-bikes in Calgary and e-scooters in Waterloo and also has staff in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, according to LinkedIn data.

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Kelowna will likely be the first Canadian city in which Bird will launch. The city has approved the firm to put about 100 e-scooters on its streets, pending proof of insurance and the provision of a security deposit for each scooter. However, Bird can increase the number of e-scooters at any time, so long as it pays additional security deposits per scooter.

“Bird’s announcement highlights Kelowna’s willingness to work with private firms to help solve today’s transportation challenges with modern human-scale solutions,” said Matt Worona, active transportation coordinator with the City of Kelowna. The city has been the launch point for other U.S. scooter companies’ Canadian operations this year. Earlier in June, e-scooter firm Spin, which is owned by Ford Motor Company, was granted permission to launch 400 e-scooters in the city.

This story has been updated with details about Bird Canada’s funding round.