Electric scooter startup Bird has raised $150 million in a series C funding round led by Sequoia Capital, which left the company at $1 billion valuation.
A billion-dollar valuation would place Bird at the forefront of an industry where it faces challenges from major players. Bird is less than a year old, and it is potentially the fastest company ever to gain unicorn status.
Bird’s new fundraise is reportedly intended to fend off competitors. Rival LimeBike is rumored to be in the middle of raising a massive round, and Lyft is reportedly developing prototypes of potential scooter designs.
Bird is one of the earliest entrants to the electric scooter sharing industry, alongside rivals Lime and Spin, but ride-sharing giants have indicated they’re eyeing the space. Uber agreed to buy Jump, an electric bike company, earlier this year.
The idea is something between a city bike program and a ride-sharing service. Bird works by allowing users to reserve a nearby scooter via a smartphone app, ride around on it for a small fee, and, at the end of the journey, leave the scooter anywhere to be claimed by the next rider.
The service has been rapidly adopted and is clogging up sidewalks in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where city officials have vowed to curtail the congestion.
Bird is hitting some regulatory challenges as it hopes to expand across 50 U.S. markets by the end of 2018. In February, it had to pay $300,000 in fines for obscuring the public right of way (undocked Bird scooters were left lying across a sidewalk, blocking a doorway, or driveway) and operating without a proper commercial business license. And now, San Francisco is looking to create legislation to regulate electric scooter sharing.