Sunday, March 4, 2018

Bird Scooters | Lefsetz Letter

Bird Scooters

I saw two on my walk to the grocery store. All I had to do was scan the QR code and away I’d go.

But I didn’t.

They say that California is passe. That it’s too expensive to live here. That we have Blue Stateitis. Used to be California was a paradise, a Garden of Eden, the final destination. Now, if you pay attention to the media, it’s a disaster.

But it’s not.

Everything cool still starts in California. Can you say TESLA? Can you say APPLE? Can you say BIRD?

Huh, what’s a Bird?

It’s a motorized scooter.

But it’s not one of those RAZRs, it’s not for kids, it’s for adults, and a couple of months ago everywhere you were in Santa Monica you started to see people riding down the sidewalks, as if they were getting their trips for free, as if the sidewalk was the new Disneyland, WHAT WAS GOING ON?

First and foremost, Bird didn’t ask permission. You cannot ask permission in today’s world. You do your business and then you pay the penalty, assuming you’ve got any traction at all. We learned this from Napster. And the funny thing is the violators are the enemy until they’re embraced. They’ll sue you and then befriend you. Kinda strange, but that’s the way it is.

So they litter Bird scooters everywhere. And you can pull up the app and find one, or bump into one, and when you’re ready to ride, you scan the code with your phone and pay a buck plus 15 cents a minute. But this is not a monetary proposition, this is about pushing your own personal envelope, are you ready to take a risk?

Now the one thing you’ll notice is helmets are required but no one ever wears one, even though Bird will send you one for free, FOR FREE I TELL YOU! Because people think they’re immune, it’s the same kind of thinking that has folks refusing to buckle up when they’re close to home, as if that protects them from being injured. You don’t want a brain injury, it’s worse than any broken bone, but since the scooters only go 15 MPH, people somehow think they won’t fall, or that drivers will act responsibly.

Yes, you’re supposed to stay in the road or on the bike lane, but no one ever does, everybody’s on the sidewalk.

And it seems like a novelty until you think… It’s about the last mile. Getting from public transportation to your front door.

Now the new Metro is on the other side of the freeway. And in between it and me is the worst neighborhood in Santa Monica. I’m not gonna walk through it long after dark. But if I could ride a Bird… Of course, I could call an Uber, but if the Bird is just sitting there, waiting, I wouldn’t have to stand alone in the shadows.

Now after launching without permission Bird ultimately paid a six figure fine, but I’d say it was worth it, because of the publicity. Suddenly, those out of the loop are paying attention.

But really, the greatest sales pitch is the scooters themselves.

Now they started a bike rental program in Santa Monica, but the bikes are heavy, they look like industrial products no one would want to ride. Whereas the scooter is incredibly light. And you don’t have to pedal.

So maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s right, trends start in California, and the irony is tech is moving down south from Silicon Valley.

But living is expensive.

And traffic is horrendous.

Yet there’s no place I’d rather be. Where no one’s in your business and you feel like you’re on the cutting edge in a land where you can ski and surf on the very same day.

But you don’t believe that.


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