Bird Replaces Founder Travis VanderZanden With New CEO

Category
Micromobility
Priority
Priority
Release date
September 22, 2022
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Electric scooter company Bird is shaking up its C-Suite, promoting President Shane Torchiana to chief executive officer and replacing founder Travis VanderZanden.

Bird swapped other key roles in its executive lineup, including chief financial officer and chief technology officer.

The move doesn’t totally oust former CEO VanderZanden; he’ll remain at Bird as chairman of its board. Torchiana is a familiar face at the micromobility company; he began there in 2018 as president and previously served as senior vice president of Bird’s corporate strategy.

Santa Monica-based Bird also named former Archer Aviation Chief Financial Officer Ben Lu as its new CFO and former Senior Vice President of Engineering Lance Bradley as CTO. Before joining Bird, Bradley had a tenure at several local gaming companies; he worked for Culver City-based mobile gaming outfit Scopely for roughly a year and then moved to a job as technology lead for West L.A.-based Riot Games, where he stayed for four years.

Bird didn’t immediately respond to dot.LA’s request for comment regarding the new appointments, but in a Sept. 21 press release the company said the changes were effective immediately.

VanderZanden stepped down as board president June 29, at which point Torchiana took on the role. Prior to this change, VanderZanden was both the CEO and president of Bird's board.

"The organizational changes announced today reaffirm our commitment to positioning Bird for long-term profitable growth and we continue to expect positive adjusted EBITDA in the third quarter of 2022," VanderZanden said in a statement. He added, "under new leadership, the company will continue to prioritize cost optimization without losing sight of our long-term commitment to making cities more livable and sustainable."

Since going public via a fraught SPAC merger with Dallas-based blank check firm Switchback II Corp. last November, Bird's finances haven't exactly had the wind beneath their wings. In its most recent second quarter earnings report June 30, Bird revealed it lost roughly $310.4 million and raised just $76.7 million in revenue.

There might be a light at the end of the tunnel for Bird, if it can stem its losses. The same second quarter earnings report in June noted that its revenue was up 28% from about $60 million the same time last year.

The changes in Bird's leadership allowed for some investors to maintain their cautious optimism. DA Davidson Senior Research Analyst Tom White wrote that while "the timing of the CEO/CFO leadership changes comes as somewhat of a surprise to us, but we understand that these moves have been in the works for several months," and noted that Torchiana's "growing visibility with investors" is, in retrospect, one sign that he was set to take on a larger role at the e-scooter firm.

White also added that Lu's "deep experience [and] track record in public company investing" was probably one key factor in his promotion to Bird CFO.

White identified a few risks that could hinder Bird from becoming profitable, including its fledgling fleet management system which sees local gig workers managing scooters in metro areas including L.A. This system is “still relatively new, and it’s unclear how the model will perform when the economy more fully re-opens,” White noted.

The analyst also said that supply chain shortages could continue to cause a delay in Bird’s vehicle production and cautioned that Bird may have to increase its marketing spend to maintain rider loyalty given all its competitors out there – including Lime, Lyft, Jump and Bolt, to name a few.

"We don't believe these announced changes reflect any needed change in strategy, vision, or operations at [Bird]," White concluded. "In the near-term, BRDS continues to prioritize cost optimization and sounds on track to achieve its near-term goal of positive adjusted EBITDA in [third quarter 2022]," with a particular focus on driving shareholder value, he noted.

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

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