Bird: sloppy management, high staff turnover, and inappropriate office behavior
Emma* was working late into the night on a complex analysis of your laptop in bed for the bird. In mid-March, as COVID-19 the public life in cities around the world, the scooter company was known extinguishing media that it would draw his signature electric two-wheelers from some areas. Every day, there’s a scramble for cost-cutting proposals and alternative revenue, to the core of the brand rent-and-ride business, from a IT-project that would save the company cost hundreds of thousands of years in the hardware leasing, from small fleets of scooters to restaurants for delivery was. Emma didn’t mind putting the extra hours, which was used in the fact, it.
“It’s hard to explain how cool the energy, which was [the bird],” she says. Her co-workers were young, brilliant, and to change sincere in your belief that your electric scooter in the world. “We were pretty obsessed with our work.”
the next morning, 27. March, Emma a calendar much the received invite ambiguous with the title “COVID-19-Update” and a flurry of concerned texts and Slack news of the day as other meetings around the company were quietly canceled. At 10:30 PM, you are logged in, in the simple-Zoom webinar. After an uncomfortable wait to read a woman’s voice, a script began in a strangled monotone, informing the participants that they had been dismissed all of the goods. The speech was the end of two minutes, and the meeting abruptly. Emma watched as her computer automatically logged you out of your E-Mail and Slack accounts, and then back to a locked grey screen.
Emma was one of the 406 bird employees who have lost their jobs, in this day, from the company, the 1,400 or so in the world. (dot.LA first broke the story of bird redundancies, and receive audio from the meeting.) In some ways, Emma was one of the lucky ones. She was more fortunate than the many employees who had the message was received second-Hand, either, because her shift was at a different time of day, or because the company had bought, a webinar license, which was too small and, inadvertently, many of the participants from locked. She was more fortunate as an IT assistant, and, apparently, wrote the script, immediately deactivate your account without to suspect that it would be used to disable his account, also, the interference in the entire process, up to the remaining IT staff could find a plan B.
And at least for a few minutes, Emma was appointed more luck than Rebecca Hahn, the chief communications officer to read curt firing script, seemingly by the tears, instead of the company’s founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden.
as much As you would your job, loved the bird, that was the day that Emma began to reflect on some of the disturbing things they had seen, to the company that you were previously willing to overlook. And she wasn’t the only one. Interviews with 16 former bird staff in a variety of departments, which could paint a picture of erratic decisions, careless leadership and enigmatic, ever-changing metrics of success, even had the largest internal believers in private matters, whether your business model is, sold ever to the dream, they would be investors.
But more than anything, bird was a job with high turnover. Employees have been made redundant, in a way that felt reckless and dehumanization. A mass more Zoom was not really fire so out of line with what experienced people already.
bird is the construction of a Roller-based future for Transport. This meant that each scooter lasted for attention to be paid, how long on the road. The company spent seemingly very little energy, as long as his employees took in the office.
At the end of the day, some believe that the 2.5 billion US Dollar of valuation, which contributed to the bird of the industry, the fastest-growing unicorn was also his greatest curse. “If you are a former employee says the crown to a company,”, “you owe it to the investors and to grow themselves at any price. … And if you only focus on growth, you stop focusing on the people. … Once that snow ball rolling down the hill, there was no stopping.”
bird leaned always in his own Jargon. The company had a program called “Get the Flock Out” (or “GTFO”), the familiar, the employees are encouraged to expand the government’s partnerships Department, how many scooters were allowed in each city, according to staff with the program. The startup never shied away from cutesy word games. It is the temporary workers were ornithologists, responsible for the monitoring of the fleet; the nests, where the birds were gathered to calculate; and Birdhunters who were responsible for the retrieval of lost scooter. The proprietary language may have contributed to the feeling of solidarity that is embodied in the slogan “BirdFam”, the use of the laid-off employees continue to, when speaking about their colleagues.
Almost on the line, former employees have nothing but praise for your colleagues (including managers and direct reports), talented, called it “phenomenal” and “super-motivated, super, super smart.” Every day, with unprecedented undertaking a thrill it was, to invent new paradigms, and to write the rules as they went. “You have to be watching you, an idea that bloom in a industry,” says a former staffer, “[That] a front row seat… this was an incredible experience.” Former employees say she loved it, to want time with your co-workers on nights and week and found themselves, talk about work, even the clock.
But your impression of the executive series tells a different story. Bird-management problems,” “doofuses,” “creepy,” “very much in nepotism, non-sound-decision-makers”, and “a number of frat boys that all looked and sounded good and made a lot of money.”
“There is a lot of clowning, it was,” says of a deceased employee. Such an incident apparently occurred on an operations team, all the man in the last summer, when tensions between the company’s hourly wage earners and the management were at an all-time high. Staff were invited to provide feedback in an anonymous online form, where their colleagues could “upvote” questions or statements that you agreed to.
According to several sources familiar with the meeting, the discussion focused heavily on the complaints of low pay and false promises, with the prompt, COO Steve Quickly screaming in the room something along the lines of, “you can keep either the mouth or get the fuck out!” He even offered a bonus of $1,000 to anyone who decided to leave the company. Some in the room felt that he had made, to the policy on the spot.
In a statement, the response to the story, bird said: “During a operation all-hands meeting, Steve provided a pay increase message to the members of the team, offers a $Not to leave 1,000 if they were happy with this increase, similar to the Zappos pay-to-quit approach. Steve regrets the offensive language, and HR and the legal Department advised him on how he sent the message after this meeting.”
In another well-known episode, Fast traveled to a summit in Amsterdam, where he got drunk, he decided it would be funny to fire employees in accordance with the random principle in Slack. “It was a joke,” says a former employee familiar with the incident. “He was like, ‘Haha.’ Only he didn’t say, ‘Haha’, because he forgot.” In this winter, very Soon it was quietly moved away from his COO duties, although he retained the official title.
Asked about this incident, bird said, ” While at a summit meeting in Amsterdam, someone took Steve’s cell phone and played a joke with two of the top employees, he is near, and the staff recognized it was a joke.”
Some of the parties described were so trusting, but the last Christmas debaucherous were celebrating their notoriously. Sources describe do some of the employees, cocaine, pills and marijuana. Relationships between colleagues were open on the display.
Kerry Fischer, bird, Vice President of people and places, said the company had not behavior, receive reports or complaints of drugs. “Bird has a strong policy against the use of illegal drugs and/or misuse of legal drugs,” she said. “If we receive a report, allegation or complaint about a member of staff openly with drugs in our holiday party, we would investigate and discipline the individual as appropriate. In addition, company-sponsored parties at the end of 10 o’clock.”
Travis VanderZanden, the first C-suite workload to a vehicle startup as a COO at Lyft, after the acquisition of his on-demand car-washing app Cherry in 2013. VanderZanden must have the feeling that he is quickly the role of outgrown because, in the year 2014, he gave the company an ultimatum: make me CEO or I’m out. The Board called his bluff — and then theft of trade sued him for allegedly secrets. (He then countersued and the two parties out of court for an unknown amount.) Despite the messy exit, he landed a new job at Uber, where he worked for two years as the VP of driver growth.
VanderZanden transferred both companies obsessive “growth hacker mentality”, promotes your focus on the scale in the Bird ‘ s first round of financing. Bird came to hang, Uber’s “land and expand” strategy of planting his scooter in new cities without approval, and then count to convince their popularity with drivers of the local governments, to give them a pass. (VanderZanden also be C-suite with fellow ride-sharing-alums: COO Steve Packed Quickly and CPO Ryan Fujiu, both in the time in the case of Uber and Lyft, and the CFO, Yibo Ling came over.)
“[VanderZanden s] ideology: “We should not have to pay a city, the city is to pay us‘” says an Ex-member of Bird ‘ s government partnerships Department. A staff member expressed Frustration about the alienation of the local governments with a Bird’s cavalier attitude cause damage to the types of relationships that took years to build. To ignore when certain smaller cities to reach did to you exclusive agreements, he claims, he was addressed, your E-Mails, because they are not profitable enough to be worth your time.
bird-sold cities, a vision of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, car-free roads and increased accessibility for low-income drivers in the transportation deserts were known to that internally as the “equity zones”. While bird large pushback to face — and even several lawsuits — in cities such as New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Milwaukee, and many other local authorities saw a real opportunity in working with you. The governments of Bird often required access to ‘ s data is ensure compliance with their regulations, which are a constant battle, according to one employee familiar with the negotiations. Bird had a financial interest in his scooter in the high-income areas on several fronts: there are more trips per day, experienced lower rates scooter loss, and had to reserve to make fewer resources that scooters were kept in the lower-income “equity zones.”
increases In a conversation with a member of staff to place the topic of scooter in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. According to a source familiar with the meeting, chief legal officer, David Estrada responded that the city considered as yet, because “we want to make sure that we get our birds.” “The people were screaming in their seats” to the obvious implication that birds were likely stolen in black neighborhoods, says the source. The employee later received an apology.
When asked to ride this incident, bird’s best that it occurred, and added: “We have a strong social equality, efforts to lower income in favour of neighborhoods and David Estrada or never proposed that we stop this service.” (Estrada is no longer with the company.)
Another former employee claims that the idea was brought up, half in jest “in several meetings” in order to remove the tracking devices known as a bird “brains” of the scooter is determined for the equity-zones and place them in letter boxes in the area, so that the birds could move freely elsewhere, without government recognition.
When asked, the bird said: “This is an alleged proposal was never developed and investigated. Such an idea would be contrary to our brand and business model. It runs against our public commitment to and track record of data transparency with the cities in which we operate.”
But in many cases, a bird did backtrack to the benevolent gestures of the. After the release of their free helmet program, bird sat down with the Californian government is in violation of the helmet requirements. For all the talk of sustainability, the can offers vehicles Bird over the last 18 months in a study of the waste went in less than a month. And the much-touted “Save increases Our citizens” initiative, in which bird pledged a dollar for every Roller in the direction of the infrastructure projects in certain host cities was quietly shelved last year put.
Almost right until the COVID-19 crisis, to move the bird more in the direction of expansion into new areas, to what some perceived, how little thought or research in to the market profitability. By the time the bird scooter of the streets, it had a presence of a species in more than 120 cities around the world.
While the expansion in Europe and the Middle East is a relative success, before COVID-19 fault, the attempted expansion into the Latin American market in the year 2018 is among the staff as one of the largest false kicks. A theft ring in Mexico city made it especially difficult, the company from the ground up. “We lose thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars per day [in Chile and Mexico city], because we do not always have all of the rides,” says a former employee.
“We don’t have to take the time to understand the culture,” says a former member of the data team. “We have tried to impose values and a system that is not necessary for [you].” Bird, you cut your losses and suspended operations in the Latin American cities, even before the pandemic wiped out, their bottom-line employees have to say.
the fixation on The expansion of the setting, orgies meant. Only this winter, one of the employees is estimated to be familiar with the onboarding process, the company brought in between 10 and 15 new employees each week, while offboarding around five. And periods of the glowing setting, followed by a wave of layoffs.
the last of The dismissals in March 27. reminds were of what is called a source, as “The Pizza Party dismissals” of 2019. On 14 March, 2019, former employees, because the office was the Pi day celebrate and say, with pizza, some of the staff were cooped up call in a conference room, where they were given a short speech, no different than the a particular in this year, the Zoom before you escorted from the building by security, not have the opportunity to get your things from your Desk. Between 4 and 5 percent of the workforce of the day.
Bird is not provided, the following statement: “We host a company-wide pizza party before a reduction in force in 2019. It is true that 4 percent of the bird has a workforce dismissed in March 2019.”
In June of the same year, the company acquired Scoot, the electric vehicle company to access the competitive San Francisco market. December, he put off up to two dozen Scoot employees. Something similar happened to the bird, the German competitor Circ bought in this January. And according to a former Circ staff made significant cuts to be implemented after the acquisition.
“Why do you want to hire that many people, if you treat only gonna take you like you are disposable?”, an employee who lost her job last spring asks.
The boom and bust cycles were visible, not only in the hiring and firing processes, but in everything from employee benefits to Department budgets. “The company turned constantly,” says a former employee. “Basically, all the resources would always be drawn to decided whatever they had was necessary in the moment, and then she moved away from other things, in the most spastic way to make a company run.”
bird throw would be expensive, holiday parties, and “then, months later, as it would be to ‘Freeze spending’,” says a former manager from another Department. “[They] had to have a certain amount of money in your account at all times. As soon as the money fell below a threshold, it was like, ‘Hold all payments.'” Several employees described the bridges burned with third-party providers, regardless of lobbyists to a nationwide shipping company. According to an employee, Facebook is also a bird exposed to advertising after the company failed to make payments, to find where the bird ‘ s ability, and hire new suppliers. (Bird denies that Facebook has been exposed to advertising.)
compensation for the bird of own employees was also described as very discretionary, partially based on the timing of a start date, which is unusual in the fast-growing start-UPS. But like was also described as one of the most valuable assets that you bring with you. And to be liked, according to different sources, in different departments, it can never hurt, a white man. “If you have the same experience, level and tenure within the company, and you saw people of color or not, you could see some of the nepotism,” says a former employee who served as a guide in a bird ‘ s employee resource groups. Meanwhile, both men and women interviewed for this article confirmed that they are aware of cases where the women made less than men in the same or even lower positions on their teams.
issues of diversity and inclusion in the bird-a deep-seated debate would flare up every few months. Staff said that many women felt at the company yourself frustrated by a lack of female presence in the C-suite or on the Board. If an employee raised the issue in a bi-weekly all-staff, VanderZanden appeared supposedly uncomfortable and said, “We just”, presumably referring to Rebecca Hahn.
“would talk to Travis, how hard it was to be a woman on the Board, because of the absence of VCs are women,” said another source.
race was no less of a controversial topic. A former employee described as a person of color, Not pushes for diversity in society as, “to know you’re in a fight, but the feeling really exhausted at the end of the day.”
As with many modern startups, where there is an ineradicable gap between wage-and salary-earners, the build-out processes, and the wage-and salary-earners, they implement it, there were three levels, on Bird. First of all, this was well-compensated, overtime exempt side — people, data -, engineering -, product -, city of operation, Finance, etc. The second was a group, thrown in a pot as a General term: “operations specialists”, hourly, not salary exempt and salary earners whose duties could range from answering support calls to coordinate the schedules of the scooter “gone thermal” (bird talk for “caught fire”), the introduction of new products such as bird Pay. And the third was the flyers, the gig workers individual tasks such as moving or download birds through an app in exchange for one-time payments could pick up.
the second, hourly-wage group, one of the respondents says, “you have this large group of people who don’t make that much money, but had gone to good schools, real routine work and not getting promoted.” Former employees in these roles, the interviews referred to unfulfilled promises, they would be promoted within the first six months of employment. Another employee puts it bluntly: “Hourly employees were treated like shit. They were expected to work, work, work. A lot of people who should be on salary it was not.” Also, it was not questioned, lost to the employee, the hourly group had a much higher makeup of people of color.
A company of the demographics, of the said bird: “We have worked hard to build a team of employees, including senior management, and we know we can and will improve.”
One thing that might help explain the apparent injustice in the company was the loss of a forum, to litigate effectively. When the head of the people, culture, and Taylor Rose left the company over a year ago, the former employees complain that they are replaced effectively, to Kerry Fischer came in as the VP head of global people and places, the the following case. The gap in the HR-management, sources claim, it’s difficult to escalate, the issues of wage inequality and discrimination.
bird denies that account, saying: “We have consistently had a HR-Manager, and a robust global HR team. Our replacement model developed and verified with an external consulting company that works with other global companies. Gender and race are never considerations for the damages have been. Instead, we are to look, seniority, experience, competence, and performance as key criteria. We have worked hard to build a team of employees, including senior management, and we know we can and will improve.”
in This winter, the company implemented a more standardized, formal performance-review process, to ensure a fairer career movement, what some saw as encouraging. Unfortunately, as a former employee says, “see enough people remained to color [at the company] to play it.”
in the course of time, some employees began to grow doubtful of the business model — especially after it became clear how quickly the bird was burning in cash. Regardless, bird has successfully secure $ 275 million in series D financing to $2.5 billion-assessment in October 2019. Investors were apparently encouraged by the strategic pivot point of the unit of economic growth-over-all.
But the unit of the Economics argument is difficult to analyze. “A good day for a bird’s-two trips,” says a former employee familiar with the breakdown. “And the average journey is about five dollars.” Only “a day,” you clarify, is not actually a day, but the amount of time a bird spends the “in the wild” (i.e., charged, undamaged, and on the streets). Which means that $10 in revenue could extend in fact over several days or less than a day. Start cost-the factor of the operation and of the debt of the city of fines scooter thrown into the ocean for the long winter months, when many birds are “winter sleep” — and the profit margin is only blood is empty.
Some employees speculate that these types of convoluted calculations were carried out in a deliberate move to disguise troubled business. “Travis would say, during the meeting,” We are profitable, the per journey, if you exclude some of the other stuff,'” says a former engineer. “No one would ever say, ‘We are profitable, time.'”
encouraged A thing can have, investors, bird was the willingness to move away from its micro mobility is the ideal in-house. The New Ventures team, described was intended as a “startup in a startup” to explore alternative revenue. The program, where rapid efforts were shifted, and his soft removal, as COO, had mixed results. One of their projects was to Pay for the bird, a mobile-payment app, which had the misfortune, in his debut around the same time COVID-19 in the beginning was to return his to the world.
When the bird Numbers was introduced, staff members say, she has been granted unlimited spending in the app for the first month, a move that some suspect was implemented to inflate the numbers for investors. But the staff were unimpressed with the product. “Of course, it is super glitchy as anything we start to ever,” says an employee. Above all, the user had to manually enter in the amount that he owed, for each transaction. Due to the to detect difficult-to-comma appeared, according to former employees, VanderZanden took out the app for a spin on a day in Santa Monica and accidentally up figures wound up thousands of dollars for a Cup of coffee. “[He was] angry, obviously,” says one of the respondents that informed this story.
VanderZanden does not take kindly to public smears of his image. If information reported that the bird had lost $grew $ 100 million in Q1 2019, VanderZanden angry. Out of a plane, he’s posting began running rampant on social media, including a chart that displayed bird the unity of the economic science, which from a non-representative, high season month and a graph that showed year-over-year sales growth, but, on axis, as a Twitter user pointed out, failed to Y.
internal loose channels, VanderZanden employees, who followed him. “At any time, it was something negative about the bird in the press, someone would post [Slack], and the feedback has been very positive. “The journalist is not to understand the full picture!'” A former member of the mission team, claimed that the company was a fire protection-to defend the Agency, the company is trending LinkedIn criticism. Another former employee describes the public displays of loyalty, such as “like a cult”. The employee survived the 27. March layoffs, she says, many of them were “Yes men.”
employees were given the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. On always set, you had different options to share your remuneration between salary and stock options, a common practice among Start-UPS, which effectively is the placement of a bet on the success of the company. Employees dismissed in March of this year, a year would have would speed the exercise of the option to purchase stock in the company for a drastically lower price (called a strike price) than the General public, according to a stock exchange.
the dismissed employees were surprised to check their latest options grant to see that your strike price had declined from a peak of over 3 dollars to just 14 cents. Several former employees interviewed speculated that this was the result of a relatively revised post-COVID valuation in the next round of funding. “I have to buy a year, my shares, but when I make the decision, right now, I would not say the company is gonna make it and I’m not going to touch those shares,” says an employee.
In response to the base price, bird said, “We have completed a re-evaluation is needed of the options to a third-party-409a-examination. The updated strike price has no impact on the company’s preferred rating.”
When the cloud of COVID clears, the bird will probably have, with the inherent impossibility of all pleasing their stakeholders. The vision, which it sold to cities is not profitable, and the vision that it has, as investors sold goes against the entire mission. On top of that, to meet its fixation on growth of their incredibly inflated valuation has proven not to be sustainable. It remains to be seen whether the pivot, come to the profitability of late.
“This is not just a bird’s-problem, but an industry problem and an investor problem,” warns a former employee, in the hopes that others can learn from this bird ‘ s error. “If you’re going to give it a rating that high, you have to help that company improve and grow sustainably. No one thought anyone be held accountable.”
Since March 27th, those who have been made redundant, have allied with each other. Despite the disappointing end to their time at the company, most of the former staff respondents keep good memories of their former colleagues and are proud of what you have built. The publicity that will reach around the dismissals, a number of tech-inspired company, for interviews and job offers, helped along by former managers to spread the word about the quality of their work.
A former engineer who left the company voluntarily recalls watching, as the redundancies, the move in the eyes of the public: “[it] was a terrible PR. You have to turn a lot of faithful people… against you.”
How many leaders in the tech industry have learned the hard way, a bad decision can impact long-lasting. Everything reminds one of the lines, the reading of the morning of the 27. March: “When we come to the other side of this unimaginable storm, and begin to scale-up unpaused markets, increase of fleets, support, tab, build, products, and more, we hope we can work together again.”
Former employees do not agree. “Bird lost,” says a man who was dismissed last month. “You lost irreplaceable employees. You have lost the satisfaction of the employees. You have lost brand loyalty… I have never come together such a great group of people to go through such a hard time together.” He added: “We are BirdFam. We are really a family.”
* names changed to protect the identities of the involved
Update April 24th, 4:20 ET: bird denied that the Facebook is not more exposed to advertise their ability and, as David Estrada with the company. The article has been updated to reflect these facts.
Released on Thu, 23 Apr 2020 16:00:00 +0000