Monthly Archives: March 2019

How Bird plans to blanket the world with electric scooters without going bankrupt


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Operating an electric scooter-sharing service is expensive and hard. The scooters break down, or they get vandalized or impounded by local law enforcement. Scaling that business globally, like Bird and Lime are trying to do, is even harder. Every scooter company today is operating at a loss, but Bird in particular has an interesting plan to spread the gospel of the scooter without going completely bankrupt.

It involves selling e-scooters to local entrepreneurs, providing them with advice and technical support to get started, letting them incur all the costs associated with maintenance and operations, and then taking a small percentage of each scooter trip. It’s called “Bird Platform,” which the company originally unveiled last November.

But what the Santa Monica-based startup didn’t say at the time was that Bird Platform would be targeted at aspiring scooter entrepreneurs who live in countries outside the US and Europe, where Bird operates its own branded scooter-sharing service. In this way Bird can inspire the creation of new scooter companies that won’t directly compete with its own service, as well as orchestrate the spread of e-scooters in cities around the world, without losing more money than it already is.

“It came out of a brainstorm around how do we take the mission to the world,” Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden told The Verge. “And so, we’re excited about that. We’re also excited because it… allows us to grow faster.”

San Francisco Battles New Electric Scooter Rentals
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Bird is planning to rollout Bird Platform in three initial markets: New Zealand, Canada, and Latin America. Local entrepreneurs can buy Bird’s e-scooters at cost, as well as access the company’s tools, products, and technology needed to manage a fleet of shared e-scooters. Bird will even fly in its own operations experts to help launch the business. And in exchange, the company will take 20 percent of each trip fare. Bird typically charges $1 to unlock a scooter, and then 15 cents per minute of riding. The average trip generates around $3.75 in revenue for the company — though assumedly Bird Platform users would set their own prices.

The scooters, which are manufactured by Bird’s partners in China, will come preinstalled with all the firmware and GPS technology, called the “Bird Brain,” that allows them to be deployed as part of a shared fleet. “It’s capital intensive,” VanderZanden said. “What we’ve really tried to do is keep the upfront costs as low as possible.”

It’s an interesting move by Bird, especially considering how wildly unsustainable the scooter-sharing business is turning out to be. Recently, Quartz’s Alison Griswold crunched the numbers from Louisville, Kentucky, and found that the median scooter took 70 trips over 85 miles, and had a lifespan of 23 days. Lifespan is a big deal for scooter companies: the longer the scooters can stay in operation, the more money they can make for the company. And right now, these scooters aren’t living long enough to earn a profit.

VanderZanden has been staving off the winter doldrums (colder weather, fewer scooter trips) by mulling over the unit economics conundrum. Most of the solution rests in the company’s ability to roll out its new, longer-lasting, more rugged scooter, the Bird Zero. He wouldn’t say what percentage of Bird’s fleet is now comprised of the more rugged scooter. But he did say that in order for Bird to eventually break even, the scooters will need to increase their lifespan to six months.

“We’ve been hard at work on future hardware as well, with even bigger batteries and more ruggedized [scooters], which will circle back on at some point in the future,” he said. “We’re looking at every technology you could imagine. If it makes sense from an economic standpoint, and ideally improves the rider experience, then it’s a no-brainer.”

Here’s How to Protect Your Data Privacy When You Sell or Recycle Smartphones and Computers (Video)


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Alyssa Newcomb

By Alyssa Newcomb, Business and Technology Contributor to Fortune   March 19, 2019

 

When it comes to data privacy, there’s more to security than changing passwords and encryption. You’re at risk if you do good by recycling computers and smartphones too. Research from security company Rapid7 shows that tech sold in secondhand shops are filled with the previous owners’ personal data, according to new research from security company Rapid7.

Over the course of six months, Josh Frantz, a researcher at Rapid7, purchased old electronics from businesses that sell refurbished computers, or accept donations, and promise to wipe the devices before they are sold. He spent $650. His haul included 41 computers, 27 pieces of removable media, which included flash drives and memory cards, 11 hard disks, and six cell phones.

What he found was the equivalent of people serving up their data on a digital silver platter. Frantz retrieved more than 366,000 files, which included documents and images. Perhaps most troubling was the load of personal information he was able to access. He found 41 social security numbers, 19 credit card numbers, six driver’s license numbers and two passport numbers.

“Whenever I brought a computer back, I booted it up to see whether it was bootable and whether it required a password to log in. I wrote a script in PowerShell that would run through and index all the images, documents, saved emails, and conversation histories through instant messengers. It would then zip it up nice and organized on the desktop, and I would pull it off with a USB drive,” he wrote in a blog post.

While many businesses promise to wipe donated old electronics, Frantz said the best way to prevent your data from leaking to potential thieves is to clean any device as best as you can before handing it over to a recycling program or a re-seller.

Performing a factory reset sometimes isn’t enough to keep experienced hackers from finding old data. Frantz shared a guide to how to wipe an Android device, which involves first using an app to encrypt your data before performing a factory reset. An iPhone or iPad can be reset by going to settings > general > reset > erase all content and settings.

And if you are planning to recycle your old computer, Frantz recommends a few different methods for destroying it, including a drill, hammer, or setting it on fire, as long as there aren’t any toxic byproducts.

“If you’re worried about your data ending up in the wrong person’s hands, destroy the data,” he said. “If you wish to do a good deed and donate your technology so others can benefit, make sure it’s at least wiped to an acceptable standard. Even if you get it in writing that your data will be erased, there’s no good way to know whether that’s actually true unless you perform the wipe yourself.”