(From left) Farooq Malik and Eric Bell of Blue Duck.
A 2018 photograph of Blue Duck's former Chief Financial Officer (left) Farooq Malik and former President Eric Bell. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio e-scooter company Blue Duck has shut down, according to a media report.

In letters to investors, the long-troubled company said it has ceased operations in the 10 markets it operated in across the South, from El Paso to Greensboro, North Carolina, Texas Public Radio reported. The privately held company had warned it would go into default on Jan. 1 if it failed to raise an additional $5 million in equity.

It is unclear if the money was raised. Calls and emails to company representatives were not returned. Calls to the company’s main phone line yielded a busy signal.

Interim CEO Johnny Vassallo told investors days before Christmas that the company could not sustain the debts it had taken to fuel its rapid expansion, which had mostly been into secondary markets and college towns across the South. The company had also at one point launched a pilot program in Ireland. As recently as Dec. 10, the company announced the launch of a new fleet in Durham, North Carolina.

The company, which at one time employed as many as 60 people, is reportedly exploring foreclosure or bankruptcy options, according to emails to investors quoted by TPR.

Though nominally based in San Antonio, where much of the executive team lived, Blue Duck has not had a meaningful presence in the city in some time. The company left its former office near the Pearl in the spring 2021.

Blue Duck scooters are arranged at the intersection of Newell and Avenue A at the Pearl in 2019. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The company has not had any scooters in San Antonio since the beginning of 2020, after it failed to meet the city’s application deadline by one minute. Rival scooter companies Bird, Razor and Lime moved in to fill the vacuum, though Lime is no longer a local vendor.

Following the episode, Blue Duck underwent a high-profile shuffle in management that included the departure of Paul and Eric Bell, the father-son duo that founded the company in 2018. The company last year made an informal pitch to be allowed back into the city. It was not successful.

It’s been a tough past couple of years for scooter-share companies, which rocketed onto city streets across the country with little regulations or permitting in 2018. After a high-flying start, ridership cratered in the first weeks of the pandemic, and did not begin to recover in large part until this summer. Other early e-scooter companies have also fallen casualty, such as Skip, one of the first to launch in the United States, which filed for bankruptcy last summer.

Blue Duck has never turned a profit, according to TPR, but following the example of other e-scooter companies, it had sought to float on investor money to power a rapid expansion. In 2019 and 2020, it raised $12 million by selling equity. In December 2020 it intended to raise $15 million in additional investment but generated only $300,000, according to filings with the Securities and Exchanges Commission.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.