By Scott Shepard, Chief Business Officer, Iomob Technology Services
When we think of shared mobility, what comes to mind? Scooters, bikes, taxis, carshare, pogo sticks? While each of these options (minus one) offer countless opportunities for flexibility and freedom in navigating urban environments, there is another major factor at play. How can each of these offers build a sustainable business model, become profitable, and ultimately improve mobility in our cities?
As described previously, the shared mobility landscape in Europe is evolving at a rapid pace, but taking a markedly different direction than in North America. The reason for this is the difference in urban built environments between both continents, along with a modal split much more geared to the regular usage of public transport in Europe.
While North American cities (since the 1950s) have dramatically reduced their reliance on public transport for urban mobility, European cities at the same time invested heavily in their urban rail, bus, and tram networks and systems across the continent. This has resulted in an environment that nurtures the importance of public transport in benefitting all segments of the population.
As a result, the introduction of shared mobility providers (MSPs) in Europe has taken a much different path than in North America. While there have been certain instances of friction between cities and providers (as witnessed recently in Paris and Madrid), unfortunately these locations have simply followed the U.S. shared mobility product strategy of 2018 — “launch” as many scooters as possible, and ask cities for permission (or forgiveness) later, after consumers have had a taste of the offer and demand their presence.
Interestingly enough, a majority of MSPs (especially the European based ones) have finally figured out that working together with cities actually makes sense, and is simply the cost of doing business on the continent. But then you may ask, how do providers and aggregators in the shared mobility space monetize their offer and move towards a profitable business model?
By pragmatically decoupling assets and products into specific offers that solve real problems in cities, is where we start to see businesses move their balance sheet into ‘the black’. For example, by right-sizing their fleets, charging reasonable rates, layering in ad revenue, and working directly with cities to solve urban challenges (such as infrastructure, congestion, public health, road safety, and data democratization) is where new mobility ventures and startups in Europe can move the needle forward and make our cities more livable.
The call to action here is to learn from our preventable micromobility mistakes in US cities in 2018 and build sustainable and profitable business models in the shared mobility sector. The key takeaway is that “collaboration matters” and everything begins and ends with cities. Let’s not forget this lesson moving forward, and leverage the best VC investments from Silicon Valley (and China) to realize the highest potential for shared mobility in Europe.
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About the author: Scott Shepard is an urbanist & mobility visionary, C-level executive, board member, advisor, strategist, thought leader, and influencer who is passionate about the intersection of cities, mobility, and innovation. He is a frequent global keynote speaker on shared mobility trends & disruption, OEM innovation & investments, future mobility tech, and urban public policy. His writing about cities and mobility has been published in Intelligent Transport Magazine, Smart Cities World, Auto Futures, the Urban Mobility Daily, Medium, & Transportes em Revista.