I love pitch events in general, but this one was specifically great. Not only were the startups expertly curated, but the attendees were very active with their questions and diligent note-taking. As someone who cringes every time someone presents to an audience that’s not paying attention, Funding the Movement definitely soothed my Fremdschäm.
You could tell a lot by looking at the audience. It was around 30-40 handpicked attendees who were primarily from CVCs or corporate innovation units. There were also some promoters of local startup ecosystems, a couple sector-specific micro-influencers, and a few representatives of various mobility accelerators. But where were the regular, non-corporate VCs? It seems they were busy with their inbound deal-flow, or else they were there and I just didn’t get the chance to meet them.
What are the trends shaping the future of mobility?
As I was diligently taking notes on each pitch, I couldn’t help but notice some of the similarities between the companies on stage and how these relate to broader innovation themes in the sector. I marked the different buzzwords mentioned in each pitch, and the result was an overview of the current investment trends in the European mobility landscape:
Source: my notebook
In case there was any doubt, this is not a scientific study based on empirical research, but even with our informal data, our findings align with the predictions of actual experts in the field. The broader innovation themes lean toward platforms & services that seamlessly get people to their destination combining every mode of transportation available. Cities and metropolitan areas will most likely own the multimodal mobility platforms, which signifies a need for services that will help them manage large masses of data.
Let’s break down the individual trends:
Platforms? So hot right now.
Buzzword meter: mentioned by 10 startups
According to my colleague and mobility expert Marcus Willand, the future of mobility is platforms, which is definitely the case if we go by the number of mentions in the startup pitches. Our old friend and SBC Berlin alum, Zify, showed tremendous growth onstage with their carpooling platform’s expansion into new markets and services. Combining geolocation and machine learning for on-demand carpooling, Karos.fr presented their AI-enabled sustainable mobility platform that already has 150,000+ active users in France.
With self-driving cars inching their way closer to reality, Valerann highlighted the need for roads to adapt to the requirements of autonomous vehicles. Their solution is a B2G data analytics & predictive maintenance and monitoring platform to help create secure IoT for connected transportation infrastructure.
Sharing & Fleets
Buzzword meter: both terms mentioned by 9 startups
There’s also a huge trend in shifting vehicle ownership from the individual to the fleet operator. This is true for all forms of urban mobility, but at this particular event, there were disproportionately more bike sharing startups than scooters and cars. Both of them tackle the issues of urban congestion and bike graveyards, but Pony Bikes‘s approach to decentralized micromobility involves users ‘adopting’ their bikes, and Billy Bikes feature a more robust, electric bike to ward off vandalism.
On the scooter side, Felix presented their on-demand door-to-door mototaxi service with a fleet of BMW electric scooters that they claim is 30% cheaper than other ride-hailing platforms. Also in partnership with BMW, Dutch startup Juuve wants to combine carsharing with real estate by integrating fleets of shared vehicles in condominiums and other residential developments.
One startup with a big claim and a charmingly foiled live demo is Eliport. Backed by renowned mobility futurist Lukas Neckermann, this company wants to automate last-mile logistics in urban areas with their fleet of ground-based, autonomous delivery robots.
Buzzword meter: mentioned by 8 startups
The entire mobility industry wants to get the smell of Dieselgate off of them, and it’s great to see so many companies making it easier for us to ditch our dependence on gas-powered vehicles.
In one of the most unique pitches of the day, HES Energy Systems is paving the way for greener air travel with their ultralight hydrogen-electric batteries for aircraft. French startup K-Ryole [read: carry-all] aims to solve the last-mile logistics problem in urban areas with their smart motorized bike trailers.
Three startups on stage also mentioned ‘Charging’ solutions. Jedlix works with OEMs to integrate their technology into the backend of electric vehicles so drivers can charge their car over the air at the most cost- and energy-efficient time. Another mobile charging solution is SmartGreenCharge with their off-grid renewable energy charging stations that combine wind, solar, and biofuel to decarbonize, decentralize, and deregulate energy supply.
Buzzword meter: mentioned by 6 startups
Kicking things off for the day, Mobeelity presented their B2B aggregator platform for multi-modal route planning and carsharing.
In the final pitch, Scoot Networks takes their commitment to multimodal electric mobility very seriously, walking the audience through its catalog of electric bikes, scooters, and kick scooters that are already rolled out in 3 continents.
Talk Data to Me
Buzzword meter: mentioned by 5 startups
There’s an underlying belief in new mobility, which is that whoever controls the most transportation data will own the digital relationship to the consumer. I have to admit I was expecting Parkbob to be a YAPA (Yet Another Parking App), but they are so much more – they’re on a mission to own the last-mile driving context with their data science-based parking info SDK that provides drivers (or autonomous vehicles) hyper-local parking information in real time in any metropolitan area in the world.
WeBreathe, on the other hand, focuses on optimizing public transport for maximum convenience and congestion with their machine vision system that maps ridership in real time with 99% accuracy.
There’s still a long way to go before urban mobility is fully digitalized. Luckily, MotionTagbuilt an augmented data analytics SDK that uses machine learning to help transport providers understand, optimize, and create seamless multimodal mobility solutions.
A No-Brainer: Artificial Intelligence
Buzzword meter: mentioned by 5 startups
A lot of the startups mentioned previously use artificial intelligence in one way or another, but the following companies use this technology as their core business. In order for autonomous vehicles to be safe enough to drive on real roads, AV manufacturers need to collect tons of real-world data to feed their autonomous driving AI systems.
Travel AI Ltd presented their vertical AI tool that can collect large amounts of granular data from any transportation source to give transport providers insights on how customers use the entire mobility value chain. In a similar vein, Cit.io wants to deal with the growing demand for urban mobility. Cities can use their AI platform to visualize, analyze, and optimize transportation based on real passenger needs and multiple data sources.
Tackling the issue of safety with AI is Drust, who in partnership with the insurance company Macif, has developed a platform that leverages connected car data to improve driving behavior.
This summarizes around five total hours of intense and insightful pitches.
It’s reassuring to see that the future of mobility will not be limited to self-driving cars, but that there are companies out there proactively taking measures to combat urban congestion and make transportation more user-centric. Looking back at the entire time we spent at Autonomy, it will be platforms getting people from point A to point B. Urban mobility is on track to become a seamless, multi-modal, electric, and shared experience.
The question we have to ask ourselves now as these offerings become more and more ubiquitous, is this: who will own the fleets, the platforms, the entire digital relationship to the consumer?
What will be the role of automotive manufacturers in this context?