The pandemic has changed the way mobility and transport startups operate — maybe for the better

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Commuting to work every day is something that ended almost a year ago for millions of people around the world. And it continues to be so for many. COVID-19 has not abated, and the outlook means that a multitude of mobility companies are continuing to cut costs and staff until the situation subsides. But not in all cases: some companies in the industry have expanded.

Such is the case of the startup Hip, which connects people with third-party buses and shuttles through its app. Like so many, during the strictest lockdowns, it experienced a long hiatus. However, it decided to grow rather than cut back. It created a B2B, enterprise option on its platform, a move that sought to attract companies and manufacturers prepared to bring workers back to their offices when possible.

“Instead of retrenching, we went all-or-nothing and grew our platform,” Hip CEO Amiad Solomon explained in a recent interview, noting that the decision came after lengthy conversations with large companies that didn’t know how to get their workers back to the office safely.

And the gamble paid off. According to the CEO, the company, which has 20 people in its New York and Tel Aviv offices, has not only won new clients but also raised $12 million in a financing round led by NFX and Magenta Venture Partners, with the participation of AltaIR Capital and former top executives from Uber, and Google.

But Hip’s case is not unique: other companies in the mobility aggregator sector have seen investor interest grow despite the headwind brought on by COVID.

While in the case of Hip, companies can upload their employees’ data along with their addresses to help corporations decide what their needs and costs would be for those trips, connecting them with bus and shuttle companies (and always keeping in mind that minimizing the chances of contagion is the most important thing, they assure), last summer the Spanish Goublue was born, a BlaBlaCar for companies within the Bankia Fintech acceleration program.

The application is not openly available in the Play Store, but when companies contract the startup’s services, it makes it available to them in exchange for a monthly subscription. Gloublue facilitates its implementation not only with an app in which each worker includes the route they usually take or the one they want to take, which apart from contributing to less pollution means economic savings for workers but also with a fleet management system.

The application has been awarded in the Muévete Verde 2020 awards of the Madrid City Council, in the category Application of New Technologies to Mobility. It has also been highlighted by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda in its report Good practices in Spain.

Pandemic transforms mobility in cities: users of bicycles, motorcycles and scooters increased by 7% in Spain versus a drop in cars and public transport

“Now that we are working on the business side, we are seeing how many opportunities there are. I think we will move more and more in this direction of providing systems with modern software and connections between that software and the transportation providers, to be the glue that links companies and their transportation needs with the world of our suppliers and partners,” Solomon said.

In the same vein, the Spanish mobility services aggregator Meep has just raised 4 million euros in a round led by Liil Ventures, whose portfolio includes companies such as Cabify, WhereIsMyTransport, Miles, or the new what3words mapping system. With that money the company seeks to expand to another 11 cities during 2021, reaching a total of 18. Its CEO, Guillermo Campoamor, sees it as a boost to “continue improving the accessibility of a transport system that has been underutilized until now”.

The mobility services aggregator Meep will be in 11 cities next year: “We want all of them to join this Mobility as a Service”.

Another company in the sector about to announce a round of financing is Iomob, another Spanish company that integrates the transportation of a city, or several cities, in the same app, but only does so for third parties, offering them its technology and without its name. For now, Iomob has raised more than one million euros and is looking to become a unicorn, that is, a company valued at more than 1 billion dollars.

And the CEO revealed in an interview with Business Insider Spain that they are not on the wrong track: by October 2020 they were on track to have a turnover of more than one million euros and had almost tripled the number of customers they had before the pandemic.

Finally, the joint venture owned by Mercedes, ViaVan, wants to expand in Spain over the next few months. ViVan’s parent company is valued at $2.25 billion (about €1.922 billion), according to its latest funding round, which took place in March (Series E) and raised $200 million (about €170 million).

2020 was already seen by many players in the mobility sector as the year in which aggregators would take off, under the pretext that users are tired of needing to download and register for a different mobile application for each service. It’s a trend that giants such as Uber and Cabify were already increasingly heading towards, and is now favored by the current concentration process in the sector… and even driven by the pandemic.

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