9 Shared-Mobility Startups Eager To Disrupt Transportation
Nine upstarts pitched ideas to advance the booming shared-mobility industry Thursday in Chicago. Some tackled the young industry's most dogged problems.
Executives from nine fledgling companies faced three judges and 120 conventioneers on the opening afternoon of the Shared Use Mobility Summit. Read to the end to discover which three were selected as semifinalists to compete for votes over the next two days.
The nine were:
CLEVR is offering a three-wheeled scooter that can be fitted with a seat to make it viable for disabled persons. But the company's real secret weapon is a super-precise GPS tracking module that's accurate to within three feet. So CLEVR can tell where the scooter is being ridden and it can modify the scooter's top speed.
"Rather than try to control user behavior management, we can try to control the vehicles deployed through intelligence," said CEO Alex Nesic. "Sidewalk driving can now be geofenced and controlled at a reasonable speed."
And data showing where users prefer the sidewalk can tip city officials off to streets that feel unsafe.
Koloni began as a bike sharing operation in Pocahontas, Iowa, when its founders thought, Why not use the same platform to share other things too? Users with the app can not only unlock bicycles and scooters, but also unlocks Koloni's storage lockers to borrow basketballs, tennis rackets, or whatever objects a city, university or property owner wants to lend.
"They can download the app and they essentially have a key to the city," said co-founder and CEO Brian Downey.
There are now a billion people worldwide using thousands of different apps to access rideshareing services, according to Bellhop CEO Payam Safa, often with each app tied to a single platform or company. This makes it difficult for potential users to know which company offers the best rates or evn which mobility options might be best.
"The solution is pretty straight forward," Safa said, "We combine all of these into one app."
Bellhop wants to build a mega-app that integrates rideshare, bikeshare and public transit.
Mobility 4 All
Mobility 4 All seeks to provide a trusted source of mobility for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to drive.
The company will vet and certify drivers from other transportation companies through the app it calls MO. A rideshare transaction will take place between three parties—the driver, the rider, and the rider's caregiver, who is able to request the ride and monitor its progress through the app.
"Imagine a world when mobility doesn't end when you can't drive," said CEO John Q. Doan, "when you never have to have that talk with your parent about losing their keys."
The Spanish company RideIT wants to clean up the dockless scooter mess in other cities by providing universal docks that can serve multiple scooter brands, charge the scooters with universal charging architecture and manage them with universal tracking keys.
"This platform, which is managed by RideOn, is the solution for all those shared electric mobility companies that do not have their own charging stations," according to a promotional video that helped make RideOn's pitch.
The battery engineers behind the Somerville Electric Vehicle Company designed a bike- and scooter-share system that addresses the three main obstacles they identify to use: cost, charging time and range anxiety. When users rent scooters and e-bikes equipped with SomEV batteries, they can supplement range by stopping at a battery kiosk to swap out a dying battery pack for a charged one.
The batteries charge fully in less than two minutes, and the system costs significantly less than having an employee in a van driving around recharging scooters.
"What we do is we take all of the battery management off of these companies," said cofounder Natasha George.
TIKD works behind the scenes to solve a problem that has hampered the growth of the rideshare movement: the muddled responsibility for traffic and parking tickets. Currently, the ticketing agency tickets the vehicle, and eventually contacts the owner via snail mail. The owner then has to pursue the driver, who may have rented the vehicle weeks before.
"This process is incredibly inefficient, there's so much room for error, and as a result agencies are not able to collect on time for these citations," said TIKD co-founder Megan Broccoli. Meawhile, vehicle owners may face late fees, collection fees, booting, towing or impounding of the vehicle.
So TIKD monitors 700 ticket-issuing agencies to notice whenever a shared vehicle is ticketed, and the startup interacts directly with the offending driver to satisfy the fine.
Public agencies have generally had to resort to punishing companies or users for bad behavior or taxing modes of transportation they want to discourage. Velocia wants to try positive behavior modification instead.
"Rather than look at an approach of taxing or penalizing, why not reward people for parking in a specific area," said Velocia CEO David Winterstein, or for taking the bus or train instead of driving, or for using a shared bicycle instead of a car.
Users who do things that reduce traffic and pollution are rewarded with a virtual currency called Velos that can be redeemed for bus or metro tickets, bikeshare time or other mobility-related boons. The company is working on a pilot project in Miami.
Vostok took on the same three obstacles to sharing that SomEV identified—cost, charging access, and range anxiety, and designed a scooter to address them. The Vostok E7 has a removable battery pack with a 60-mile range that can be charged in any standard electric socket.
"A lot of times, people won't adopt an EV solution because of the range, because of the lack of charging points and because of the price," said co-founder Rachel Lesslar, so Vostok developed a removable battery at lower cost that's easily recharged anywhere.
And The Semifinalists Are
Three judges listened to these pitches yesterday in Chicago and selected three that will compete for votes during the remainder of the summit. The three judges were Beth Bond, head of city development for Bosch; Jason Dietrich, a principal at A3Ventures; and David Leopold, director of product management for the City Tech Collaborative, UI Labs. They selected RideOn, Velocia and TIKD.