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Shifting gears: Exploring investment opportunities in the world of mobility start-ups

Shifting gears: Exploring investment opportunities in the world of mobility start-ups 3

Shifting gears: Exploring investment opportunities in the world of mobility start-ups 4By Ian Thomas, Managing Director of Turquoise

In 2021, venture capital firms invested nearly $100 billion into mobility tech start-ups, as interest in technology platforms smoothing the route to net-zero emissions continued to gather pace. In this article, Ian Thomas, managing director of Turquoise International, which invests from the Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2), explores the evolving mobility investment market and the rise of new mobility start-up investment opportunities.

With the transport sector widely considered one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, the requirement for investment into zero-emission technologies is rising. Indeed, research indicates that $28 trillion in investments will be required to meet the 2050 net-zero target by EU member countries alone.[1] Drawing examples from across the LCIF2 portfolio, including shared commuting platform RideTandem, carbon reduction facilitator SKOOT, EV smart charging start-up Electric Miles, and energy optimisation and range prediction software provider Spark EV, I have identified some of the key mobility trends that are exciting investors.

Supplementing public transport

Typically, mobility start-ups focus on the transportation challenges experienced by urban centres such as London, New York and Berlin. However, there are companies mining demand for broader transport options outside the big cities, where, for many residents, the transport choices are limited to either private car ownership or simply not making the journey at all.

RideTandem creates new transport links in areas poorly served by existing public transport and, in doing so, addresses transport poverty and reduces carbon emissions. Founded in 2019, the company specialises in working with taxi, minicab and coach companies to provide shared commuter services for employers whose staff would otherwise be unable to get to work because of the cost, inconvenience or absence of public transport options.

RideTandem’s services reduce CO2 emissions by creating shared alternatives to multiple private journeys, increasing commuter vehicle occupancy and thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the road. The average RideTandem vehicle carries more than 20 passengers – versus 1.16 for the average commuter car – and operates at more than 70 per cent capacity. Employers can also purchase carbon credits to offset emissions from their workers’ commutes. The company estimates that trips made using RideTandem services create an annual CO2 offset of 1,000 metric tons in comparison with the same journey being made by car.[2]

RideTandem coverage is currently strongest across the Midlands and East of England, with customers including Royal Mail, Primark, Transport for West Midlands, Direct Table Foods, Banham Poultry, as well as staffing agencies Manpower, Reed, First Call Contract Services and Everest People Solutions. Applications for the technology are broad and we see the potential for rapid scale.

Lift sharing

In 2019, the shared mobility market accounted for around $130 billion to $140 billion in global consumer spending.[3] Approximately 72% of the total amount of disclosed investment in the sector since 2010 has originated from venture capital and private equity investors, backing disruptive, tech-driven business models, as opposed to established market players.

Carbon reduction facilitator SKOOT was founded in 2019 to enable carbon-mitigated lift sharing among friends and colleagues. The app enables consumers to mitigate rising fuel costs by sharing journeys, while working to lower urban congestion and transport emissions.

SKOOT has now broadened its offering to focus on reversing the effects of climate change, with innovative products ranging from helping restaurants and e-commerce vendors offer a carbon-neutral service to customers, to an easy-to-use carbon calculator helping the UK’s 5.5m SMEs reach net zero.

With a digital platform that is already operational and robust, we see significant potential for large-scale, international expansion of this innovative business.

Smart charging: the business opportunity

According to new research, smart EV charging has the potential to create a £5bn annual market in Europe by 2030. Smart charging offers significant business opportunities for new players entering the EV charging ecosystem, with revenue generating opportunities emerging in hardware, software and value-added services.[4]

UK EV numbers are expected to reach nine million by 2030, driving a 30% rise in peak energy demand. This has potential to slow the path to the UK’s plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as more fossil generation is used in peak periods, presenting a major problem for the electricity grid.

LCIF2 portfolio company Electric Miles is a disruptive player in the EV charging start-up space. The Electric Miles app helps EV drivers to save money and reduce their carbon footprint, ensuring vehicles are charged with the cheapest, greenest energy available at the time set for charging. Electric Miles’ software is designed to directly reduce peak demand, which we believe will help to make EV charging accessible to all. The company plans to use its recent investment round to scale its user base to 100,000 in the next 24 months, as well as doubling the size of its team to position the brand for expansion to the US and Europe next year.

Range prediction technology

The EV market is experiencing rapid growth. Indeed, the global EV market is now forecast to reach $60 billion by 2032,[5] fuelled by intense investor interest. Range anxiety, however, remains a potential consumer barrier to adoption.

LCIF2 portfolio company Spark EV Technology is a category leader in energy optimisation and range prediction software for EVs of all sizes, from micro-mobility to trucks. Spark aims to accelerate mass EV adoption by working with OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to implement its technology globally and is currently working with Swedish vehicle manufacturer Scania on a pilot to prepare trucking companies and fleet owners for the transition to electric.

The sheer volume of capital required to support decarbonisation of the ground transport sector means that there will continue to be very significant opportunities for investors in this space. There is a wide range of technologies, products and business models for investors to select from, encompassing hardware and software, B2B and B2C, ebikes, passenger vehicles and heavy trucks. While not all start-ups will be successful, the market is large and varied enough for investors to construct a diversified portfolio with the potential to generate outsized returns.

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