Via bills itself as an ‘on-demand transit company’ and in some ways is competing with Uber, specifically within the city carpooling space. Today the company announced $100 million in Series C funding, when actually only $70 million of that has closed, with, we’re told, another $30 million in strategic investment to come in the coming weeks. Who that will be from, Via isn’t saying.
What we do know is that the C round is being led by Pitango Growth, with participation from a number of other VCs and family offices including Poalim Capital Markets and C4 Ventures. Previous backers Ervington Investments (the investment vehicle of Russian mogul Roman Abramovich), Hearst Ventures, and 83North also participated. The funding, when it fully closes, will bring Via’s total investment to $137 million.
“Via is creating the public transit system of the future,” said Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval, co-founders of Via, in a jointly canned statement. “With existing transportation infrastructure straining and in some cases failing to meet rising demand across the globe, Via’s dynamic bus system offers cities a smart solution to traffic congestion and emissions. We’re delighted to have secured significant backing for our vision: eliminating single-occupancy vehicle trips by creating a mass transit system powered by advanced algorithms and data.”
That Via’s founders refer to the car pooling service, which currently operates in New York City and Chicago, as a “public transit system” fits with how the company is attempting to differentiate itself from ride-sharing competitors and official public transport: by using data and smart algorithms it wants to be nearer a price point of taking a bus but with the flexibility a private hire vehicle.
Or as Via co-founder Ramot told TechCrunch in April last year, “we’re positioned in a unique space between a bus and an Uber.” That mean that a people-carrier in the Via network will typically hold between 5 and 8 people, with a ride rarely only being taken by a single user.
The startup claims to able to achieve this by dynamically matching passengers with available seats instead of entire vehicles, while its smart routing enables passengers to be picked up and dropped off “in an endless stream, without taking riders out of their way to accommodate other passengers”.