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Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.
As I mentioned last week, the agenda is out for TC Sessions: Mobility 2022. I think we put together a pretty sweet program, and there will be a couple of more announcements to come.
I do have a special offer to my subscribers who are interested in the event. Complete the form found here to receive a code for a free Expo Only ticket to TC Sessions: Mobility. We have 15 free Expo Only passes available, given out on a first-come-first-served basis. Once you complete this brief form you will be sent an email during the week of April 25 with your offer. If you’re not one of the first 15, we will send you a code for a significant discount as we want to thank you for subscribing to The Station!
The Expo Only passes won’t give you access to the main stage (that’s where I will be!) but it will let you mix it up with startup founders in the expo area, attend the breakout sessions and get exclusive analyst content online with replays of the breakout sessions on May 20 only.
A few other recommendations: Check out this EV SPAC guide (TC+ subscription) from Jaclyn Trop. Think of this as a living document that we will continue to update. As she writes: “If 2020 and 2021 were the years of the SPAC, 2022 is shaping up to be the year of the reprimand.”
Please check out another TC+ story from Rebecca Bellan. This is the latest in her ongoing founder Q&A series. This week, she interviewed Steer founder Anuja Sonalker.
And for fun, I propose that Stellantis make three of the Jeep concepts I recently tested during Easter Jeep Safari.
Lots to get to this week; let’s dig in.
Putting the “hell” in Helbiz
Helbiz finally got around to publishing its 2021 earnings (quite late, I may add), and I decided to take a look at it under a microscope to try to make sense of it all. I’m still maddeningly confused as to how this company is keeping its head above water as it continues to spend far more than it earns with little cash to back up its wild forays into new business verticals — from shared micromobility and advertising to cryptocurrency and ghost kitchens, a sports streaming platform and, most recently, collabing on electric car rentals.
Going through the earnings sheet, which shows nearly $80 million in losses on a $12 million revenue and a CEO being paid close to $3 million, Alex Wilhelm and I wanted to know: Is Helbiz’s business philosophy based on the tried-and-true method of throwing wet spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks? And that what sticks will magically help the company raise more capital?
Cities 🤝 Micromobility
Superpedestrian released a report in partnership with Cities Today Institute that details how e-scooters can better integrate with public transportation systems. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think shared micromobility can ever truly work, or even become profitable, if it’s not properly integrated into public transit, so this report is very validating, on a personal level.
The report provides spotlights for four cities that are beginning to successfully integrate micromobility and public transit: Pittsburgh, Madrid, Seattle and Milwaukee. Based on some of the programs seen in these cities, the report offers suggestions for policymakers such as:
- Establish intermodal transportation hubs, like Move PGH in Pittsburgh. It’s as easy as installing e-scooter parking at major public transit stops, like bus or train terminals.
- Integrate a micromobility fare system with public transit fares, which will lead to lower costs for riders. The report didn’t mention this, but this has been done in Sydney.
- Improve on-the-ground info and integrated trip planning features. We want a transit ecosystem that includes micromobility.
- Expand equity programs in micromobility. Superpedestrian says riders who use its LINK-Up and LINK Serv programs, which serve veterans and riders on public assistance, are over 10x more likely to use scooters to connect to a transit stop than other destinations.
- Deploy micromobility vehicles to fill overnight gaps in public transit. This is helpful for the workers who don’t work a traditional 9-5 and still need a reliable way to get to work and home.
In other news …
Cake has introduced a lineup of kids’ bikes, including a tiny electric off-road motorcycle that’s going for the adult price of $3,500.
Denver residents can now get a $400 instant rebate if they purchase a qualifying e-bike from a participating bike shop. Income-qualified residents may qualify for a $1,200 instant rebate, and e-cargo bikes are eligible for an additional $500 instant rebate.
Hunter, a Portuguese electric skateboard company, has just raised a $1.3 million seed round, launched its first U.S.-based operations in LA and is gearing up to launch a limited quantity batch of its Hunter Boards mid May. It’s a cool-looking aluminum board that can hit 34 mph and has a suspension system that Hunter says ensures better stability. The board doesn’t come cheap though, at $1,999. Interested shredders can sign up for the waitlist.
Zoomo is bringing on some heavy hitters to help build out its delivery e-bike business, including former Lyft VP Jules Flynn; former Cruise and Uber employee Alan Wells; and ex Bain & Company consultant Michelle Crocker.
Bird has launched its smart bikeshare program in Madrid with the city’s Municipal Transport Company. The collab will feature Bird’s shared e-bikes integrated into Madrid’s Mobility 360 transit app and the city’s BiciMAD public bikeshare available on Bird’s app.
See ya next week!
— Rebecca Bellan
Deal of the week
The Boring Company is now valued at $5.7 billion. Yes, I’m talking about Elon Musk’s tunnel-building-for-urban-transport business.
The Boring Company announced it raised $675 million in a Series C round co-led by Sequoia Capital and Vy Capital. 8VC, Craft Ventures, DFJ Growth, Founders Fund and Valor Equity Partners also participated. Elon Musk used that news cycle to turn to Twitter to spread the word that The Boring Company is hiring for more than 70 open positions in Austin and Bastrop, Texas, as well as in Las Vegas, where it recently received approval to expand its tunnel under the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Since the beginning of The Boring Company, I’ve found it a curious business. The company and Musk promises to “solve traffic,” but doesn’t seem to offer up any actual evidence for how digging tunnels is a better, more efficient solution than say a subway or train. It’s a question I asked Musk himself during a press conference way back when The Boring Company held a splashy event to demonstrate the tunnel built near SpaceX in Hawthorne. I didn’t get a good answer then, and have yet to find one today.
The eventual aim is to use the tunnels for hyperloop, a futuristic high-speed means of transit. The company’s website states: “Hyperloop networks unlock high-speed regional transportation surpassing other alternatives. Hyperloop enables access to individualized, point to point high-speed transportation.”
But hyperloop doesn’t exist yet. And while there are companies working on hyperloop, it’s far from becoming a reality. In the meantime, at least in Vegas, the Loop project uses Tesla vehicles to shuttle people.
Related: Curbed recently had an interesting article that digs (ahem) into one project in Austin that appears to pivot to pedestrians.
Other deals that got my attention this week …
Beta Technologies, an integrated aviation system developer, raised $375 million in a Series B, funds that will be used for growth and operations as the company progresses toward FAA certification of its eVTOL aircraft, ALIA-250.
Convoy, a digital freight network, raised $260 million in fresh funding to scale up new initiatives in trucking technology.
DiDi Global, the Chinese ride-hail giant, said it will delist its shares in the U.S. before applying to list on a different exchange. DiDi will vote May 23 on delisting its shares from the New York Stock Exchange.
Etap, a Nigerian car insurance tech startup, raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round led by Mobility 54, the venture capital arm of Toyota Tsusho and CFAO Group.
Just Eat Takeaway said it is considering a full or partial sale of Grubhub. It reminds me of an article TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm wrote about why profits in the food-delivery business remain elusive.
LuminWave, a Chinese company using silicon photonics to put frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) lidar on chips, raised more than $20 million in Series B financing led by Anxin Capital, with participation from Value Capital and Nuoyan Capital.
Lyft said it is acquiring PBSC Urban Solutions, a Canadian bikeshare equipment and technology company. This move will double the ride-hailing company’s scale in micromobility.
Iconiq Holding Limited, a Dubai-based company that also owns the Chinese electric vehicle maker Iconiq Motors, reached an agreement to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company East Stone Acquisition Corp. at an implied $2.5 billion valuation.
Tupy SA, the Brazilian auto parts company, signed a deal to buy motor maker MWM. The deal has an enterprise value of 865 million reais ($184.2 million), Reuters reported.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced a new program that will unlock $6.4 billion in formula funding for states over the next five years to develop carbon reduction strategies — this means states can access funds to expand alternative and greener transportation options.
Zi Toprun Acquisition, a Chinese-based SPAC targeting the transportation industry, filed for a $110 million IPO. The company said in a securities filing it is looking for a transportation company, including businesses focused on battery or EV charging technology and software and the hardware or software side of advanced driver assistance systems. The SPAC plans to focus its search on companies with a valuation of between $200 million and $600 million.
Zubale, a Mexico City-based startup that developed software to match gig workers with e-commerce fulfillment centers, raised $40 million in Series A financing led by QED Investors. Investors also participating include GFC, Felicis Ventures and GGV Capital’s Hans Tung, alongside existing investors including NFX, Accel’s Kevin Efrusy, Wollef and Maya Capital.
Notable news and other tidbits
May Mobility is partnering with BraunAbility to modify its fleet of Toyota Sienna Autonomo-MaaS vehicles to make them ADA-compliant and wheelchair-accessible.
Stagecoach is starting to test autonomous buses — for now without passengers — in Scotland as part of Project CAVForth, jointly funded pilot by the U.K. government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. The autonomous buses are equipped with sensors and control technology from Fusion Processing.
Pittsburgh will kick off Monday its Smart Loading Zone pilot, which will replace existing loading areas across the city with camera-enabled “smart” zones that can automate access and payments for delivery drivers. This seems like a really interesting and underrated way to reduce curbside congestion, and therefore reduce emissions, while putting some extra coin in the city’s coffers that can be dedicated to more transport-focused initiatives.
Electric vehicles and batteries
Ars Technica gives a brief guide to electric conversions of classic cars.
Audi unveiled the Audi urbansphere Concept, a vehicle designed for customers in China’s megacities that aims to show how passengers of the future can escape the stresses of the city by withdrawing into their own private cocoon. Just what we all needed!
Biliti Electric said it plans to set up a factory to make its electric three-wheelers in India’s Telangana state. The production capacity will be 240,000 electric vehicles each year, the company said.
Chery Group, the Chinese automaker, is ramping up sales — and not just locally. The company sold 81,818 vehicles in March, growing by 2.2% year on year. Of those, it exported 20,000 vehicles to overseas markets.
Lexus is the latest luxury brand to unveil its first-ever battery-electric vehicle, a surprisingly low-range SUV called the RZ that is supposed to set the direction for its future. And that future looks a lot like the Toyota bZ4X that recently launched.
Polestar released a five-part video series on YouTube documenting the development of the Polestar Precept.
Mercedes-Benz launched an SUV version of its flagship all-electric EQS sedan in an effort to tap into the U.S. sports utility-loving market.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe gave reporters a tour of the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. A schedule conflict prevented me from attending, but others were there and wrote about it, including CNBC.
Tesla is being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a filing by the automaker that seeks to pause a California lawsuit which alleges racial discrimination and harassment at Tesla’s Fremont facility.
Tesla also reported its first-quarter earnings; you can read our coverage on the financials — which included $18.76 billion revenue and $2.86 worth of earnings per share — plus the company’s warnings of continued supply constraints that could hamper future production, a new target for a dedicated robotaxi and the Optimus robot.
Speaking of Tesla, Dan O’Dowd, the billionaire founder of The Dawn Project and Green Hills Software, is running for U.S. Senate on a single issue: to make computers safer for humans, starting with a ban on the Tesla-branded “Full Self Driving” beta software.
Future of flight
Vertical Aerospace announced that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency is validating the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority’s certification of its VX4 eVTOL aircraft. This means the company can begin moving toward operating in the U.K. and Europe from 2025.
Zipline said it is launching operations in Japan. Toyota Tsusho Corporation will use Zipline’s drones and logistics infrastructure to run its own operation, delivering healthcare supplies across the Gotō Islands.
Cepton Technologies hired Paul Anawalt as its general counsel. He was formerly at Intel.
Tim Brady is leaving his position as partner at Y Combinator.