Archive for September, 2015

Ten Reasons Why Investors Love Shared Transportation



Half the funding in the Collaborative Economy goes to transportation.
By our count, the Collaborative Economy has been funded $25 billion, one of the highest funded tech industries, ever. For comparison, global social networks have been funded a mere $6 billion, which is just a quarter of the Collaborative Economy. Within the $25 billion funded, $13 billion has been invested in the transportation space, which is 52% of all funding dollars.

What’s shared transportation? Chances are, you’re already using it.
First, let’s define the category of shared transportation. It includes: 1) rides as a service, and 2) vehicle sharing. If you’ve taken a ride as a service like Lyft, Uber, Ola, or Didi, you’ve participated in shared transportation. If you’ve experienced ridesharing or carpooling with startups like BlaBlaCar in Europe, you’ve also participated. If you’ve borrowed a car from a peer using startups like RelayRides, Getaround, or a boat from Boatbound, Sailsquare, or Boatsetter, you’ve participated in sharing vehicles.

Five startups in Europe, India, China, and the USA are receiving the funds.
How is this $13 billion of funding distributed? First of all, it’s hard to fully calculate, as some of the debt financing to Uber makes it difficult to truly tabulate. Here’s a breakout of the top startups: Uber more than $6B; China’s Didi more than $4B; Europe’s BlaBlaCar more than $2B; America’s Lyft more than $1B (who partnered with Didi); and India’s Ola Car more than $600K. These startups lead the overall top-funded tech companies, even across multiple sectors. See full stats on this multi-tab Google sheet.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 8.37.52 AM

Above Graphic: The Collaborative Economy has been funded over $25B, but $13B (53%) has gone to the transportation sector, see full multi-tab Google sheet for more details.

Ten Reasons Why Investors Love Shared Transportation

So why have VCs invested so much capital into the transportation space? There’s at least ten reasons why this category is so attractive:

  1. Everyone needs it. We’re all dependent on mobility and transportation; even shut-ins need services and goods brought to their homes. The physical movement of goods and services is the lifeblood of an economy, and now it’s digitized for all to harness using these technologies.
  2. Most people will live in big cities. Multiple urbanization studies indicate that most of Earth’s population will reside in large dense cities, many inside of “Megacities” which have more than 10 million inhabitants. The rise of the population, and the density that comes with it, means that shared vehicles and shared rides are inevitable.
  3. Rapid global adoption. While various carpooling efforts have existing for years, the mobile-based apps phenomenon triggered massive growth. Adoption numbers cited from startups show a rapid increase in adoption globally. The ability to access a ride is as easy as downloading an app and connecting it to your credit card.
  4. Vehicles are mostly idle. Vehicles, whether they be autos, boats, or trucks, are some of the least used assets that we own. We’re often in our homes a third of the day, but vehicles are only used 5% of the time or less. These idle assets that clog up parking, streets, and neighborhoods can now be activated in car sharing, reducing the number of cars on the road.
  5. They’re expensive assets. Many view vehicles as depreciating assets, or in some cases, liabilities that require payment plans, insurance, gas, maintenance, parking, and more. For those in an urban environment, the costs can increase even further with storage costs, parking tickets, and more.
  6. An easily shareable asset. Unlike personalized clothes, perishable food, or seasonable sporting goods, autos and mobility services are easily shared from person to person. In most cases, humans can interchange seats or vehicles as easily as they change their daily outfits.
  7. Positive sustainability impacts. Investors like Structure Capital, Collaborative Fund, and Sherpa Ventures have shared their investment thesis in the world demonstrating their commitment to reducing waste, making the world more efficient, or helping communities.
  8. Extends value to other industries. The transportation space isn’t limited to just the value of cars or taxis, but extends its impact to many other industries, including: 1) Logistics, shipping, and storage; 2) Personal services like retail delivery, home cleaning, and other on-demand services; and 3) Impact traditional car loans, insurance, and more.
  9. VCs are likely to fund competitors. Venture capitalists are pressured to have an appropriately rounded investment portfolio to match their thesis. When one VC firm funds Lyft, the other investors need to round out their portfolio, meaning they’ll fund Lyft’s competitor to ensure they don’t miss a trend.
  10. Immediate revenue generation. If there’s one thing that makes this category so attractive to investors, it’s that each transaction generates 10-15% cash flow to the tech startup. Unlike struggling social media startups who are still searching for their revenue models, this market generates direct revenues for every transaction –- with low costs.

This is just the start of the shared transportation space.
Other players like Google are expected to enter this space; telecom companies like Verizon have launched auto sharing applications; and BMW (client), Daimler, Ford and others have launched car sharing programs, which all spur the movement forward. Furthermore, self-driving cars are being produced by Uber, with their recent acquisition of over 50 CMU professors to build said self-driving cars. With Apple, Google, Tesla, and other Silicon Valley heavy hitters building autonomous vehicles, they will no doubt make them available as shared services, where you can have a vehicle fetch you –- instead of you having to own one.

Read more on the next phase, how self-driving cars will disrupt the crowd, here. The funding in this market is just setting the stage for much larger disruptions on the horizon.


(Creative commons image from Franganillo)

Entrepreneur hack: Draw a storyboard before the business plan.



Just about two years ago, I hung up my partner hat at a prior company and started the Crowd Companies journey. I recall we had a mere ten weeks to the launch at LeWeb. I went to mother nature to do some deep thinking, and wound up in a Redwood forrest near my house, with a moleskin.

Before writing the business plan, I drew out a storyboard, just like you see before a movie is shot, illustrating key phases the company should go through. Then, I wrote the business plan in a detailed powerpoint, complete with goals, numbers, resources, limitations, and a timeline, and “pitched” it to my friends, advisors, and even my supportive wife.

I also made a list of four things that this endeavor should achieve:

  1. Have a mission and impact greater than any individual
  2. Be in a growth market –not in a declining market
  3. The company should be financially healthy
  4. Have a lot of fun doing it.

Of course, none of this happens in solitude, as I’m blessed to work with amazing colleagues who keep us straight, and keep me in check to achieve those four criteria. We’re exciting for our largest member event ever, our 11th event with a cast of amazing speakers, startups, and case studies from our own members in the Collaborative Economy.

With that said, there’s a lot more work to do. the Collaborative Economy is just a budding industry and there’s many established companies that need to change their business model to partner with the crowd. What a journey, and I’m going to do my best to enjoy every single step.

Ten Ways Mobility-as-a-Service Changes Your Lifestyle


Just about everything related to transportation is now becoming automated, on demand, or available to borrow.

Over a few short years, an abundance of VC-funded apps have emerged that crowdsource just about every aspect for transportation, car management, and more. The Collaborative Economy has a branch of commerce that’s being dubbed the on-demand economy. Most of these apps are related to transportation, personal services, or logistics.

The transportation sector is the most funded industry in the Collaborative Economy.
In my ongoing studies of tracking market funding of this market, the transportation sector has received the most funding, over $14B, out-funding all other industries. The lion’s share going to ride-sharing apps like China’s Didi, India’s Ola, and America’s Uber; yet there are hundreds of other business models emerging that are related to other aspects of car ownership, car management, and cars as a service.

Here are just ten examples, most which I have used:

  1. New cars come to you. Rather than go to a dealership to test drive a car, Tesla brought a test drive car to my front door with a friendly sales associate. They let me test drive the vehicle without having to leave my own neighborhood block.
  2. Auto repair comes to you. A local Silicon Valley auto repair company reminded me of my car maintenance schedule. When I agreed, an account associate came to my house in a loaner car and swapped it out for my vehicle. They later returned my car repaired and tuned up.
  3. You  rent out your idle car, generating money. This was the first time a stranger drove off with my family vehicle. I listed an idle car on RelayRide and a European college student borrowed it for the weekend. I generated a bit of cash from an idle, depreciating asset.
  4. You don’t have to own a car to drive a car. There are many services in which you can borrow a peer’s car such as Getaround or RelayRides from other owners. Or, there are a variety of short-term car rental companies like Zipcar, BMWDriveNow, and in some cities, Car2Go.
  5. You don’t need long-term car insurance. In many urban cities, car ownership is diminishing and with that, so is long-term car insurance. If you’re only going to borrow a vehicle for a day or a few hours, now you can be covered with fractional insurance from MetroMile.
  6. Borrowing cars is a breeze, so you can rideshare. We’ve all heard of Lyft and Uber drivers generating revenue from their idle time – but what if you don’t have a car? Breeze enables fractional ownership so nearly anyone can use one of their vehicles and start generating revenue as a driver.
  7. You don’t have to park your own car. SF is dense, traffic is congested, and parking is around $25 a day. When I drive to the city, rather than park my own car, Luxe, Carbon or Zirx will park my car for me, all done via their apps, for $15. Read about my experience using Luxe.
  8. Car washes come to you. I used Luxe and a valet fetched my car at a push of a button on an app, saving me time, frustration, and money. They also offer a $40 car wash service (local prices are approximately $30), and they brought my car back to me at the end of the day, spic and span, saving me time.
  9. Gas stations come to you. The latest set of apps include Purple (LA) and Filld (SF), a service where the gasoline is brought to your parked car in under three hours, for less than a $5 fee. Why go to a gas station? It now comes to you. There’s an interesting discussion of the pros and cons on my feed.
  10. You don’t even need to own a car. Most of the time, I don’t even drive to congested SF. A Lyft or Uber fetches me while I get work done on my laptop connected to a Mifi. This saves me time, reduces frustration, lowers parking woes, and increases productivity. However, living in an SF suburb, car ownership is still a necessity.

Emerging industry has limitations; shakeout looms. 
In just three years, my lifestyle around transportation and car management, has radically changed to become faster, more efficient, and more productive. This, of course, comes at a cost; hard-earned money is traded for convenience. The jury is still out on the environmental sustainability of some of these services. Not all of these startups can survive; there are too many players in each category, many are over-funded by VCs,and most startups aren’t generating a profit. All of these are signs for the inevitable shakeout for the dominant players to emerge.

Spawned in Silicon Valley but spreading to a driveway near you.
Living in Silicon Valley is a bubble. Attitudes toward adoption are friendly, it’s a test-ground for new technologies and services, and the culture and environment is not representative of any other culture. One thing is for sure, that the best of breed technologies quickly spread to other cities at a rapid pace, through mobile devices. At one time, disbelievers of social media proclaimed it was only for Silicon Valley techies, but it has quickly spread over the global internet.

More disruption ahead as self-driving cars emerge in a few short years.
What’s next for mobility? We’re in a transition phase, as most of the apps and services listed above will be disrupted as self-driving cars emerge from most car manufactures by approximately 2020, just five years away or sooner. I’ve documented the multiple disruptions and opportunities that will emerge when self-driving cars join the mainstream.

(Photo from Pexels. BMW is a customer of my company, Crowd Companies)