Currently, last-mile mobility and inter-city travel sectors are dominated by electric vehicles and e-scooters as they can help reduce harmful emissions as well as reduce traffic in metro cities. However, with advanced technologies coming into the picture, short-distance air travel is also expected to soon become a reality. In a recent development, Volocopter, Germany-based urban air mobility (UAM) startup, has raised an additional €200M in its Series D round of funding.
How will the funds be utilised?
The raised capital will be used to solidify Volocopter’s position in the UAM market. The funds will help bring the VoloCity (an autonomous electric aircraft), the battery-powered air taxi for cities, to certification and accelerate the launch of its first commercial routes.
The company aims to build the ecosystem necessary to “Bring Urban Air Mobility to Life” by cooperating with partners in infrastructure, operations, and air traffic management.
Volocopter is building the world’s first sustainable and scalable urban air mobility business to bring affordable air taxi services to megacities worldwide. With the VoloCity, the company is developing the first fully electric “eVTOL” aircraft in certification to transport passengers safely and quietly within cities.
Brief about Volocopter
Founded in 2011 by Stephan Wolf and Alexander Zosel, Volocopter is managed by CEO Florian Reuter, CTO Dr Arnaud Coville, CFO Rene Griemens, and CCO Christian Bauer, chaired by Stefan Klocke. The company employs about 300 people in its offices in Bruchsal, Munich, and Singapore.
Volocopter offers a holistic approach to the UAM market by developing a full ecosystem to connect all the vital parts to get the industry off the ground. This includes multipurpose aircraft (VoloCity and VoloDrone), and physical and digital infrastructure (VoloPort and VoloIQ), as well as partnerships with global leaders in their respective fields.
Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter says, “Volocopter is ahead of the curve in the UAM industry, and we have the achievements to prove it. No other electric air taxi company has publicly performed as many flights in cities around the world, with full regulatory approval, as Volocopter has.”
He further adds, “Our VoloCity is the fifth generation of Volocopter aircraft and has a strong path to being the first certified electric air taxi for cities. Volocopter already has the extensive partnerships necessary to set up the UAM ecosystem for launching both our company and the industry into commercial operations. We are called the pioneers of UAM for a reason, and we plan to keep that title.”
Investors in this round
New investors in Volocopter include funds managed by BlackRock; global infrastructure company Atlantia S.p.A.; Avala Capital; mobility technology giant Continental AG; global technology-focused investment fund Jericho Capital; global technology and business solutions provider NTT via its venture capital arm; Tokyo Century, a leading Japanese leasing company; leading family offices, and others.
Besides, all existing investors including Geely, Daimler, DB Schenker, Intel Capital, btov partners, team Europe, and Klocke Holding amongst others also joined the round.
The first test
In 2011, Volocopter performed the first-ever crewed flight of an electric multicopter and has since showcased numerous public flights with its aircraft. The most notable has been the public test flights at Singapore’s Marina Bay in October 2019 and the world’s first autonomous eVTOL flight in Dubai 2017.
The company is also developing products for the logistics space with its heavy-lift cargo variant, the VoloDrone.
Growth and development
Volocopter claims to be the first and only electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company to receive Design Organisation Approval (DOA) by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It expects its first commercial air taxi routes to be opened within the next two years.
Volocopter has performed several milestone flights in Helsinki, Stuttgart, Dubai, and over Singapore’s Marina Bay in recent years. While the first routes are yet to be announced, the company has committed to establishing air taxi services in Singapore and Paris, with plans to expand many more routes in the US, Asia, and Europe.
In February 2020, the German drone startup raised €87M in its extended Series C round. It was back in September 2019, that the company had raised €50M in the initial closing of its Series C round of funding. With the current Series D round, the startup has raised a total of €322M in funding, to date.
Known for its innovations in the payments sector, Square is now officially a bank.
Nearly one year after receiving conditional approval, Square said Monday afternoon that its industrial bank, Square Financial Services, has begun operations. Square Financial Services completed the charter approval process with the FDIC and Utah Department of Financial Institutions, meaning its ready for business.
The bank, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, will offer business loan and deposit products, starting with underwriting, and originating business loans for Square Capital’s existing lending product.
Historically, Square has been known for its card reader and point-of-sale payment system, used largely by small businesses – but it has also begun facilitating credit for the entrepreneurs and smalls businesses who use its products in recent years.
Moving forward, Square said its bank will be the “primary provider of financing for Square sellers across the U.S.”
In a statement, Square CFO and executive chairman for Square Financial Services, Amrita Ahuja said that bringing banking capability in house will allow the fintech to “operate more nimbly.”
Square Financial Services will continue to sell loans to third-party investors and limit balance sheet exposure. The company said it does not expect the bank to have a material impact on its consolidated balance sheet, total net revenue, gross profit, or adjusted EBITDA in 2021.
Opening the bank “deepens Square’s unique ability to expand access to loans and banking tools to underserved populations,” the company said.
Lewis Goodwin had been tapped to serve as the bank’s CEO, and Brandon Soto its CFO. With today’s announcement, Square also announced the following new appointments:
- Sharad Bhasker, Chief Risk Officer
- Samantha Ku, Chief Operating Officer
- Homam Maalouf, Chief Credit Officer
- David Grodsky, Chief Compliance Officer
- Jessica Jiang, Capital Markets and Investor Relations Lead
The trend of fintechs becoming bank continues. In February, TechCrunch reported on the fact that Brex had applied for a bank charter.
The fast-growing company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, said that it had submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.
A number of fintech companies, or those with fintech services, have spun up products typically offered by banks, including deposit and chequings accounts as well as credit offerings. Often, these are designed to provide capital to customers who might not be able to get funding on favorable terms from traditional banking institutions, but who might qualify for business-building loans from a provider who knows their company, like Square, inside and out.
Zoomcar said that it is working with leading electric two- and three-wheelers manufacturers to power their overall ecosystem for connectivity, Internet of things (IoT), and support their subscription businesses through Zoomcar Mobility Services.
Read more here.
California-based mobility startup Lime has announced a $ 50M (approx €41.36M) investment in e-bikes, including new and improved hardware and plans to expand service to an additional 25 cities this year.
The new investment comes a month after the company announced its plans to add electric mopeds to its platform, with an aim to serve longer-distance trips between two-to-five miles.
Use of the funds
This new e-bikes model will be launched this summer. “We’re focused on expanding globally, and aim to launch in new cities primarily in Europe and North America, with a handful in Australia and New Zealand as well,” says the company in a statement.
The interoperability of the battery is a game-changer for the micromobility industry, according to the company. “It means we’ll be able to streamline operations across vehicle types and reduce the frequency of charging and rebalancing vehicles, meaning more fully-charged vehicles on the street when you need them.”
The latest generation e-bike has a swappable battery, which is interchangeable with Lime’s Gen4 scooter. Additional upgrades to the e-bike include:
- Increased motor power to help riders easily climb hills
- A phone holder for easy navigation
- A new handlebar display that aligns with Lime’s scooters for a standardised display across vehicle types
- An automatic two-speed transmission that eliminates the prior generation’s gears for an easier and smoother ride
“As we build out the Lime platform to serve any trip under five miles, e-bikes are a key piece of the puzzle, providing a perfect option for medium-length trips,” says Wayne Ting, CEO of Lime.
He further adds, “That’s why we’re making substantial investments to upgrade our world-class e-bike and bring it to more cities across the globe, giving riders a new and exciting way to leave the car behind. Shared micromobility is playing an essential role in getting cities moving again safely so we see this as a critical moment to double down on e-bikes as an open-air, socially-distanced transportation option.”
Partnership with the League of American Bicyclists
Besides the hardware upgrade and the funding, the company has also announced its partnership with the League of American Bicyclists, one of the country’s preeminent bike safety and advocacy organisations.
The partnership includes an education campaign for riders on safe cycling and scooting practices. The company will be creating graphics with reminders and tips about safe riding and parking. “We’re also planning to work with the League of American Bicyclists to leverage local bicycle clubs and our hundreds of thousands of riders across the country to advocate for federal, state, and local funding and action to create healthier, safer streets for micromobility travel.”
Carbon negative by 2025, net zero by 2030
Last year, the company partnered with the WWF to launch its Ride Green initiative to create more liveable, pollution-free cities. As part of this collaboration, Lime has committed to reaching carbon negative by 2025 and net-zero by 2030 as well as setting a science-based carbon emissions target to hold itself accountable.
The company is, therefore, taking a number of steps to reduce its carbon impacts, including:
1. Transforming its local operations to rely only on zero-emission vehicles and e-cargo bikes in Europe by 2021, and globally by 2023.
2. Building its scooters using 90 per cent recycled or low-carbon materials by 202.
3. Continuing to purchase local renewable energy near the cities it serves.
4. Continuing to assess its supply chain to find improvements and efficiencies around sustainability.
Founded by Brad Bao and Toby Sun, Lime aims to provide a sustainable solution to the first and last-mile transportation problem by helping people move around their cities in an affordable and convenient way while eliminating their carbon footprint.
The company partners with cities to deploy electric bikes and scooters enabled with GPS and self-activating locks. In Europe, it serves more than 60 cities, including Paris, Berlin, London, Rome, or Budapest.
Riders took more than three million rides through the platform last year and the company expects that number to grow this year as people return to work, school, social activities, and more after the vaccination.
“Since launching a new generation of e-bikes we acquired from JUMP in May of 2020, we’ve seen the addition of the e-bikes boost rides on our scooters in cities where both are available. In cities like Seattle, where e-scooters were added to an existing e-bike service, rides on both modes increased,” says the company.
In May 2020, the company had secured a whopping $ 170M (approx €157M) in funding led by Uber as well as participation from Google’s Alphabet, GV, Bain Capital Ventures, and other new and existing investors. The funds helped Lime to acquire Uber’s bike and scooter service – JUMP’s business operations, and expand its mobile app integration with Uber. Besides, Lime also promoted Wayne Ting as its new CEO.
Prior to that, in 2018, Lime secured $ 335M (approx €277.7M) in funding from Uber and Alphabet, among others.