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5 mobility stories you might have missed from 2019

2019 saw plenty of high profile developments in the mobility sector - here are the lesser known stories.

Asia  has taken over the lead in creating the most billion-dollar companies innovating the travel and mobility space Airports pose a great challenge for startups Green air travel is still non-mainstream

With 2020 finally here, it’s not too late to glance back to the quite eventful year of 2019. While it missed nobody’s ear that Uber was buying Careem, for example, or that Boeing was wrestling international controversy following two fatal crashes, these are some lesser-known 2019 stories from the mobility sector, in no particular order, courtesy of TravelandMobility.tech (TMT). 

5. Asia  has taken over the lead in creating the most billion-dollar companies innovating the travel and mobility space 

With every up-and-coming mobility firm looking to be the next Uber, Asia seems to be the home to the most worthy contenders for that lofty title. 

“Today, Asia — in particular Asia-Pacific and China, respectively — have taken over the lead in creating the most billion-dollar companies innovating the travel and mobility space.”

According to data by TMT tracked by Pitchbook: 

  • Asian billion-dollar unicorns outnumber their American counterparts 12 to 9
  • Chinese startups accounted for more than half of the invested venture capital in 2017 (55%), up from less than 10% in 2014 — this makes China the world’s most funded country in Travel & Mobility Tech

4. The next Super App will come from the mobility sector?

The 2010s saw a steady rise in the number of existing Super Apps. Companies were no longer satisfied with offering a single service. Uber wanted to drive you – and your food. Amazon wasn’t content in dominating the e-retail domain, it wanted in on those streaming dollars Netflix so enjoys. In essence, they’re all vying to become Super Apps – they want to sell everything AND the kitchen sink. 

WeChat is another example: “WeChat users can now buy train tickets, pay for utilities or fines, review a restaurant, book a doctor’s appointment and much more. All this without ever leaving the same app,” TMT writes. 

With the enterpreneurial environment leaning towards this trend, TMT concluded that there is a high possibility that the next big Super App to hit the scene will emerge from the mobility sector, again, à la Uber. 

3. The fever-pitch competition between micro-mobility firms in Germany could hold lessons for the GCC

The micro-mobility sector is taking its first steps here in the Middle East, unlike say the US or China. In Germany, however, the country saw a similar debut to its market last year, where 4 companies are currently vying for dominance: Lime, Tier, Voi and Circ. 

In Germany, the entrance of these companies into the market was met with mixed reactions, as TMT explains, with many concerns among municipalities and other governing bodies regarding the effect they would have on the economy, daily life, and more. 

In the GCC, however, the backlash hasn’t been as pronounced, with a more controlled delpoyment having taken place. Countries like the UAE ar heavily regulated in matters of mobility, as we saw with the success of home-grown ride-hailing firm Careem. To avoid congestion and other issues caused by e-scooters, as we see in countries like China, Abu Dhabi, the home to micro-mobility firms Lime and Circ, has supervised a more controlled deployment, allowing rental stations at select locations in the Emirate. 

Careem is also trying its hand at e-scooters and e-bikes, having recently partnered with Bike-share Canadian firm PBSC. Arnab Mobility is another e-scooter firm looking to make a name for itself in the UAE, being a homebred enterprise. 

2. Airports pose a great challenge for startups
Airports are notorious for their margin sapping rental fees, making it difficult for any firm looking to do business at these transit points to easily keep afloat. 

“Most vendors at the airport (e.g. restaurants, shops, kiosks) operate on thin margins as they have to concede the majority of their earnings to the airport under tough profit-sharing agreements. The limited number of high-traffic airports around the world creates a unique oligopoly, if not even a monopoly, as only the biggest metropolitan areas have multiple airports competing with each other,” TMT writes.

After all, if “the world’s most used airport app” could not survive these stifling business conditions, there is little hope for most doe-eyed startups. 

We are talking about FLIO, a European airport app offering navigation, flight tracking, Wifi access, restaurant vouchers and more, closed shop during summer last year. Despite its success, the company couldn’t navigate airport’s ever-constricting demands. 

When a startup’s greatest concern is often just breaking even, airports make the worst match for business. 

1. Are travelers interested in green flights? 

With sustainability higher on the agenda than ever before, with recycling, eco-friendly initiatives, and green micro-mobility growing in popularity worldwide, it has to be asked if this eco-friendly sentiment carries over to air travel. 

TMT conducted an interesting experiment last year that investigated this. While this research is still at an early stage, TMT decided to publish preliminary results of this experiment to further fuel the discussion. 

In brief, the experiment revealed “positive results for the use of environmental nudges in flight booking. There seems to be demand from consumers for better information on the environmental impact of different travel choices. This is a small but encouraging sign that there will be a shift towards more sustainable flying.”