Spare raises $18M to innovate the global transportation and mobility space
The funding follows a $6 million seed round in 2019.
Back in 2016, a collection of UBC alums released an app called Spare Rides that was meant to “take carpooling into the 21st century.” Here’s how it worked: Potential passengers and drivers would input their destinations into the app, and then it would make matches so the motorists could scoop up the passengers on their way. It looked like Uber and garnered early success, but the app’s founder and CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen had much larger ambitions than replicating the oversaturated ride-hailing market.
Speed three years ahead to Spring of 2019, insert a few technical pivot points, and Spare Rides had raised $6 million in seed funding from Mitsubishi Corporation for its revamped software that helped transit agencies operate on-demand transportation networks and services. The innovation? Instead of buses following fixed routes, transit services could serve customer demand and location in real-time.
Fast-forward two more years and Vik Hansen and his co-founders Alexey Indeev and Josh Andrews have taken their vision further: “COVID-19 really taught us that the scheduled, fixed-route transit model isn’t always the answer,” Vik Hansen explains. “At the height of the pandemic, as transit agencies cut back on fixed routes due to declining ridership, our on-demand technology helped them maintain vital service as they rebuilt. Looking towards the future, our operating system will bring a lot of flexibility to the shared mobility landscape, which is good for riders, providers and the planet.”
$18M in fuel for the journey
Fuel for Vik Hansen’s mission has arrived in the form of an oversubscribed $18 million Series A round led by Inovia Capital with participation from Kensington Capital, Link VC, Ramen VC, Ridge Ventures, TransLink Capital and Japan Airlines (as JAL Innovation Fund) and Nicola Wealth, amongst others.
Spare said it will use the investment to further develop its mobility operating system, with the goal of enabling better cooperation between different transportation providers, increasing access to cost-efficient shared rides and encouraging more people to opt for collective transportation around the world.
“People shouldn’t have to choose between convenience, availability and sustainability,” adds Vik Hansen. “By allowing riders to seamlessly transition from an on-demand shuttle to a fixed-route rapid bus to a pooled ride sharing via one ecosystem that brings together multiple providers on the back-end, they can have all three. That’s our vision for creating a delightful rider experience.”
This vision is well on its way. Spare’s toolkit, which includes data-driven transit planning, analytics dashboards and a customer relationship management hub, enables anyone to operate an on-demand mobility service. For transportation operators, it means that with routing and driver scheduling and fleet management taken care of, they can focus on addressing other mobility challenges like first-and-last-mile transportation and transit deserts.
Innovation in real places
Spare’s client-base includes Dallas Area Rapid Transit and ride sharing start-up Earth Rides, and they have pioneered a number of transit ideas, including on-demand commingling. Commingling enables mobility providers to consolidate different service categories onto the same fleet. For example, a transit agency can use the excess capacity on its paratransit fleet to launch a microtransit service for the general public. Multiple cities are leveraging this product including the Cheyenne Transit Program in Wyoming, GATRA just outside of Boston, and Citibus in Lubbock, TX.
Spare is also working with Durham Region Transit, Dallas Areas Area Rapid Transit and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on innovations like automated trip brokering and dispatching.
As for Inovia’s interest in the startup, Todd Simpson, a partner with the firm says, “Spare is building the operating system for the future of mobility. Its vision of how public and private transportation providers should be able to collaborate without technological impediments to offer a more positive and equitable shared transportation experience to people everywhere really resonated with us and we’re excited to see them grow.”
The road ahead
Moving forward, Spare will be scaling up its team organization-wide, focusing on research and development and growth. “Our people are really at the core of what we do,” says Vik Hansen. “From our team members working with our partners around the globe, to the ones working to make our products more integrated, easier to use and more robust, we couldn’t do it without them.”
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