Welcome to the final Financial Fridays session of the year! This series began back in 2021 and throughout each session we have explored certain key financial aspects of the diverse business models in the shared mobility space; from sharing to subscription to integrated MaaS. Discussions are centred around operations management, utilization, EVs, customer loyalty and retention, factoring tech costs and insurance related pointers (to name a few) while learning innovative best practices from across sectors.
In this session the panel discuss how to run financially viable micromobility operations. Our panel of mobility experts include, Leanne Buhler of Manager of Strategic Ventures, BCAA, and Josh Moskowitz, Chief Operating Officer for Shift Transit.
Watch the micro-webinar below! Keep reading to learn more about each guest panelist and for a brief summary of our fifth #FinancialFridays discussion!
Financial Fridays: How To Run Financially Viable Micromobility Operations
Financial Fridays Session Seven: The Panel
Manager of Strategic Ventures, BCAA
Leanne is a self identified ‘intrapreneur’, with a passion for people, operations, and innovation. Her experiences from working in a diverse range of industries including mobility and technology, retail, agriculture, and hospitality provide her with a holistic approach to business. She approaches opportunities both practically and creatively, which combined with her unique experiences bring a fresh perspective to teams and organizations. She is currently the Manager of Strategic Ventures at BCAA.
BCAA serves 1 in 3 households in BC with industry-leading products including home, auto, travel and life insurance, roadside assistance, Evo Car Share and full auto service at BCAA’s Auto Service Centres. For the last 18-24 months, the Strategic Ventures team has been working towards launching Evolve ebikeshare, to begin their journey into shared micromobility.
COO, Shift Transit
Josh is an experienced mobility professional with a demonstrated history of success in the transportation sharing industry. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Shift Transit, a leading urban mobility operations company with clients in multiple verticals, including bikes, cars, scooters, and vans. His responsibilities include global business development strategy and execution, client satisfaction and success, P&L ownership of business units, and company brand marketing initiatives and execution.
He has previously worked and been responsible for the operational and financial management of five car2go North America locations (Chicago, Montreal, NYC, Washington DC and Austin) and oversaw all business development for the Eastern Region of N.A., launching 7 new markets across the continent. Josh formerly managed the then-largest bike sharing system in the country, Capital Bikeshare, for the Washington DC Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Financial Fridays Session Seven: How To Run Financially Viable Shared Micromobility Operations
What do you like about shared micromobility? Are cities making it easier for these businesses?
Josh: At its heart, shared micromobility gives people access to affordable, environmentally friendly transportation, which I think is the main reason why a lot of us are in this business. I grew up in New York with no access to a private vehicle and a right of passage for any New Yorker is your parents giving you a metro card when you are around 12 or 13 years old. In New York, public transportation give you more options and opens doors to a world that a private vehicle wouldn’t allow. This is the reason why I have chosen a profession in micromobility.
I think we are at a point in the industries evolution specifically relating to city and government relations. Almost everyone agrees that providing citizens with shared mobility solutions is a good thing but the ins-and-outs of these operations is still being negotiated. We are at an interesting point with figuring out how to balance all the different competing interests between public and private agencies.
Leanne: Shared micromobility is so interesting because of the real impact that it’s having on communities. It’s not a gimmick. It’s now a real and viable mode of transportation for people. We are seeing the benefits for it already such a reduction in car emissions, reduced congestion, people are getting more active and they are making cities more accessible – people have more access to better jobs and housing.
I’m hearing really great things about the collaboration between regions to make sure that our policies and bylaws are similar which will create a consistent user journey across cities and regions. This can only benefit operators in the long run too. We are also seeing a real push for infrastructure and cities realizing that they need support from other places, such as funding and government grants for bike infrastructure. There has been real movement in this area as demand for shared micromobility grows.
As an operator what does it take to financially sustain operations over time?
Leanne: We are in the early stages of developing a shared ebikeshare service but I don’t think it’s that different from the work we do with carshare. The way to sustain operations is to focus on customer needs and its evolution – to make sure the product is fulfilling their demands and requirements. When we are working with municipalities and businesses, we look at them as customers as well. Its about coming to the table and continuing to advance products and processes and offerings to make sure we are sustaining ridership and staying relevant. This is how we drive sustainable operations.
A more granular answer would be, managing operational costs through innovation and iteration on products. Making sure that we are running an operation that makes sense and growing slowly and sustainably so that we are not creating too big of a scope for what a city can manage.
Josh: First and foremost there has to be organic demand for the products and services we are providing. Once this has been established, it comes to providing a really reliable and accessible service. It’s our jobs as operators to make sure that users have a great customer experience every time they are in search of a bike, car, scooter etc.
The evolution of operations technology has come a long way. We have been able to leverage and harness new technology for things like fleet management to be able to stay ahead of the demand curve. This is really important for big cities such as Toronto.
What is important to keep in mind when creating operations across, not just cities, but different countries?
Josh: One of the most things for creating a successful shared micromobility operation is that people have to see it. Scooter and bikes are one of the best advertising tools your company has. It’s a moving billboard. Cities need to provide clear cut access to curbside space for these products. People want to be within a 3-5 minute walk of the nearest bikesharing station and this comes back to reliability. Cities need to make it easier for operators to access this curbside space, ideally making it free – which I know isn’t something all cities agree with. However, having unfettered access to curbside space is really helpful to create a successful operation. We will start to see more mobility hubs throughout metropolitan areas of the next few years, which will address the fear of ‘micromobility clutter.’
How important is it to diversify business models? Is it easy to manage diverse operations?
Josh: Having designated areas where these mobility devices live, whether it is B2B or B2C, makes them easier to operator. For a consumer perspective its obviously much more attractive to be able to park ‘anywhere’ but for operator efficient and to minimize the cities fear of sidewalk ‘clutter’, a healthy alternative to this are mobility hubs.
Being able to operator services for private companies, it would allow these businesses to leverage some of the efficiencies that are created by having these mobility hubs, which enables companies to be able to lower their operating costs, so that they can focus on revenue generations, marketing and sales, sponsorship etc.
Leanne: B2B services are beneficial to pursue in tandem with public opportunities. There are different needs for different people and different communities. B2B is unique because it allows a company to have exclusive access to a fleet or bike or cars – which is great for reliability. This is great for us because it gives us the opportunity to operator outside of these dense urban cores where a public opportunity may not be a good fit because of density and demand. Having a few B2B clients can be a stepping stone to offering a public bikeshare in cities that are maybe a few years away from realizing this. However, this could just be unique to BCAA’s goals and not viable for every operator.
Leanne: I think we touched on the hot topics for enabling shared micromobility in cities. I think it’s important to know is that the industry is moving and advancing so quickly. It’s about making good choices and being okay to make that first small step to launching shared micromobility in cities. I think we might start to see more procurement opportunities coming over the next few year which is exciting and cities are much more open to listening to operators and working together.
Josh: I think if you look at any public transportation system, none of them are profitable and a lot of shared micromobility providers have run up against this as well. I think if cities start to look at these devices and public transit devices and not recreational devices, we might see more movement towards publicly subsidizing bikes, scooters etc. To make this financially feasible the public and private sectors are going to have to sit down together.