This is the third edition of movmi’s Partner Spotlight interview series. We truly believe that cultivating partnerships is the key to successful shared mobility. Today we have over 60 partners and this series will give you insights into the exceptional innovation happening across our network. This month, movmi’s Venkatesh Gopal chats with João Félix, Founder and CEO at Mobiag – a shared mobility technology pioneer powering free-floating, round-trip and station-based car-sharing, car rental, and scooter-sharing businesses around the globe. Their tools – the latest hardware for numerous vehicle models, customizable mobile apps for iOS and Android, and open SAAS with dynamic third party integrations – are robust and flexible, empowering businesses to implement their innovative business and operational models.
Watch the full interview below! Keep reading for a brief summary of our discussion with João Félix from Mobiag . Check out more of our #PartnerSpotlight series here.
Partner Spotlight: Interview with João Félix, Founder and CEO of Mobiag
Interview Spotlight with João Felix
Founder & CEO at Mobiag
João is a results-driven executive with a focus on building great teams at the intersection between technology and mobility. He founded and served as CEO of a SaaS mobility technology company, growing it to 1.5m€ in revenue, with 22 employees over 8 years. His background is in Product Management, Business Development, Finance and multiple stakeholder management. With previous experience in investment banking and consulting,João developed professional resilience and an analytical skillset with a broad applicability across verticals.
What is Mobiag’s background?
Mobiag is a European company based in Portugal and we have been around for the better part of a decade. We have been the underdog on a lot of international projects, which has marked how we have analysed the market and built our products, so that we can compete with better funded players. We were founded in 2011 and have a long experience as technology providers but were also the team that created the first free-floating carshare scheme in the Iberian Peninsula, CityDrive – launched in March 2014, which we operated ourselves for over two years, before selling it out to an investment group.
Being a technology provider with 25 products in 25 different markets, it has given us a broad vision of the players, needs and trends. Our first hand experience as operators, introduced us to the operating pains. So when we design products, we take our client’s external pains and our own experience, and turn our products into tools to address those needs.
How has your journey changed since 2020? What’s new with Mobiag?
During 2020 our clients suffered a lot. With no one on the streets utilization dropped, but our change started at the end of 2019, with a decision to move our strategy away from SaaS, into a different model. We realized that with a company of our size and with our funding, it would be next to impossible to make it a profitable if we continued to bet on a SaaS model. From our perspective, in the carsharing market, it is hard to be a SaaS operator. There aren’t enough projects every year starting our to utilize the typical SaaS playbook. We were always trying to fight for all the projects, meaning you cannot always find clients that will benefit from your product – you’re always trying to customize your products to the clients needs, in order to get the clients to drive up SaaS revenue. At the end of the day, you need to support a large and quite expensive team for SaaS, including 24/7 customer support and customer success. From our experience, driving up the monthly SaaS revenue on a sustainable basis wasn’t going fast enough.
One thing we noticed when working with big players in the industry with their own personal road maps, was that everyone was talking about having their own solution and having control over the tech stack. Not having to fight others for change requests to their tools so that they can address market opportunities. We realized that these companies needed a partner to help them build out their tech stacks, who understands the market but that will allow them to become independent over time.
We decided to change our business model to play into the needs of these bigger clients and thus increase the profitability of the company by working on the cost side, with a much leaner team and at the same time making the revenue go up because the clients we are working with are much larger and they are now getting much more value with their own personal tech stack. However, this does reduce the amount of clients we can work with globally, so there are some specific pre-requisites to be able to adopt the Source Code Licensing business model. They need to have a certain size, they need to be well funded in the beginning, they need to have a certain scale so that the numbers add up for their business model.
We now have to flexibility to invest in the projects and developments we want to and we aren’t dependent on external money to continue our operations. This has given us the opportunity to work long term, and to increase our geographical footprint in terms of distribution. We are continuing to develop our core products and feeding in our clients needs with the changing market, to create a more robust feature set, over an architecture that is currently best practiced.
Our current technology was developed in 2019/2020, with no legacy software reused with our existing software. It’s all built to the best practice standards in the market. We are adding new features as we go along to include new assets and sharing, such as scooters, bikes, EV charging etc.
How would you differentiate Mobiag’s offerings from the other SaaS models?
The different is the business model – which doesn’t suit everyone. Sometimes it’s too much for smaller clients that are just starting out. Our business model is for someone who has been through the difficulties of SaaS and has decided they need something adapted quickly. So it’s a business model problem. As a SaaS provider, no two clients want the same thing and when you try to adapt one platform for many clients, you are always trying to figure out how to keep everyone happy and also how to attract new clients. Also, in deeper markets, you are able to find clients who’s needs suit your product, whereas in smaller markets, such as shared mobility, you have a harder time doing this.
From our expertise, our strength has always been the product. We were always very quick to draw some red lines and to focus solely on creating the very best shared mobility products. We never went into MaaS, ride-hailing or fleet management. We’ve seen all types on shared mobility business models from free-floating, round-trip, one-way etc. The whole thing is supported within the same platform very seamlessly. Also, our first and second-hand experience in the market has really fed our product development and we have built the product from the ground up based on our experience. We spent a lot of time making sure our product was flexible and easy to adapt to different requirements. As we changed our model to SCL, our flexible products remained the same, as clients will always need the core product attuned to their needs.
The size of our team also differentiates us from our competitors. As far as I know, none of our competitors have been able to create a new software stack from the ground up, after being in the market for 8 years. There is too much legacy in terms of sunk cost, in terms of the way engineers think etc. Our lean size has allowed us the ability to take risks and our lean method of working, is now really working on our favour as we transfer into SCL.
Can you give us an example of a client that has used SCL from Mobiag and how it specifically benefits them?
One of our clients, Zity from Madrid, one of the largest operators in Europe were originally using SaaS from one of our competitors. When we approached them, they were really receptive to having their own technology. They had already decided strategically that they wanted to go down this road and had had even started to hire their team. We took source code that was market tested with all our knowledge baked in and offered them the opportunity to jump ahead two years. They took this source code and made it their own over time. It allowed them to be lean and agile and start up new operations in different cities quickly. They went through the pandemic as one of the most resilient operators because they had the capacity to keep making changes and to keep adapting their product to their clients need. A lot of this came with having the right technology to support this and their own team that was hired and trained by us, that they absorbed into Zity.
One thing to note is that during this phase between SaaS to CL, we do not send the source code over the fence, we usually work with the clients for at least 6 months, to help develop the gaps in technology and to train the team that will take over, so that the transfer is as seamless as possible. We typically don’t do more that one of two deals per year, so that our focus isn’t split. Our team in continuously dedicated and we offer time over a longer periods as well. We are also very competitive on pricing.
What’s the outlook for carsharing in 2022 and beyond?
2021 has been a very interesting year for someone who has been around for the last decade. It is very similar to 2010. If you go back and look at the carshare outlook then, it was 30% year on year growth with 1.5 million shared cars in 3/4 years. It didn’t materialze at the time, but the feeling now is quite the same. People want different options. Cities are restricting private vehicles and are encouraging electric vehicles. You see new models, like the subscription models popping up. There are a lot of good signals to indicate that the industry is on the precipice of huge growth. Carsharing is hyper local as operators have learned how to crack the code and operate in their own city/region. MaaS will also come in stronger and more mainstream. A lot of this shared mode growth will fall on the incumbents who know how to operate efficiently in a given city/region. However, I think it is doubtful that we will see any global shared mobility powerhouses enter the market, especially in carsharing, but we will see a lot of newcomers and start-ups in established markets.
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