MaaS Global’s pioneering Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) system has attracted notable corporate investors to Helsinki. The company’s latest funding round raised 29.5 million euros towards its mission of providing a flexible alternative to car ownership. Helsinki Business Hub helped bring the partners together.
Imagine a single mobile app where you can access multiple mobility services, including e-scooters, car rentals, city bikes and public transport. This is the idea behind Helsinki-based MaaS Global and its ‘Whim’ mobile app. The service is already available in four European cities and is now expanding thanks to a new funding round of 29.5 million euros.
“The MaaS Global team is at the forefront of a tech-enabled mobility evolution – from having to own a vehicle to being able to easily connect and use all available forms of transport,” says Roy Williamson, vice president of Advanced Mobility at BP. “Our collaboration is a great example of BP’s vision for the future of transportation, mobility and integrated cities.”
The new investors join MaaS Global existing backers, including Denso, Toyota Financial Services and the Transdev Group. It is a convincing list of partners. They represent the corporate venture capital arms of several global giants in the transport and automotive industries. This reflects MaaS Global’s strategy from the start: to find strategic partners who can bring to the collaboration deep knowledge of various sectors.
Big investors don’t look to invest in an individual company anymore, they want to invest in an entire ecosystem. This is where Helsinki Business Hub does critical work.
Sampo Hietanen, CEO, MaaS Global
“Transport is the second biggest expense for people after housing. It’s a huge market which we are trying to disrupt,” says Sampo Hietanen, CEO and Founder at MaaS Global. “That cannot happen without some strong shoulders behind us. It requires capital, resources, skills and many other pieces to come together.”
Hietanen stresses MaaS Global couldn’t have found all its partners without the help of Helsinki Business Hub (HBH). HBH helped the investors visit Finland, meet relevant contacts and get to know the region’s mobility market.
“Big investors don’t look to invest in an individual company anymore, they want to invest in an entire ecosystem,” Hietanen explains. “This is where Helsinki Business Hub does critical work. They do the groundwork on why investors should be interested in Finland, on everything we have here. Also, they do the actual introductions.“
The Helsinki appeal
MaaS Global was founded in 2015 with a mission to reduce car ownership. The company started by developing more convenient ways to use and combine both public and private transport methods.
This materialised in the world’s first fully-inclusive MaaS system Whim. It enables route-planning, booking, ticketing and payment for various modes of transportation in a single app. Since its launch in November 2017, the app has been used for over 10 million trips in Antwerp, Birmingham, Vienna and its home city, Helsinki. Hietanen sees the Finnish capital as a great place for the development of mobility services.
“It is easy to come here. You can call the mayor’s office or a ministry and they’ll actually take your call,” he continues. “Helsinki is big enough to pilot services, but at the same time small enough that you don’t have to worry about being lost in a huge market.”
Finland is a relatively small country so any innovative idea can be put into effect quickly and smoothly. … in Finland, it is easy for a startup to collaborate with the municipalities and the government.
Tomosaku Sohara, Managing Partner, Nordic Ninja
This has been part of a conscious push from Helsinki and the Finnish government. They have made regulation and infrastructure more open for trialling mobility services with the aim of creating a vibrant ecosystem of smart mobility startups and growth companies. Foreign investors have taken note.
“MaaS can’t be achieved by startups alone, it needs to include municipalities and governments as well,” explains Tomosaku Sohara, Managing Partner at Nordic Ninja. “Finland is a relatively small country so any innovative idea can be put into effect quickly and smoothly. If someone builds a MaaS concept in the US or Japan, it takes a lot more time to move forward. But in Finland, it is easy for a startup to collaborate with the municipalities and the government.”
The future looks bright. Sohara believes Helsinki has the potential to be a hotspot for smart mobility services.
“Compared to other capital cities in Europe, Helsinki is doing a great job,“ Sohara says. “Of course there is always room for improvement, but if the Finnish government and Helsinki keep an open mind it will create a lot of opportunities.”
MaaS Global wants to be at the centre of this. With the new funding, the company is ready to shift gears. In addition to growth in its existing markets, MaaS Global plans to launch Whim in Singapore and Tokyo during 2020 (subject to COVID-19 restrictions).
“At first, we wanted to show ourselves and the world that this kind of service is possible. Now we are at a stage where we can develop a scalable process,” Hietanen explains. “Our long term goal is to become a real alternative to car ownership and help save cities from traffic pollution without sacrificing people’s comfort level. That is a big job for us.”