Scooters are entering smart cities throughout Europe and VOI was more than happy to be the first commercial scooter service in Finland. The Swedish brand is as agile in its operations as its scooters are in navigating city streets – it took just four months from its first meeting with Helsinki Business Hub to get its service out to the public and on the streets of Helsinki. While VOI’s vehicle choice is small, business outlooks are big: user rates are on the rise, the Helsinki office is growing quickly, and several other cities have already shown interest in VOI’s services although summer has not even started yet.
Stockholm-based VOI Technology believes that the value of ownership is in decline, and that what has happened to entertainment is now happening to mobility. The same way DVDs have been replaced by streaming services, shared vehicles will increase their market share. VOI’s service includes free-floating electric scooters and an app that allows users to search for the nearest scooter and rent it. After use the scooter can be left anywhere within city limits making the service extremely easy and flexible. VOI’s service has been popular in all markets from the very beginning: the startup has generated about 1,5 million scooter rides in total since its launch in September 2018.
Less cars, more smart mobility options
“We are here to challenge short car and taxi rides, so the service has to be fuss-free and go from door to door. Our partners collect, maintain, charge and return our scooters to allocated drop sites. In some cities we also use small businesses as partners. That way when scooter sites drive traffic towards retail everyone wins,” Erik Bergqvist from VOI Market Development & Partnerships explains.
VOI currently operates in 19 European cities, although new locations are popping up at a quick rate. As a Scandinavian brand, locating to Finland and Helsinki was self-evident.
The infrastructure in Helsinki is ideal for smart mobility initiatives and I would say the attitude in Finland is fantastic.
Erik Bergqvist, VOI Market Development & Partnerships
“We have shared values in the Nordics; being reliable, ethical, environmentally conscious and always open to finding better alternatives is in our DNA. The infrastructure in Helsinki is ideal for smart mobility initiatives and I would say the attitude in Finland is fantastic. Bike use is already high, the city champions smart mobility solutions, and there is a tremendous amount of acceptance and positivity towards the new vehicle,” Bergqvist says.
Initially, many view scooting as fun, but have reservations about its practicality. However, once users give VOI scooters a try, they tend to be quickly convinced by the convenience of both the vehicle and the mobile service. The startup’s first objective is to enter public consciousness as a mode of public transport. After all, just like the popular city bike service in Helsinki, VOI aims to reduce car use by complementing the selection of green transport alternatives available in cities.
From hello to launch in four months
VOI’s entrance in Helsinki was quick by any standard. The company initially met Helsinki Business Hub representatives in Slush in November 2018. The team at Helsinki Business Hub arranged tailored city visits, provided information about the local business and mobility landscape, and introduced relevant city representatives and local companies providing soft landing services. Fast forward to March 2019 and VOI’s service was up and running in the capital.
“Helsinki Business Hub was hugely supportive. Their connections are their biggest asset – the team seemed to know everyone there was to know. But I also place huge value on their attitude. They are really passionate about helping businesses. Our team was really helpful, driven and committed, they were sincerely interested in seeing us succeed. I would warmly recommend their services,” Bergqvist describes his experiences.
Growing the business and the industry through local expertise
At present VOI has 300 electric scooters in circulation in Helsinki at any given moment. As we move towards summer and peak season, more scooters may be added depending on demand.
“Finns love to move outside in the summer and feedback has been really positive. Attitudes towards startups are good and there’s a definite interest towards micromobility in Helsinki, especially after what HSL has been able to create with its city bikes. Also, Helsinki has a beautiful seaside and cityscape and the city is just the right size for scooting, so we are ready to increase capacity according to demand,” says Max Thelen, Helsinki City Operations Specialist at VOI.
VOI’s Finnish subsidiary employs five people, but the Helsinki office is looking to grow their staff to over 10 by the end of 2019 and at least 15 by the end of 2020. In addition, VOI’s service uses a local maintenance partner so the startup has an indirect effect on employment as well. Bergqvist sees a lot of value in building a local staff.
“Our service requires local expertise so local employment is important to us. We want to have a strong local presence in our staff and empower people to help create and take ownership of this change we see in mobility and cities right now.”
Smart and micromobility show a lot of promise right now and Helsinki is a pioneering space for sure.
Erik Bergqvist, VOI Market Development & Partnerships
Although there is no denying that peak season for scooting is during the warm months, if you can bike, you can scoot. In fact, VOI operates in Stockholm year-round so winter scooting might take place in Helsinki as well. In addition to growing their capacity and season in Helsinki, several Finnish cities have shown an interest towards VOI.
“Overall, smart and micromobility show a lot of promise right now and Helsinki is a pioneering space for sure. Cities are growing and struggling to move large masses of people in an energy efficient way. According to a study carried out in Sweden in 2018, cars are in use only 3% of the time. There is no reason not to develop smarter, cleaner and greener options. While the Nordic countries are small, we are setting the new standard. Electrical 2-wheeled vehicles will be the main transport mode within the next 10–20 years so scooters are definitely here to stay,” Bergqvist says.