7 mobility start-ups that are driving change in 2021

26 Aug 2021

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As technology continues to shift gear and accelerate change, these players in mobility are key start-ups to watch in 2021.

The Technology Pioneers of 2021 represent a group of 100 early to growth-stage companies identified by the World Economic Forum as trailblazers of new technologies and innovations.

This year’s list includes start-ups shaking up data and cybersecurity, blazing a trail in blockchain and digital assets, innovating in the IoT and smart cities space and developing the factories of the future.

Here, we take a look at the mobility-focused start-ups on the list, with companies using technology to tackle everything from self-driving cars to zero-emission air travel.

Akash Systems

This San Francisco-based satellite communications start-up builds technology to enable high-speed data transfer between space satellites and the Earth. Its aim is to make the internet universally affordable and accessible.

Using a new composite material called GaN-on-diamond, made with gallium nitride and synthetic diamond, Akash Systems says it dramatically reduces waste in heat generation, making its communications products significantly cooler and faster while also reducing size, energy requirements and operating costs.

Founded in 2016 by engineers Felix Ejeckam and Ty Mitchell, Akash Systems raised $3.1m in a seed funding round led by Khosla Ventures in 2018 and $14.5m in Series A funding in 2019. Other backers include Founders Fund, Social Capital, Data Collective, Ruvento Ventures, Sriram Krishnan and Backstage Capital.


Avrios is an AI-powered fleet management platform designed to help businesses stay in control of their vehicle costs and data. Using a cloud-based management software platform, it helps more than 1,000 companies across the world to manage fleet costs and make decisions on employee mobility.

Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Avrios was founded in 2015 by chair Andreas Brenner. It is headed by CEO Francine Gervazio and CTO Martin Buberl. As well as managing fleet data, the start-up also provides digital processes and workflows, compliance assistance, insights and reporting, and access to a marketplace for parts, repairs and fuel cards.

TechCrunch reported that the Swiss start-up raised a total of $14m between its founding and 2018 from investors including Lakestar, Notion, Verve Capital, Siraj Khaliq and Andrew Flett. Avrios raised another €12.8m in a Series B funding round in 2019 led by Swisscom Ventures and Edenred Capital Partners, along with existing investors.


Gatik is a logistics start-up that focuses on autonomous delivery for short-haul B2B goods distribution. Its customers include major retailers in the US and Canada, such as Walmart and Loblaw. With a fleet of light and medium-duty trucks, Gatik is looking to establish a ‘middle mile’ autonomous delivery network in North America.

The company, which has offices in Palo Alto and Toronto, was founded in 2017 by CEO Gautam Narang along with CTO Arjun Narang and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, who was previously computer vision lead at Ford.

The company’s aim is to enable customers to optimise hub-and-spoke supply chain operations, reduce labour costs and enhance road safety for users. In November last year, Gatik raised $25m in a Series A funding round to expand its operations in Canada.


Travel technology company Journera partners with travel providers, marketers and technologists to provide real-time data on travellers’ journeys. Through secure and private exchange of customer data, the company aims to help customers improve travel experiences, increase engagement and strengthen operations.

Journera’s data platform compiles data from all stages of a customer’s journey for companies to study and improve customer experience. It works with airlines, hospitality companies, ground transportation companies, travel management companies and service providers spanning the travel industry, including Hilton, American Airlines, Marriott International and United Airlines.

The start-up was founded by CEO Jeff Katz in 2016 and is headquartered in Chicago, US. In June 2020, Journera raised $11.6m in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from The Boston Consulting Group and the Pritzker Group. Earlier this year, it was featured in Fast Company’s list of most innovative travel companies of 2021.


This self-driving technology developer based in China provides AI solutions for autonomous driving. It focuses on improving automation in cars with the aim of reducing accident rates. Using AI, the company is looking to improve sensing capabilities and decision-making for autonomous vehicles.

Minieye says its neural network IP is able to operate powerful deep-learning models on low-cost and low-dissipation chips. Earlier this year, the start-up launched its first full-area sensing solution for passenger cars at the Auto Shanghai exhibition. It has been implemented in Chinese commercial vehicles from Dongfeng and Shaanxi Automobile, among others.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Shenzhen, Minieye is headed by CEO Guoqing Liu.

Wright Electric

Wright Electric is a US-based start-up looking to build the next generation of aeroplanes. Using innovative electric motors, the company is building a large, zero-emissions aircraft that can fly up to 800 miles and is expected to enter service in 2030.

Founded by CEO Jeff Engler in 2016, Wright has built strategic partnerships with major government and private players in the sector including NASA, the US Department of Energy, VivaAerobus, BAE Systems, EasyJet and the US Air Force. Its backers include Y Combinator, the Clean Energy Trust, Lionheart Ventures and Endure.


Another start-up focused on sustainable aviation, ZeroAvia builds zero-emissions hydrogen-fuelled powertrain technology for aircrafts. With an initial target of 10 to 20-seat aircrafts that can fly up to 500 miles, the company plans to expand further into this increasingly competitive space. It’s hoping that its tech will replace conventional engines in commercial planes of all sizes.

ZeroAvia was founded by CEO Val Miftakhov in 2017 and has bases in California and London. It has secured experimental certificates for two prototype aircrafts in the US and the UK.

The company’s investors include Amazon, Shell, the Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Summa Equity and Horizon Ventures, among others. Earlier this month, ZeroAvia completed its first high-power ground tests of a new 19-seat, zero-emission aviation powertrain system in California.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic