8 mobility and supply chain start-ups to watch in 2020

9 Jan 2020

Image: © maxwellmonty/Stock.adobe.com

From a start-up using 3D printing for spacetech to a mobility company creating air taxis, these are the emerging players to watch if you’re interested in logistics and mobility.

This week, we’re taking a look at the eight start-ups selected as the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Class of Technology Pioneers in the field of mobility and supply chain.

These start-ups could all be game changers in this area, whether their work is focusing on the development of flying taxis, using technology to create end-to-end tracking solutions, or building autonomous trucks.


Founded in 2017, Trackonomy offers end-to-end visibility for shipments around the globe, whether they are made by air, land or sea. The company aims to offer item-level precision, without the expensive infrastructure or workflow changes, by offering three points of a fully-integrated platform, covering hardware, software and data.

The company’s sensors detect everything from environmental anomalies to timetables or tampering, sending real-time alarms to each customer’s inbox. It can also be used to identify key events in shipping, such as the opening and closing of freight, truck and facility doors.

Trackonomy CEO Erik Volkerink recently said that the Silicon Valley-based company has “invented new technologies at price points not possible before”, and while the company currently focuses on the realm of logistics, Trackonomy’s technology could eventually be used for other types of IoT deployments.


German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter specialises in electric multi-rotor helicopters that are designed for air-taxi use. The company, led by CEO Florian Reuter and chair Lukasz Gadowski, has received investment from the likes of Daimler, Geely, Intel and Btov Partners. According to Crunchbase, Volocopter has raised €81.2m to date.

In October 2019, Volocopter conducted its first crewed test flight over Singapore. Its VoloCity model is set to become the company’s first commercially licensed vehicle. The vehicle is powered by nine rechargeable batteries that can be swapped in five minutes. The VoloCity can accommodate two people, and has a range of 35km and an airspeed of 110 kph.

Additionally, the company is producing an unmanned, fully electric utility drone, named the VoloDrone. This vehicle was designed to serve challenging missions across diverse industries. It can carry up to 200kg within a range of 40km and is also 100pc electric.

Perceptive Automata

Massachusetts-based start-up Perceptive Automata was founded in 2015. The business aims to solve what is often described as one of the biggest challenges in automated driving, which is developing accurate human behaviour prediction technology for the safe, large-scale roll-out of highly automated and autonomous vehicles in urban areas.

Perceptive Automata’s goal is to make sure that those vehicles understand what people might do next, in order to ensure that the vehicle navigates safely and smoothly in environments with lots of pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers.

Co-founded by Avery Faller, Sam Anthony, Sid Misra, David Cox and Walter Scheirer, the Perceptive Automata team is comprised of Harvard, MIT and Stanford neuroscientists and AI experts, who work from both of the company’s offices in Silicon Valley and Boston.

To date, the business has raised around $20m, from investors including Jazz Venture Partners, Toyota AI Ventures, Hyundai Motor Company, First Round Capital and Slow Ventures.

Relativity Space

Relativity Space is a US aerospace manufacturer headquartered in Los Angeles. Founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone, the start-up is developing its own launchers and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services.

Noone and Ellis decided to start the company after they realised that companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX were not taking full advantage of 3D printing when it came to manufacturing rockets. The start-up’s goal is to 3D print an entire launch vehicle within 60 days. To complete their mission, the company has built the world’s largest metal 3D printer.

With around $185m in funding, the start-up has received investment from the likes of Jared Leto, Y Combinator, Mark Cuban, Lee Fixel, Tribe Capital and Republic Labs.


Homoola is a Saudi Arabian transportation platform that provides its clients with a solution for meeting their land transportation needs. Co-founded by Ziyad Alhomaid and Asim Alrajhi, Homoola officially launched in 2018.

The start-up aims to reinvent the way that goods are transported, while raising the bar for the quality and efficiency of transporting goods.

Its platform allows truck drivers to find jobs delivering shipments, providing drivers with all of the details they need to know about the shipment in advance. For shippers, Homoola finds eligible drivers and provides tracking tools and information on the shipment’s journey, while providing them delivery at a competitive rate.


Founded in 2014, Airobotics is an Israeli automated industrial drone start-up that provides an end-to-end, fully automatic solution for collecting aerial data and gaining valuable insights. Airobotics provides a platform that is available on-site and on-demand, enabling industrial facilities to access aerial data in a faster, safer and more efficient manner, without a pilot.

The business was co-founded by Meir Kline and Ran Krauss. Krauss, who now serves as CEO, was the first Israeli to get a commercial pilot’s license for a drone and was the first to receive a commercial operating license for a drone company.

The business has raised around $108m in funding to date, according to Crunchbase. Investors include Pavilion Capital, OurCrowd, BlueRun Ventures and CRV.


San Francisco-based start-up Skuchain was founded in 2014 by Srinivasan Sriram and Zaki Manian. Its blockchain platform provides the tools for collaborative commerce, in which enterprises are able to work together to unlock gains while also expanding their control across the supply chain.

The start-up is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Columbia and UPenn. Skuchain aims to help enterprises break free from the complexities and costs associated with their inventory, allowing trade partners to interact in a friction-free manner, while gaining deep visibility into their supply chain so they can make smart forecasting decisions.

Starsky Robotics

Starsky Robotics is an autonomous truck company that was founded in 2016. Led by Kartik Tiwari and Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, the San Francisco-based start-up has raised approximately $20.3m to date, from investors including Unshackled Ventures and Shasta Ventures.

The business recognised that trucking is the backbone of the US economy, with 70pc of all freight travelling by truck. Until recent years, this freight has been transported by truck drivers who risk their lives while spending large amounts of time on the road, away from family, and so Starsky wants to bring remote-controlled trucks to market.

The company recently decided to downsize its over-the-road trucking fleet, but says it is still committed to developing Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology.

Updated, 9.15am, 10 January 2020: This article was updated to include details about Starsky Robotics’ recent downsizing plans.

Updated, 17.15pm, 10 January 2020: This article was amended to include David Cox as a co-founder of Perceptive Automata.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic