Google and Toyota Tsusho back WhereIsMyTransport in $7.5m round

2 Mar 2020214 Views

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Traffic in Nairobi. Image: © Wollwerth Imagery/Stock.adobe.com

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WhereIsMyTransport has raised $7.5m in Series A funding, with the goal of making public transport more predictable and easier to use in emerging markets.

On Friday (28 February), WhereIsMyTransport announced that it has raised $7.5m in Series A funding, from returning investors Global Innovation Fund and Goodwill Investments, as well as new investors including Google, Nedbank, Liil Ventures, and Toyota Tsusho Corporation.

WhereIsMyTransport has developed technology solutions that use data to improve public transport across Africa, south-east Asia, India and Latin America. The company uses formal and informal public transport data, and makes this information available to governments, operators, third-party solution developers and citizens.

With the Series A funding, WhereIsMyTransport said it plans to “further capitalise” on its position by extending its global reach, scaling its data-collection practice and developing new technology to translate complex data into useful information for commuters in the world’s “fastest-growing low- and middle-income cities.”

The start-up, which has offices in London and Cape Town, began its work in Africa in 2015, before expanding into India, south-east Asia and Latin America in 2018.

The importance of mobility

In a statement on the funding, WhereIsMyTransport said: “Mobility is a fundamental driver of social, political and economic growth. In the majority of the world, it remains a critical stumbling block for millions of people living without reliable access to formal public transport services.

“They depend instead on vast, informally-run transport networks that often operate in unsafe areas. The absence of information about these services makes them unreliable and unpredictable.

“WhereIsMyTransport is on a mission to change that – using data and technology to develop solutions to this problem so that everyone in these markets has the basic freedom of movement they need to be able to improve their circumstances.”

‘Data and technology solutions that work well in London or San Francisco wouldn’t make the same impact in the cities where we work’
– DEVIN DE VRIES

The start-up’s CEO, Devin de Vries, said: “We make the invisible visible, by collecting all kinds of data related to public transport, and turning the data into information that can be shared with the people who need it most.”

He added that in emerging markets, the mobility ecosystems are often “complex” and informal public transport doesn’t behave the same way that formal public transport does.

“Data and technology solutions that work well in London or San Francisco wouldn’t make anything like the same impact, if any at all, in the cities where we work. Our solutions are designed specifically to overcome these contextual challenges,” de Vries said.

“Bringing these investors together to support our mission is not only an honour, but real proof that we are building something meaningful and remarkable in the majority of the world.”

Impressing investors

According to WhereIsMyTransport, the company has more than 750,000km of routes logged in 39 cities, giving it large amounts of mobility data in emerging markets.

Masato Yamanami, CEO of Toyota Tsusho Corporation’s automotive division, said: “We are pleased to have the opportunity to invest in WhereIsMyTransport’s Series A funding.

“Our division’s global network, that covers 146 countries, is primarily focused on new emerging countries where people rely on informal public transport. Through strategic collaboration with WhereIsMyTransport, we will develop better and more efficient mobility services that help to resolve social challenges and contribute to the overall economic development of nations, primarily emerging nations.”

Head of alternative investments and venture capital at Nedbank, Janade Du Plessis, added: “Nedbank CIB is at the forefront of investing in disruptive technologies that are able to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives – including smart city initiatives that leverage Nedbank’s strategy of financing our infrastructure, transport and logistics clients.

“WhereIsMyTransport is a leading provider of sustainable transit solutions in complex urban environments. Our investment will support the company’s expansion into key African regions, and we will use our network and our influence on the continent to unlock new corporate partnerships.”

Updated, 11am, 2 March 2020: This article was amended to include an updated quote from Toyota Tsusho’s Masato Yamanami.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com