BERLIN – In a series of talks with inspirational mobility leaders, we are picking the brains of some of the most influential opinion-makers in the industry. We had the pleasure of speaking to Jimmy Cliff, former General Manager at Mobike, who in the meantime moved on to become General Manager at Dott. We address the challenges that come with launching a product in more than 20 cities in only two years, and touch upon the importance of data privacy — read on to find out more.
Mobike is a mixture between a startup and a huge corporation, with the financial muscles that it takes to roll out services in more than 20 European cities in less than two years. How did you manage that?
The most important part is to have a mission, a strategy, and a goal. Even if you know from the start that not all plans will work out, you still have to preserve an aiming point. Then you have to build a team that is robust. And as things change, you adjust, pivot, but make sure that you are still maintaining a focus.
We are now in an era when micromobility providers are popping up like mushrooms. When is the market going to be saturated?
Mobility will only ever be saturated when there are completely environmentally friendly, human-friendly and quick solutions for transport in every city. But we are far away from the ideal future in which everyone zips around in their hover pods and has access to everything they need at all times. Realistically, what is happening now is that a number of solutions are emerging and give an additional opportunity to public transport that allow people to get where they want to go.
Where do you see bike sharing in this?
There have been bike sharing providers in Europe for decades now, but they’ve had a relatively niche success. Some of the local champions like NextBike have done an amazing job bootstrapping themselves and building this industry from scratch. The exciting part is that you’re talking about a form of transport that is carbon neutral and good for people’s health. The learning that we need to take into account is that every city is different. So instead of having to force a one size fits all solution on a city and its residents, you can really provide a mix. I want to move towards a dynamic supply and demand situation, in which the infrastructure is developed to support as many use cases as possible.
What have you learned from your experience of working with regulators when you established Mobike in Europe?
Government employees and political representatives are really happy to talk with us because they know how important mobility is. Even the most cynical politician has to know by now that traffic is a hot button issue. To be honest, I have a tremendous amount of respect for people working in government, and particularly working on infrastructure projects or transport. I see that it really is the opposite of startups in many ways: in terms of resources, goals, and stakeholders. It is also really different in terms of speed. We don’t want any government to come and say, “We are going to try some new food regulations. You might be poisoned, but you’ll get some great new food.” Software crashes are very different from train crashes, and we want to keep these separate for a reason.
Would you share any of your data with cities? Could some of your information lead the way for a more dynamic infrastructure if it was shared with public authorities?
It should definitely be a goal for all mobility providers. From what I can see, most players are moving towards a situation in which the transport authority is responsible for all forms of mobility in the city. Instead of separating private cars, taxis, buses etc, you have one uniform body that has the power to regulate, to encourage, and to develop an ecosystem that suits the needs of the whole city. All of these problems need to be under one umbrella and managed together.
Everyone has seen the pictures of bikes piling up in the streets and results of vandalism that point to the fact that bikes are not so sustainable after all. How do we reduce that waste?
The pictures that often come from China are generally a result of a specific regulatory issue. They are normally caused by the city government saying, “We don’t want these bikes.” The city itself is then collecting them all and taking them to a trash heap. It’s the difficulty that comes with a fast moving and changing environment like the mobility industry has been, particularly in China. Luckily we haven’t seen bike mountains anywhere in Europe yet.
There’s a number of things that we can do to make sustainability a requirement. It is definitely the role of regulators to require this from providers when developing any kind of hardware product. Again, if you had a city organization that was responsible for all transport and had the ability to guide and manage the mobility ecosystem within a city, they could set standards and set strict emission limits, but without over-regulating and forbidding every provider to enter the market.
Founded in 2013, Trafi is a Lithuanian tech start-up. Trafi is working shoulder-to-shoulder with cities, countries, and companies worldwide to create the best in class Mobility-as-a-Service alternative for congested cities. Trafi offers cities the possibility to connect all mobility services into one single platform where users can check itineraries and also book their tickets and trips.
Trafi’s mission is to empower cities’ urban transportation with technology and know-how and encourage citizens to use more sustainable modes of transportation by accessing all services into one single platform. Trafi is currently live in 4 continents around the world and 7 cities.