Hi Mario, thanks for this blog interview and congratulations for your special distinction at this year’s edition! Can you tell us about your participation in the EUSP?
We are thrilled to be among the best European start-ups according to the European Start-up Prize for sustainable mobility of its 2020 edition. This year GRDF awarded its special distinction to Hygen and we hope to obtain a bit more media exposure and maybe it will help us to secure the next round of funding we require.
Let’s start by better understanding what it is that you do at Hygen. Can you give us your short pitch?
Hygen is an ambitious innovative Latvian SME, dedicated to the development and commercialisation of proprietary refuelling technology for the G-Mobility market, a gaseous fuel vehicle fuelled by compressed natural gas or biomethane and hydrogen in the future. To enable refuelling natural gas-powered vehicles from the existing gas grid, a compressor/charger system is required. Existing state-of-the-art systems, based on mechanical compression technology, can be costly, require frequent servicing and could be unreliable is the system is not maintained correctly.
Hygen’s patented liquid piston compression technology, the only solution of this type in the world, allows a dramatic reduction in the number of moving parts needed for gas compression. It is therefore significantly reduces the total cost of ownership by lowering scheduled and unscheduled service and increasing reliability.
The technology can be applied for different gases such as Hydrogen or Synthetic Gas and for different application from small home appliance size up to large, high capacity mobile refuelling systems.
unique technology you have developed and the huge demand for low-carbon energy,
hy is it so hard for you to find investors?
It’s well known that in general there are much less investment sources
in Europe than in the US. The start-up ecosystem is not very mature and varies
from country to country.
To begin discussions with a VC about series A funding, you must have a fully developed product that’s on the market and selling well.
Selling well means you have annual revenue of at least 1M EUR. However, it’s very difficult for a hardware start-up to obtain revenue growth while still developing and improving its product, establishing production and a distribution channel.
The leap over the “Death Valley” is therefore almost impossible for many European hardware start-ups. Even the most fortunate ones land with broken limbs. With a success rate of 2%-3% in the EU SME funding programmes itfeels like winning the lottery. Startups therefore turn to all other funding sources like self-funding, friends and family help, Angel investors, start-up accelerators, partnering with manufacturers or customers, yet,with varying degrees of success.
Unfortunately, there are no good B2B crowdfunding platforms in the EU like
StartEngine, so that is not an option we can explore.
We are currently looking to secure half a million euro for a successful market rollout. Our technology is also well suited for the upcoming necessary hydrogen infrastructure. However, in order to proceed the development of our technology towards this new solution, it will take even more support and investment.
How do you see the lack of funding impacting the
Every start-up is first looking for the customer’s
pain point in order to find a suitable cost-effective solution. Innovation
increases productivity and thereby increasing the profitability of a company. Strat-ups
provide much of the innovation necessary for modernisation and growth. Can you
imagine what a world without start-ups would look like? What products and
services would disappear?
If we think about it,
innovation brought the world to its present state of affairs; it is also necessary
to help us get out of this mess.
Before we conclude, let’s mention the big elephant
in the room; the role of gas in the energy transition. I’m sure you have strong
opinion about it…
Thanks to our current investors, Innoegergy and Spanish gas company
ENAGAS, we are able to continue establishing many new demonstration pilot
projects. However, it’s very difficult to move against political and hyped up trends.
For whatever reason, biomethane is still not considered as a carbon neutral
mobility solution, everything is focused on electromobility. and who knows if it’s right. Biomethane
is a renewable energy source with very low carbon footprint; when applied as a
fuel, it allows gas vehicles to run not only carbon neutral but also carbon
negative if the biomethane is produced from waste. In spite of many different prizes and awards
we are still struggling to build the bridge to our own sustainability. We
remain confident however that once the right funding arrives, our technology
can disrupt the current energy market and provide tremendous contribution to
the energy transition.
Thank you very much, congrats again, and best of
luck in the future!
Hi Marc, great to host you on the EUSP blog!
Many of us know about the work of the EIB but how is your institution reacting to the current crisis in its investment strategy?
The Covid-19 crisis had a massive and abrupt negative impact on the
European economy. As the bank of the European Union, the EIB plays a key role
in supporting it with a particular focus on innovation, climate, smaller and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and infrastructure. The Bank quickly reacted to
the crisis and in March adopted an immediate response package of up to EUR 28bn
in support of SMEs. It then developed the Pan-European Guarantee Fund (“EGF”),
which was endorsed by the European Council. The EGF is a EUR 25bn guarantee
fund that will enable the EIB Group to scale up its support for mainly small
and medium-sized European companies, providing up to EUR 200 billion of
additional financing. On top of these extraordinary measures, as the largest
multilateral lender worldwide, we keep financing projects and companies in line
with the existing mandates and policy objectives of the European Union.
Now let’s talk a bit about our community. How do you engage with startups in general and with the EUSP startups in particular?
The EIB is also the climate bank of the EU, and as such developed various programs to finance the energy transition. Start-ups play a key role in the development of new ideas, technologies and business models to tackle this issue. We designed last year together with the European Commission a dedicated envelope for smarter, safer and cleaner transport, the Future Mobility facility. This facility is particularly well suited, both in terms of eligibility and risk appetite, for new mobility startups at growth stage. Our objective is to support companies with decarbonising solutions in their expansion and to provide them with “dry powder” through tailor-made financing instruments. We have a number of tools in the Future Mobility box including subordinated loans to quasi-equity financings.
We act as a silent investor and our presence as financial partner has a signaling effect that can help catalyse further financing. This often proves to be very beneficial for eligible mobility startups.
This explains indeed the nature of the mutual interest between the EIB and the EUSP. This week, we are taking our partnership to another level by holding a joint pitching day between EIB experts and some of of the EUSP winning startups. Maybe you can tell us what drew your interest at the particular startups which were invited*?
We are looking for promising and innovative companies at commercialization or deployment stage, with a sound business model, strong shareholders and a clear solution to decarbonise transport in the EU. This covers for instance car sharing, mobility as a service, deployment of electric vehicle charging stations as well as many other activities. We expect companies we invited to pitch to check our eligibility criteria and we are looking forward to meeting them. However, during our screening, we came across plenty of very interesting start-ups that unfortunately do not fit our requirements yet and thus cannot receive our support, but we hope to hear from them as soon as they are ready (details of the Future Mobility program can be found here).
Finally, what advice can you give to these start-ups and to all clean mobility startups who are struggling to find financing during this crisis?
Start-ups had to react very quickly during this crisis, both on the operational side and to be able to attract financing to keep the boat afloat and navigate the storm. In these uncertain times, it is even more important for them to be able to show the potential of their markets and the resilience of their business models.
It is also paramount to wisely choose their investors and industrial partners, because trustworthy partners are invaluable assets when facing adversity. Through the European Investment Fund the EIB Group enables a wide range of partners to provide access to finance for start-ups and smaller businesses. You can find these partners and further financing options here: https://www.eif.org/EIF_for/sme_finance/index.htm.
*In order to respect the confidentiality of the process, we cannot disclose the names of the participating startups at this point.
Hello Luis, can you tell our readers a bit about what “drives” EIT InnoEnergy?
The way you phrased your question perfectly fits the topic of mobility! 🙂
With the climate crisis changing the face of the earth at an ever accelerating pace there is this immediate urgency to drive forward the green transformation of our economy and society overall. With that, huge business opportunities go along as the necessary decarbonisation across industries opens the doors for new technologies and innovations. At EIT InnoEnergy, we help early and growth stage start-ups but also SMEs and corporates turn innovative ideas in the field of sustainable energy – which prominently includes mobility and transport – into commercially successful and scalable solutions – through investments, by leveraging our huge partner network, technology co-development, sales support and many other services.
Can you give us some facts and figures?
In the 10 years since our inception, EIT InnoEnergy has supported over 380 start-ups as of which over 330 are selling. Our overall investments exceed 550 million EUR and span across a wide field of areas – from all types of renewables and energy storage to mobility and transport.
In that time, we have built a massive international ecosystem of partners from diverse industries, the political space, the investment side, universities and research and of course, innovators and entrepreneurs. That ecosystem represents one of our core strengths in enabling commercial success for our portfolio companies. We are particularly proud that, as of last year, we have the first unicorn in our portfolio with NorthVolt, a swedish battery cell manufacturer that was founded by two former Tesla managers. And there are many more highly promising startups with unicorn potential in our pipeline.
Why have you partnered with the European Startup Prize for Mobility (EUSP)?
First of all, EUSP and EIT InnoEnergy share the same goal and mindset in supporting European start-ups and founders in the mobility sector to create sustainable impact. In the context of mobility and transport, we define impact along three different dimensions that we call the “3 Ps”: Planet, People and Profitability. All the investments we do have to create impact in all of those areas. More info can be found in our investment roadmap for that thematic field on our website.
With those common goals in mind, there are significant synergies between our organisations that we can leverage. For instance we collaborate closely with the same decision-makers on a European level. One example: Your recent mobility startup manifesto – condensing the input of more than 400 mobility start-ups into 22 actionable strategies and recommendations for smarter and greener mobility – was handed over to the Vice-President of the EU Commission Maroš Šefčovič. We at EIT InnoEnergy coordinate the industrial workstream of the the European Battery Alliance that was launched by Mr. Šefčovič in 2017.
Since EIT InnoEnergy joined the EUSP as partner of the Day after programme can you tell us the concrete reasons for that?
The economic turmoil caused by Covid-19 is particularly challenging for founders and start-ups. Extended sales and investment cycles, everything has slowed down or in many cases been called off. At EIT InnoEnergy we have worked very closely with our portfolio start-ups and invested several million EUR to help them cushion the hardest blows. Nonetheless, we also keep our eyes open and look for new start-ups in promising fields of sustainable innovation, such as mobility overall and micromobility in particular. Our joint pitching event as part of the EUSP Day After programme promises to be an efficient way to do so.
You have selected 5 startups from the EUSP community for the EIT InnoEnergy/ EUSP pitching day; Donkey Republic, Dott, Knot, Pony and Zoov. Can you explain this choice?
The ongoing trend towards urbanisation will lead to two-thirds of the world’s population living in cities by 2030 who will be responsible for 70% of global emissions. Low to zero-emission micromobility solutions are therefore key for coping with that monumental challenge. More sharing-based micromobility services mean less cars, lower emissions, less congestion and noise and more space. Or in other words: a better quality of life.
At the same time, we’re currently seeing tremendous traction for start-ups especially in the field of last-mile logistics. Online shopping for groceries and household goods has seen skyrocketing demand with growth rates of +50% since the COVID-19 imposed lockdown. And even if those growth rates may not sustain long-term, they will remain at a level we wouldn’t have thought possible 9 months ago. That is a huge business potential just lying in front of us.
Therefore, when looking at the three dimensions of impact – planet, people and profitability – focusing on micromobility startups is a perfect fit.
And why have you chosen exactly these specific start-ups?
At EIT InnoEnergy we’re pursuing a cluster and partnering strategy. We’re already cooperating with several start-ups in the space of micromobility, e.g. Ono, Gleam, GetHenry, Kumpan Electric and Ducktrain. Additionally, we are working closely with large corporations who may be ideal partners in terms of supply chain or for joint production projects as well as potential customers.
The five start-ups chosen for the pitching day have the potential to enrich our existing portfolio in that field. There are so many potential win-win-win-…situations for all of us.
Therefore we’re really looking forward to meeting the founders of these five promising companies at the pitching day.
Thanks for the interview!
After 3 years of activity with 500 to 600 startup candidates per year, we have now seen a critical mass of European mobility startups . Our co-founders at Via ID, crunched the accumulated data and provide us with insight on Europe’s up-and-coming mobility technologies, business models, and start-ups*:
EUSP: a growing proportion of innovation in European mobility solutions
With 36 countries represented compared with 18 last year, innovation in mobility solutions is playing an ever-increasingly important role in Europe The gap between the TOP5 countries with the most start-ups is narrowing, with the proportion of French, German (+64% compared with 2019), Spanish, British start-ups increasing all the time. What’s more, the Israeli start-ups have entered the leader board, given the opening of the EUSP to the Horizon 2020 programme. It’s also worth noting the increasing importance of start-ups from central and eastern Europe (16% of eligible start-ups, outside Germany) and the Baltic nations, particularly Estonia and Lithuania (TOP12 and 13 of the countries with the most start-ups).
Mobility, an entrepreneurial impetus that is growing all the time
With more than 550 candidate start-ups this year and a slight drop in the age of eligible start-ups compared with 2019 (3.27 years old on average and teams of 12 candidates), the EUSP reflects the feverish mood of the European entrepreneurial landscape in mobility solutions.
The ecosystem, boosting growth and expertise
Depending on the country, start-ups need more or less time to develop. In part, this can be explained not only by the favourable cultural (and legislative) environment, but also by the sectors that they deal with. However, since the first EUSP event (2017-18), the growth rate of start-ups by nationality has not changed significantly.
The country where start-ups are most mature is Israel, followed by France and Germany. This is where the local ecosystem is most mature and positive towards mobility solutions (cooperation of public/private agents, proactive legislative landscape) and a culture of “mobility” has been historically strong. These are also countries with a high concentration of tech expertise and subjects, which is a key factor of success/foundation stone of smart mobility solutions. In Europe, the fastest-growing start-ups are the German ones (3.1 years old and almost 15 employees on average). This reflects the “rocket internet” culture that is freeing up significant resources, which are rapidly devoted to the application of an identified business model. As for the British start-ups, they are developing leaner business models with fewer staff members (3.3 years old and 9 employees on average in 2020), which essentially focus on mobility services.
Start-ups, which are breaking even more quickly
The most spectacular acceleration concerning the start-ups of the TOP50, which are now attaining a critical size of 29 people in under 4 years, compared with about 15 employees on average, after a period of 5 years of activity, in 2019. This reflects the increasing maturity of the mobility sector and an increasing focus of agents and capital on the right issues at the right time.
Supremacy of service-oriented platforms and start-ups, growing importance of electric mobility solutions and micro-mobilities
Mobility platforms and services are the big winners of the topical leader board, representing 29% of eligible start-ups.
Start-ups develop where new needs emerge and where problems can be resolved by innovation
The rapid growth of new mobility solutions (car sharing, car pooling, etc.) – still strongly represented two years ago – has boosted the need for mobility facilitators and multimodal solutions: This has freed up space for MaaS and its components, the aggregation of services, demand-responsive transport, etc., which provide solutions in this area and simplify the user experience in coping with these new offers.
This phenomenon is itself amplified by the rapid growth of micro-mobilities and shared mobility solutions which represent 18% of the eligible start-ups, i.e. suppliers, operators, aggregators, infrastructures and their associated services, which are flourishing everywhere in Europe.
What’s more, the effects of changes in public policy in support of the electric mobility sector and in favour of the energy mix is becoming evident, with 17% of the eligible start-ups belonging to this category.
Finally, the self-driving car (6% of the eligible start-ups) and aerial mobility (2%) are still modest in terms of volumes, revealing the more complex obstacles to entry in terms of R&D, long-term financial resources, technology and regulation.
Hybridisation of business models
The exclusive B2C and B2B models are being overtaken by multi-agent approaches that incorporate the public sector client as a foundation stone of mobility systems: Only 2.5% of start-ups claim to focus only on private individual customers. What’s more, 63% of start-ups sell their solutions to public institutions (among others).
This is the reflection of a sector – urban mobility solutions in particular – that has been significantly subsidised in the past, and which still needs public support in most cases, despite the work done to reinvent itself that has indeed been done.
Mobility solutions that are increasingly aiming at “subscription-based” consumption. For more than 31% of start-ups, this is their main source of revenue. A model that reflects the rapid growth of Mobility as a Service and the objective of switching from possession to use that has been observed in many sectors.
*Analysis based on 375 start-ups from the EUSP 2020
For more information about this analysis, contact Sophie Bailly, Partnership Manager at Via ID.
BE PART OF THE MANIFESTO ! CLICK HERE
A Manifesto for sustainable mobility entrepreneurship to bring forward innovation in the EU
Hey you mobility entrepreneurs out there,
This summer between July and September, we would like to co-create the first European Mobility Startup Manifesto together with you!
In a nutshell, this Manifesto is a platform that brings together mobility entrepreneurs and leading European Institutions for the very first time. The final aim is to help EU policy makers create an ecosystem that boosts green innovation.
If you are as committed as we are to be the fuel for the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility, then this could be the starting point of our journey together.
This is why we are reaching out to you today.
Got a few minutes? Then ride along with us and take part in this survey.
We are interested in hearing about your challenges as a mobility entrepreneur but most importantly, about your ideas for a flourishing mobility ecosystem in Europe – after all, who better than the entrepreneurs themselves can create impactful solutions out of complex challenges?
Yes, we know that COVID-19 has given this first half of 2020 quite a rough start, still it has posed an opportunity for a fresh reset at a global scale. Want to hear the good news? Sustainable innovation and new technologies are the pulling forces of this new beginning!
So, who is behind this project and how are we making the magic happen?
We are the European Startup Prize for mobility and together with the help of the brilliant minds of The Morph Company (Berlin) and Yellow Design Foundation (Brussels), we are using Design Thinking Methodology to tackle challenges with a human-centric approach.
We are serious about our goal and we know that for a serious project, we need serious methodology.
This is how our action plan looks in practice:
1. First, we invite all the mobility entrepreneurs to take part in this survey.
2. Secondly, we would carry out as many interviews as possible. We want to get to know you, your challenges and what entrepreneurial solutions you have in mind to boost mobility innovation in Europe.
3. Last but not least, we are all about brainstorming solutions together, so what better way to do this than to run co-creation workshops? If you are interested in taking part in this then let us know in the survey – we will get in touch with you!
If you’re still wondering how we will bring the Manifesto to the European Union, this is how:
For those who know us already, it is no secret that our strength lies right in the fact that we are an European organization at heart.
For those who haven’t gotten to know us yet, then let us briefly introduce ourselves.
“Nice to e-meet you!
We are the European Startup Prize for mobility and as a public-private initiative, we live under the patronage of the European Parliament and the European Commission. Our organization is co-founded by the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee Chairwoman, Karima Delli, Boston Consulting Group and Via ID.
Our network is pretty powerful and we can’t wait to make it of value for all the sustainable mobility startups like you!”
So, save the date!
The European Mobility Startup Manifesto will be presented to European leaders on two specific occasions:
1. A live broadcast on September 21st at the European Commission, on the occasion of the European Mobility Week.
During this event, we will be presenting the Manifesto to Karima Delli – Chairwoman of the European Transport and Tourism Committee – and Maroš Šefčovič – Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union. The live event will be open to the public and will provide the audience with a room for an interactive participation. And there is more to this – the TOP 10 startups of the EUSP 2020 Edition, will be invited to represent the Manifesto during this event!
2. A presentation at the European Parliament in Fall 2020.
To sum up, this is how you can get involved in the Manifesto:
1. Take part in our survey and raise your voice by letting us know your challenges, as well as solutions on how you envision the future of smart mobility in Europe;
2. Give the Manifesto team an interview and be part of a 2-hours co-creation workshop to co-create solution ideas;
3. And, very importantly, don’t forget to share the link of the survey with other mobility startups in your network!
We are striving for impact and we are happy to have you on board to present solutions that matter to the mobility startup community in Europe.
Together, we can help EU policy makers to boost green innovation in Europe!
The Manifesto is part of the Think Tank activity of the European Startup Prize for mobility and it will be presented and discussed in the European Parliament and European Commission in Brussels, in September 2020.
BE PART OF THE MANIFESTO ! CLICK HERE
The EU Startup Prize for mobility is delighted to host its first meet-up to help startups of its community to scale up and get new European opportunities.
2 sessions of 45 minutes will take place on Monday 22 June 16:00 CET, presented by mobility experts from TomTom and Eurotran consultancy firm. All sessions will be followed with Q&A.
Add to your agenda
1. OPPORTUNITY FOR COOPERATION by Using TomTom Maps APIs for mobility applications
Always wondered how you could power your mobility applications with TomTom Maps APIs? TomTom experts are here to answer all of your questions and will present the following topics:
· Overview of TomTom Maps APIs by Louis Debatte-Monroy, Head of Product Marketing, TomTom Enterprise & Developers
· How to make the most out of TomTom Maps APIs for mobility applications by Jose Rojas, Developer Advocate, TomTom for Developers
“Congratulations for those who made it to the Top 50 at the European Startup Prize for Mobility and you’re already entitled to a prize of one million TomTom Maps APIs credits.”, Louis Debatte-Monroy.
2. OPPORTUNITY FOR EU FUNDINGS by Discovering the EU financing instruments
Needing some financial support from the European Union? To help you go through the Covid-19 socio-economic crisis? To take part in this historical moment of the Green Deal? And be fully involved in the EU innovation ecosystem?
You may also need a map to find your way through these different funding opportunities. Then this must be your lucky day because , we brought you the right experts to guide you and give you a comprehensive overview of the EU funding programmes for green innovation.
· EU funding opportunities: find your way among the different EU financing instruments, by Dan Wolff and Bastien Farges, Partners at Eurotran.
“We assist startups in the identification of European funding opportunities and bid applications. Eurotran is one of the few consultancies that combines the drafting of bid applications with lobbying towards European policy-makers.”, Dan Wolff.