On December 13th 2018, the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition opened its doors for the launch of the second season of the European Startup Prize for Mobility. Before this edition takes us from Frankfurt to Barcelona, from Brainport to Paris and Brussels (where the 2019 winners will be announced on April 11th), here are the highlights of that evening.
“We all share the conviction that innovation has an essential role to play to rise to our common challenge: building a mobility for all, that restores our territorial cohesion.” In her opening statement, French Minister for Transportation Élisabeth Borne addresses the specific challenges of the “mobility-for-all”, in that it needs to answer both “purchasing power preoccupations” and “environmental and climatic stakes.” She strongly believes that “our transitions will have to rely on technological innovations.” That is precisely why the Ministry has chosen to support the second edition of the European Startup Prize (EUSP) for Mobility: the goal is not only to innovate, but to do so by bringing together public and private actors, large corporations and startups alike.
Karima Delli, the President of EUSP for Mobility and Chairwoman of the Committee on Transport and Tourism of the European Parliament, insists on what makes the competition unique: “Creating this prize was a bet. Who would have imagined a private-public partnership, especially with European institutions?” The bet payed off: last year, 500 applications flocked from 28 countries. In 2019, the prize wants to “go further and stronger”, to keep highlighting the “28 Silicon Valleys” that are building the mobility of tomorrow — a mobility that is “inclusive, safe, connected.” For Karima Delli, the EUSP for Mobility contributes to nothing less than creating a new world, “a world of innovation and clean, useful, modern and accessible technologies, a new world in which we respect the environment.”
Political leadership and expert support
The ten finalists of the 2018 edition are proof enough. Take Sampo Hietanen, founder and CEO of MaaS Global, the company behind the all-transport-in-one app Whim in Finland, the UK and Belgium: “Transport is always political. [For MaaS, mobility as a service], the demand is here and the physical elements are here too. That means we just need to have a digital access to them. And that takes political leadership, which is what Karima Delli is doing.” Winning the prize has allowed the company to make its voice heard: “It’s like a stamp of approval that gives you more credibility.” As well as access to European tech events that would otherwise have been inaccessible. Klaxit, a carpooling platform for work-home commutes, has also seen its visibility increase significantly. Enis Mansour, who is in charge of Klaxit’s strategy, enthusiastically notes that “this is the first step to create the European Silicon Valley” — although some prefer to use the plural, because Europe doesn’t centralise innovation like California does. Éliette Vincent, co-founder of “carpooling for parcels” platform Cocolis, particularly benefited from the legal and strategy support offered by the prize’s partners. She thanks “the ever-present teams who answered our issues.”
The EUSP laureates do get support from the Boston Consulting Group, assisted by law firms Parallel Avocats and Grimaldi Studio Legale as well as Via-ID, an accelerator for mobility startups. “It is similar to what we do for our clients: we test the business model, we make recommendations for sustainable growth and we introduce them to our network of clients,” explains Lorraine Forestier, General Manager of the Mobility Nation consortium founded by the BCG. The consulting firm is also on the jury of the prize, and puts the winners in touch with partnering companies: “We have a good vision of the trends and challenges and of the complementarity between these innovators and large corporations.”
“A wonderful tool for innovation monitoring”
So what do corporations look for? Setec Ferroviaire is a new partner of EUSP for Mobility. Fabrice Drouin, its General Director, explains: “We really enjoyed the dynamism of the team, the European dimension of the prize and the possibility to meet partners from all sectors, from the biggest European actors to startups, and to see what are the most promising ideas for the future of railway transportation.” Hélène Mauguéret, Head of Development at Setec, agrees: “It is a unique opportunity to have 500 to 800 mobility startups close at hand. It is a wonderful tool for innovation monitoring.”
To be a part of this database, startups just need to apply on the EUSP for Mobility’s website. Startups from all sizes and at any development stage are welcome, as long as they innovate for sustainable mobility, says Ben Costantini, co-founder and CEO of Startup Sesame, the largest alliance of Tech events in Europe. And to be among the winners? Pierre-Louis Martinie, Head of Sales of rating agency for startups Early Metrics, gives us a few clues. Early Metrics will help the prize’s team in the selection process: ahead of the competition, to define the criteria they will be looking for, and all the way to the selection the the 50 first startups. It looks at “extra-financial criteria: the project and its team, its development and the market. It overlaps with the six criteria that the prize’s team chose,” he highlights: the team, the market, the positive social and environmental impact, the innovation, the execution and the European dimension.
That last point is important. “European startups need to believe that their playground is Europe and not just their country,” concludes Jean-François Dhinaux, Head of Strategy of Via-ID at the end of the night. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport, supports the statement: “An idea by itself is not enough, you need the right framework to support you. This is where the EU comes in.” For the EUSP for Mobility, the watchword is definitely “Think European”. Submissions are open until January 21st, 2019!