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SLUSH: Where to invest next in the mobility sector?

During SLUSH, a prominent annual start-up event held in Helsinki from 30 November to 1 December, EIT Urban Mobility hosted a side-event featuring industry experts discussing start-ups and venture capitalists' perspectives on current and future trends.

With over 75% of Europeans residing in cities and a growing imperative for the decarbonisation and modernisation of the transport sector, the mobility industry emerges as a prime arena for innovation. The panel at the event, comprising Fredrik Hanell (Director of Impact Venture for EIT Urban Mobility), Dr Terhi Vapola (Managing Partner & Founder of Greencode Ventures), and Johan Høgåsen-Hallesby (Co-founder of Beta Mobility), explored challenges, opportunities, pitfalls, and the trajectory of the sector. Moderated by Cate Lawrence, a senior writer at Tech.EU, the session concluded with start-ups presenting solutions and an open discussion on impact investments and closing the funding gap.

Regarding investments and evaluating impact in the mobility sector, the panellists stressed understanding the sector's complexity, regulations, and city dynamics before scaling to new markets. Terhi Vapola highlighted the need for suitable models for each start-up, considering local needs and adaptability to different city contexts. Emphasising mobility start-ups' higher survival rate due to a market-by-market approach, Fredrik Hanell highlighted the importance of aligning with urban growth trajectories.

The impact of regulations on mobility start-ups was discussed, acknowledging potential instability but also the positive framework they provide, as seen in the case of scooter companies. Ethical considerations in the sector, focusing on safety and social impact, were emphasised, urging deep ethical thinking where lives are at stake.

Scaling and financing software or hardware start-ups

Scaling and financing software or hardware start-ups were explored, addressing challenges in business models and the longer scaling time for hardware solutions. Hardware start-ups were encouraged to seek alternative capital sources, establish industry partnerships, secure patents, and begin operations on a smaller scale before global expansion. Fredrik Hanell expressed optimism about a shift in VC preferences from software to hardware investments.

The industry's rapidly evolving trends and impactful disruptors were discussed, including capacity issues, electrification, and the enabling aspects of electrification. New mobility services, data and connectivity, and autonomous vehicles were highlighted. The discussion also touched on emerging needs from the Global South, emphasising the importance of speed and innovative ideas to scale solutions.

The panellists concluded by advocating continued participation in industry events, despite fundraising challenges. The message of hope centred on building solutions aligned with personal beliefs to drive meaningful change in the industry.