Originally a ridesharing service, Wunder Mobility plans to conquer the world from Hamburg – with clever software that helps local public transport companies and car manufacturers develop new mobility services.
In this video, the founder of Wunder Mobility talks about the future of mobility and his business idea (KfW Group/n-tv). This video is only available in German.
The subway is full, there's never a free seat. Taking the bus is cheap but it takes forever. Driving to work, now that would be nice. But many people in Manila who commute several hours a day cannot afford their own car. The solution to the dilemma in the capital of the Philippines? A smartphone app that connects car owners and passengers in a matter of seconds: "Be cool, carpool!" is the message the Hamburg-based start-up Wunder Mobility sends to commuters in YouTube videos. The short films, which are avidly shared in social media, attract enough attention to draw millions of users to the young German start-up – not only in Manila, but also in other megacities like Rio de Janeiro and Delhi.
"We are experiencing very dynamic growth," said CEO Gunnar Froh. By the end of the year, the Wunder app is expected to reach more than 300 million people in around 20 cities, mainly in developing countries. "Our system enables people to get to work cheaply and just as comfortably as in a taxi, which they would otherwise not be able to afford," explains Froh.
About the founders
Samuel Baker (left) and Gunnar Froh founded Wunder in 2014.
As a digital carpooling platform, Wunder also helps to reduce traffic – an important issue in rapidly growing megacities whose streets are notoriously congested: "We're creating a kind of public transport system with the people who are on the road anyway." Froh had actually planned to do something else. When the company was founded in 2014, he intended to set up a ridesharing service modelled on Uber and Lyft. As a former Airbnb employee, Froh was often in San Francisco where he saw how quickly private ridesharing platforms attracted followers – simply by bringing people together via mobile phones: drivers who wanted to share fuel costs or earn some extra money, and passengers who found buses too troublesome and traditional taxis too expensive.
But in Germany, Wunder collided with the strict regulations on passenger transport: anyone who charges money to transport others from point A to point B needs a permit from the authorities. Instead of risking lawsuits, Froh chose to go abroad instead. "We thought, which cities are most urgently in need of this kind of product? Where do we start? Which cities are suffering the most?"
Even though the answer initially led to Asia, Wunder is now heading back to Europe and the USA. In addition to its proprietary app where Wunder earns money through commission fees, the start-up now also offers software solutions that target bus companies, e-scooter rental companies or car manufacturers. Anywhere where people want mobility on demand, Wunder wants to be involved – sometimes in the foreground, as is the case in Manila or Rio, but also in the background as a service provider for others.
"We have realised that we can use our carpooling technology just as well to operate smart shuttles, for example," says Froh. These shared taxis or minibuses do not follow fixed routes but are based on demand: they collect users who call them by smartphone, and the operator's software calculates the shortest routes to get all passengers to their destination as efficiently as possible.
Among the customers that Wunder has already found for its digital traffic controller are regional providers such as the Bachstein public transport company in Celle as well as large international corporations – including Tata and Wipro in India, the Japanese Marubeni Group, as well as BMW and Daimler. Many car manufacturers are currently in the process of setting up their own smart shuttle services. Because few doubt that the way billions of people travel will change fundamentally in the coming years: the growing rate of urbanisation is pushing traditional urban transport in large cities around the world to its limits; at the same time, e-mobility, networking and (in the future) self-driving cars are creating new services, where sharing is usually more practical and cheaper than owning.
According to the Digitalauto-Report 2018 by the business consulting firm PwC, almost half of Europeans and two thirds of people in China would be willing to give up their own cars if there were attractive alternatives. The market for "Mobility as a Service" is expected to grow to a massive USD 1.3 trillion by 2030 in the USA, Europe and China. It's no surprise that investors are pouncing on promising start-ups from this sector: last year alone, according to Bloomberg calculations, venture capitalists poured USD 28 billion into providers of all kinds – whether private taxi brokers, e-scooter rental companies or car sharing services.
To survive in this highly competitive market, Gunnar Froh of Wunder Mobility relies on maximum diversity in his own services: "Our competitive advantage is that we are the only software provider in the world that covers the entire spectrum."
His company is just as attractive to cities seeking low-cost solutions for public transport as it is to car manufacturers who want to offer new mobility services but do not want to invest millions in the development of their own systems.
Ideally, Wunder should to develop into a supplier like Bosch – "renowned, very profitable and with a positive impact on society," says Froh. If he was only interested in money, he could have sold the company long ago: he's already had a lot of offers. But what appeals to him is "the adventure of building something bigger," explains the 35-year-old. Froh and his partner Sam Baker, who is responsible for operations as COO, plan to double the current team of 80 employees over the next twelve months.
Wunder has just raised EUR 26 million in new capital to finance its ambitious plans. KfW also invested in Wunder early on through the fund of the Berlin venture capitalist Cherry Ventures. "This has helped us to find international investors," says Froh.
Wunder Mobility is one of six examples for sustainable mobility in the autumn/winter 2018 issue of Chancen magazine entitled ”A better world is possible“.To German edition
He knows exactly in which direction he wants to steer the company. However, the path to get there is unknown. The competitive landscape changes constantly, new opportunities but also risks are constantly arising. "You have to react quickly and be prepared to experiment. The actual product is created by doing." Only companies that remain flexible have a good chance of reaching their goal successfully in the mobility services market.
Published on KfW Stories: Friday, 26 October 2018
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Non-existent or dilapidated infrastructure hinders economic efficiency and thus engenders poverty. When building infrastructure, the focus should be on sustainability, for example, by promoting environmentally-friendly means of transport. Factories and industrial facilities should also ensure that production is in line with ecological aspects to avoid unnecessary environmental pollution.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.