Scooters, a common sight on the streets of Taiwan, offer commuters an alternative to cars in the country’s densely populated cities. But they also contribute to pollution and overcrowded parking lots. In recent years, several companies have faced the challenge of creating more environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional gas scooters. Gogoro is probably best known internationally for its electric SmartScooters, which are the top sellers of the category in Taiwan today. Less known outside the country, the roller-sharing startup WeMo has grown steadily since it started in 201
WeMo recently announced it has raised a multi-million Series A managed by AppWorks. WeMo is the first investment in smart mobility by the Taiwanese venture capital company. The funds will be used to expand beyond Taipei City, New Taipei City and Kaohsiung, WeMo’s current markets. Plans for an international orientation are initially to be started in Southeast Asian countries.
In Taiwan, WeMo competes with iRent, a car and scooter rental company, and with GoShare, Gogoro’s mobility sharing platform launched a year ago.
Jeffrey Wu, co-founder and CEO of WeMo, told TechCrunch that his company is different from the rest as it has focused from the beginning on developing intelligent technologies specifically for scooter sharing.
Instead of developing their own electric vehicles like Gogoro, WeMo entered into a partnership with Kymco, one of the largest scooter brands in Taiwan. Each scooter is equipped with a black box with internet connection, which was developed by WeMo in-house.
The black boxes enable WeMo to manage the batteries in its fleet while providing trip data, including traffic and road quality (e.g., it detects when the road is bumpy) that can be shared with policymakers to improve transportation infrastructure. The black boxes also connect to the WeMo user app. They show where scooters are available, unlock them and send notifications about traffic conditions.
WeMo started work on its service in 2015, about a year before launch, with a first fleet of 200 vehicles. Before founding WeMo, Wu was a consultant at McKinsey and Company.
“I went back to my background as a strategy consultant and at the time my co-founder and I decided that we wanted to do something in Taiwan that was very different from how people had done business in the past because there was one Many different macro trends are changing the environment, ”he said.
“Obviously, the shared economy sector was booming and at the same time mobile-first technology was gaining ground. However, we have noticed that the transport sector has not changed in a very long time. We have therefore considered whether we can use the sharing economy or the pay-as-you-go concept in connection with environmentally friendly vehicles and make this available on a massive scale Change modes of transport. “
Wu also recognized a market opportunity due to the number of unused scooters that he parked on the roadside every day. Although it is one of the most common transportation methods in Taiwan, finding parking spaces in large cities is often tedious, which means that many scooters are underused.
WeMo fleets are in parking lots and scooters can be activated via the user app. Rental fees vary, including minute and hourly rates and monthly plans. The app is available in Chinese and English to serve both local drivers and tourists. Using LINE, the most widely used messaging app in Taiwan, drivers can now register accounts and rent scooters.
To prepare for expansion into new markets, Wu said that part of WeMo’s new funds will be used to expand the research and development center in Taiwan. The company plans to hire up to 100 hardware and software engineers, particularly those with experience in self-driving technology, vehicle telematics, and machine learning. Wu said WeMo’s plan is to be a “mobility-as-a-service” platform that works with partners to introduce scooter sharing services in new markets.
“People have gotten used to shared mobility services in the past five years, but five years ago it wasn’t a space so developed, so we had to come up with the technology and applications,” said Wu. “Now we’re looking at what the future of mobility should look like, and how we can use IoT technology to expand outside of traffic and use our data to make it easier for users to maneuver in their cities.”