Israeli micro-transit company Via Transportation Inc. has announced that it has raised $130 million at a company valuation of $3.3 billion led by UK fund Janus Henderson with the participation of Blackrock, ION Crossover, and Koch Disruptive. Other investors in the company include Pitango, Hearst, and 83North.
The company, which was founded by CEO Daniel Ramot and CTO Oren Shoval, has seen its valuation rise at each consecutive financing round. According to PitchBook, Via became a unicorn in 2017 and completed its financing round last year at a valuation of $2 billion and a small financing round in March 2021 at a valuation of $2.9 billion, after money.
Via has developed a dynamic transportation system, which uses algorithms to adapt ridesharing routes to passenger needs. Minibuses or large shared taxis which use the company's technology collect passengers from pre-arranged stops. Passengers order the ride via an app and are told where to catch the vehicle from a nearby point. Routes are adjusted in real time according to passenger demand, traffic congestion and other factors.
Via controls an estimated 50% of the world's micro-transit market. Its main rival in Israel is Moovit, which operates the TikTak service in Haifa. Via operates in two ways - as a tech company providing the navigation and management systems for fleets of transport providers like Dan and Egged in Israel (with Dan in Tel Aviv's Bubble service and with Egged in Jerusalem's TikTak service), and as an operator itself of bus fleets in New York City, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago. For example the company operates an independent transport app under the Via brand. In total Via serves 500 transport companies and 38 municipal authorities worldwide.
In recent years, Via has worked increasingly with local authorities, municipalities and states in order to win tenders to operate public transport fleets for various needs. In New York, for example, Via won a tender to operate a fleet of yellow school buses and currently transports hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren on a daily basis, through its network of tens of thousands of drivers and apps, providing parents with a picture showing the location of their children. In Berlin, Via operates a network of vehicles including autonomous cars, and is also part of a unique project to transport people with disabilities.
In Arlington, Texas, near Dallas, Via provides an extra layer of transport to the metropolitan-suburban complex that traditional transport models do not serve. Via won a tender there to operate micro-transit services for five years, which will also include several autonomous vehicles.
All this has brought Via's annual revenue to about $100 million, reflecting growth of tens of percentage points from 2020. The company now has 1,000 employees including 400 at its R&D center in Tel Aviv.
Shoval told "Globes," "Public transport did not change very much during the Covid pandemic but use of cars and transport changed completely.
"While traditional bus lines operate on the pre-Covid format, and are suited to a permanent timetable, in which everybody goes to work in the morning and comes home in the evening, the transport needs of drivers and passengers have become more flexible and are spread over more hours. For example, today people tend to work part of the time from home and go in the car to meetings later in the day. As the infrastructures are insufficiently flexible, more public transport passengers see the car as a more convenient solution. Add to that the limitations of public transport and concerns of getting infected, and you have the recipe for congestion on the roads."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 30, 2021.
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