Why we led Mobli’s seed round

Rob Vickery

We are extremely excited to announce the newest addition to Hillfarrance Fund I – Mobli!

While I was still in The States, I was made aware of a founder creating a revolutionary product for public transport. At that stage, the product and founder were in early development. Fast forward two years and we finally got to meet Martin McMullan in our Devonport office. 

Martin is a founder driven to change the way public transport operates for the better good of society. His start-up, Mobli, is a culmination of his two previous start-ups, Frenzy and Optiki. These start-ups were absorbed into what we know as Mobli, the underpinning cloud infrastructure for all things Mobility and transport. As you can imagine, the public transport market is enormous. However, this is the first time we have seen a founder create a sandbox for all things transport and mobility. This obviously piqued our curiosity to learn more.

Unlike several other pre-seed/seed-stage start-ups, Mobli has a fully functioning and operating product that is currently being used in the wild. Having been implemented and currently operating in the largest privately held multi-modal transport operator in Australia and a middle-sized transport operator in Aotearoa New Zealand, Mobli’s clients have chosen their solution because it helps them to compete with other transport companies around the globe.

Since meeting in June, Martin has continued to demonstrate the audacity of vision that is a prerequisite for all Hillfarrance portfolio investments. Inspired by his family who lives in rural Wales and has very little access to transportation, he intends to make mobility seamless, customisable to the end-customer and even free, in exchange for sharing some data or watching a commercial or two. 

Long story short, Martin and Mobli aced our investment evaluation framework and jumped at the chance to lead their seed round with a $1.7m investment from our fund and our LPs.

The team 

Martin has pulled together an ethnically diverse team of highly skilled humans who live, breathe and sleep innovation within the transport and mobility industry. The cohesion, domain expertise and sheer talent of the team ticked all the boxes we look for in a successful start-up.

First up is Martin, the Founder and CEO of Mobli. Martin was the former Director of Connected Journeys at the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). He has broad experience in strategy, technology implementation, IT operations and creating new customer-led products using Google Cloud across Government, Corporate and Software-as-a-service (SaaS) / platform-as-a-service (PaaS) startups. With a background in computer science, construction management, QA systems, and product, Martin has gone on to develop a broad knowledge of new transit, autonomous vehicles and mobility trends.

Next is Mieszko Jan Iwaskow, Mobli’s Chief Strategy Officer. Like Martin, Mish has a depth of experience in Mobility that few can match. Starting in a couple of month’s time, Mieszko was most recently the Director for Strategic Programmes for Auckland Transport’s Enterprise Change Management Plan. Prior to Auckland Transport, he was the Global Urban Mobility and Integrated Transport Service Leader for Aurecon. While there, he was responsible for successfully developing the cross-market strategy for urban mobility across key markets in Africa, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and New Zealand.

Continuing on this trend of mobility superstars is our technical team.

Noel Branzuela is Mobli’s Director of Engineering for Payments & Rewards and has over 25 years of experience in software design, development and enterprise systems integration. Before Mobli, he was the back-end development lead at Soul Machines, the mobility-as-a-service technical lead at NZTA and a technical lead at Genesis Energy.

Another pivotal member of our technical team is our Director of Engineering for Mobility, Ratha Long. Ratha has over a decade of experience in all aspects of technology solution delivery from software development to cloud-based solution design. Having been the head of engineering at NZTA, technical lead at Suncorp NZ and the co-founder of a fintech startup

Last but by no means least is Yahia Ragae. Our Leed Engineer – Mobile, Yahia has had extensive experience in creating mobile apps. From working as a senior mobile application engineer at Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Telecom Company (STC) to being the principal mobile Plexure Group, Yahia brings forward his deep understanding of building mobile applications in both iOS and Android.

The market

The global transit technology software market is expected to be valued between $35billion – 60billion by 2025, whilst the global transit and ground passenger transport market are expected to reach $635billion. The caveat above is that this only accounts for bus public transit and on-demand transit. It does not account for private, traditional rail and other car-based services. Mobli resides in all of these verticals.

The problem they are solving

  • Current transport and mobility systems are complex, hardware-driven and costly.
  • Most often, these legacy systems have poor user experience ()UX) which results in a poor experience for the end-user (the passengers and patrons of transport).
  • Transport operators, cities & clients also have to commit to long-term contracts, which are closed systems and hinder innovation.
  • Current hardware-driven solutions account for 60% of the total cost of these mobility contracts.
  • Creating new platforms for mobility and transport is currently very expensive and difficult to do for both small and large companies.

The solution 

Mobli is an easy, one-stop solution that is the underpinning cloud infrastructure for transport and mobility management. Cutting out any need for hardware, Mobli aims to be the backbone of a transport or mobility company’s cloud infrastructure and offers an entire suite of solutions such as software development kits (SDKs) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

This easy-to-use, open-source solution also allows transport and mobility companies to create modular and fully customizable solutions to fit every mobility use-case and business model for a much lower price than legacy systems. 

Mobli offers a more affordable and cost-effective solution for companies of any scale. Whether you are a small taxi company in Aotearoa, New Zealand, or a large transport operator in Europe, Mobli allows you to innovate to satisfy your own customers. 

Mobli also offers a range of features such as Mobility on-demand, employee and user applications and accounts, ticketing solutions, rider rewards via the frenzy app, and also the ability for companies to monetise during transit through advertisements.

Want to build a ride-sharing platform? You can with Mobli.

Want to improve the UX for your daily public transport patrons? You can with Mobli.

Want to manage your fleet of electric, autonomous vehicles in the future? You can with Mobli.

How Mobli works

Building a transport platform from the ground up is incredibly difficult and expensive. Mobli’s approach can help unlock a new, more equitable, sustainable approach to mobility by providing an equal playing field for both start-ups and long term mobility providers to safely innovate using the latest in user-centric design, API based micro-services and machine learning.

They do this by offering everything one needs to create their own mobility service. For example, if a large corporation wants to create a payment platform for all their employees to use when travelling for work, they can subscribe to whatever Mobli solutions they need to make this happen and pay as they go. On the other hand, if a startup wanted to use Mobli’s solutions to create a ride-share or a Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) solution, they can (think Bird Scooters as an example).

Finally, some companies such as public transport operators require the full suite of Mobli’s tools and require white-labelled solutions to offer to their own customers.

Why we are believers

Mobli has real traction, having already generated almost seven-digit revenue and securing two long-term contracts with Australia’s largest private multimodal transport operator. Currently servicing the Adelaide and the New South Wales region, we believe that Mobli will eventually service several client locations within Australia, which will then leverage the parent company in Europe. They also have contracts with two transport operators in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and have confirmed a product pilot with one of the largest OEMs in the world to provide white-label software solutions.

More importantly, we believe in the founder and the team behind him. The founder and CEO, Martin McMullan, is nothing short of a subject matter expert in mobility and transport, having been the Director of Connected Journeys at NZ Transport Agency, which was the innovation wing of the company. Behind him is also an incredible, product-focused team with experience within transportation, transport and mobility technology.

Finally, we back audacious founders. Martin and his team are positioning themselves to be the underpinning cloud infrastructure of any transport and mobility company in the world. They do not want to be the next Uber, DiDi or Via, but rather the infrastructure on which these platforms are built upon. 

This is an essential investment for Hillfarrance and exemplifies what we look for in startups — the right team, a giant market that is crying out for innovation and a future landscape that is likely going to need Mobli in a big way.