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December 15, 2018
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China’s BYD further drives into Chile with 100 electric buses

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Over the past few years, Chinese automaker giant BYD has been on a partnership spree with cities across China to electrify their public transportation systems, and now it’s extending its footprint across the globe. On Thursday, BYD announced that it has shipped 100 electric buses to Santiago, the capital city of Chile.

The step marks the Chinese firm’s further inroads into the Latin American country where a green car revolution is underway to battle smog. BYD’s first batch of vehicles arrived in Santiago last November and the Warren Buffett-backed carmaker remains as the only electric public bus provider in the country.

Chile is on the map of China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative aiming to turbocharge the world’s less developed regions with infrastructure development and investments. “With the help of ‘One Belt One Road,’ BYD has successfully entered Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Uraguay and other Latin American countries. As the region accelerates its electric revolution, BYD may be able to win more opportunities,” said BYD in a statement.

President of Chile Mr. Sebastián Piñera rides the BYD electric bus. / Credit: BYD

The 100 buses embarked on a 45-day sea voyage from BYD’s factory in eastern China to land on the roads of Santiago. They sport the Chilean national colors of red and white on the exterior and provide USB charging ports inside to serve a generation who live on their electronic devices.

The fleet arrived through a partnership between BYD and Enel, a European utility juggernaut that claims to make up 40 percent of Chile’s energy sales in 2017. Enel has purchased the fleet from BYD and leased them to local transportation operator Metbus while the Chilean government set the rules and standards for the buses, a BYD spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Local passengers graded BYD’s electric vehicles at 6.3 out of 7, well above the 4.6 average of the Santiago public transportation system, according to a survey jointly produced by Chile’s Ministry of Energy as well as Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. Respondents cited qualities such as low noise level, air conditioning and USB charging that the buses deliver.

Santiago currently has 7,000 public buses running on the road, among which 400 get replaced every year. A lot of the new ones will be diesel-free as the Chilean government said it aims to increase the total number of electric vehicles by tenfold in 2022.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Changing consumer behavior is the key to unlocking billion dollar businesses

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In the summer of 2012, I had just learned of a new service where a driver would pick you up in their own car, not a taxi or licensed town car. You’d be able to recognize the car by the pink mustache strapped to the front. I quickly downloaded the new app called Lyft and, intrigued, started to share it with others around the Airbnb offices.

Almost everyone gave me a same response: “I would never use it.” I asked why. “Well, I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting into someone else’s car.” I said, “Wait a minute, you are comfortable allowing others into your home and staying in others’ homes while you travel, but you don’t want to get into someone else’s car?” The reply was always a version of “Yeah, I guess that’s it—a car is different than a home.”

I was dumbfounded. Here was a collection of adventurous individuals — who spent their days at Airbnb expanding the boundaries of what it means to trust another person — but they were stuck on the subtle behavior change of riding shotgun with a stranger. I then had another quick reaction: this product was going to be huge.

Behavior Shifts in Consumer Internet

Truly transformative consumer products require a behavior shift. Think back to the early days of the internet. Plenty of people said they would never put their credit card credentials online. But they did, and that behavior shift allowed e-commerce to flourish, creating the likes of Amazon. Fast forward to the era when Myspace, Facebook, and other social networks were starting out. Again, individuals would commonly say that they would never put their real names or photos of themselves online. It required only one to two years before the shift took hold and the majority of the population created social media profiles. The next wave included sharing-economy companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber, prompting individuals to proclaim that they would never stay in someone else’s home or get into their car. In short order, times changed and those behaviors are now so commonplace, these companies are transforming how people travel and move about the world.

The behavior shifts were a change in socially accepted norms and previously learned behavior. They alone don’t create stratospheric outcomes, but they do signal that there could be something special at play.

Build an Enhanced Experience

Still, just because a product creates a behavior shift does not mean that it will be successful. Often, though a handful of loyal users may love them, there is ultimately no true advantage to these products or services.

One prime example comes to mind, the product Blippy. In late 2009, the team built a product to livestream a user’s credit card transactions. It would show the purchase details to the public, pretty much anyone on the internet, unlocking a new data stream. It was super interesting and definitely behavior shifting. This was another case where many people were thinking, “Wow, I would never do that,” even as others were happily publishing their credit card data. Ultimately there was little consumer value created, which led Blippy to fold. The founders have since gone on to continually build interesting startups.

In successful behavior-shifting products, the shift leads to a better product, unlocking new types of online interactions and sometimes offline activities in the real world. For instance, at Airbnb the behavior shift of staying in someone else’s home created a completely new experience that was 1) cheaper, 2) more authentic, and 3) unique. Hotels could not compete, because their cost structure was different, their rooms were homogenized, and the hotel experience was commonplace. The behavior shift enabled a new product experience. You can easily flip this statement, too: a better experience enabled the behavior shift. Overall, the benefits of the new product were far greater than the discomfort of adopting new behavior.

Revolutionary products succeed when they deliver demonstrable value to their users. The fact that a product creates a behavior shift is clearly not enough. It must create enormous value to overcome the initial skepticism. When users get over this hurdle, though, they will be extremely bought in, commonly becoming evangelists for the product.

Unlock Greenfield Opportunity

One key benefit of a behavior-shifting product is that it commonly creates a new market where there is no viable competition. Even in cases where several innovative players crop up at the same time, they’re vying for market share in a far more favorable environment, not trying to unseat entrenched corporations. The opportunity then becomes enormous, as the innovators can capture the vast majority of the market.

Other times, the market itself isn’t new, but the way the product or service operates in it is. Many behavior-shifting products were created in already enormous markets, but they shifted the definition of those markets. For instance, e-commerce is an extension of the regular goods market, which is in the trillions. Social media advertising is an extension of online advertising, which is in the hundreds of billions. Companies that innovated within those markets created new greenfield but also continued to grow the existing market pie and take market share away from the incumbents. The innovators retrain the consumer to expect more, forcing the incumbents to respond to a new paradigm.

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Shape the Future

A behavior shift also allows the innovator to shape the future by creating a new product experience and pricing structure.

When it comes to product experience, there are no prior mental constructs. This is a huge advantage to product development, as it allows teams to be as creative as possible. For instance, the addition of ratings in Uber’s and Lyft’s products changed the dynamic between driver and rider. Taxi drivers and passengers could be extremely rude to each other. Reviews have altered that experience and made rudeness an edge case, as there are ramifications to behaving badly. Taxis can’t compete with this seemingly small innovation because there is no mechanism to do so. They can’t enhance quality of interaction without taking the more manual approach of driver education.

Another benefit to the innovator is that they can completely change the economics of the transaction, shaping the future of the market. Amazon dictated a new shopping experience with online purchasing, avoiding the costs of a brick-and-mortar location. They could undercut pricing across the board, focusing on scale instead of margin per product. This shifted the business model of the market, forcing others to respond to follow suit. In many cases, that shift ultimately eroded the competition’s existing economic structure, making it extremely challenging for them to participate in the new model.

Expect Unintended Consequences

It can be difficult to imagine at the outset, but if your product is encouraging massive behavior shifts, you will undoubtedly encounter many unintended consequences along the way. It is easy to brush off a problem you did not directly and intentionally create. But as the social media companies are learning today, very few problems go away by ignoring them. It is up to you to address these challenges, even if they are an unintended byproduct.

One of the most common unintended consequences nearly all behavior-shifting companies will run into is government regulation. Regulation is created to support the world as it is today. When you introduce a behavior shift into society, you will naturally be operating outside of previously created societal frameworks. The sharing-economy companies like Airbnb and Uber are prime examples. They push the boundaries of land use regulation and employer-employee relationships and aggravate unions.

I want to emphasize that you should not ignore such matters or think that their regulation is silly. Regulation serves a purpose. Startups must work with regulators to help define new policy structures, and governments must be open to innovation. It’s a two-way street, and everyone wins when we work together.

What’s Next

My advice is to start by thinking about existing categories that represent people’s biggest or most frequent expenditures. The amount of money you spend on your home, transportation, and clothes, for example, is enormous. Is there an opportunity to grow and capture part of these markets by upending old commercial models and effecting a behavior shift?

Scooter networks are a real-time example of a behavior-shifting innovation that is just getting going. It has the same explosive opportunity of prior game-changing innovations. There are still many individuals who state that they will never commute on scooter. But applying this framework tells me that it is just a matter of time before it is more widely adopted as the technology keeps evolving and maturing.

There is no magical formula for uncovering massive, behavior-shifting products. But if you come up with an innovative idea, and everyone initially tells you that they would never use it, think a little harder to make sure they are right…

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 raises $6M, expands in Africa

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Nigerian trucking logistics startup Kobo360 has raised $6 million to upgrade its platform and expand operations to Ghana, Togo, and Cote D’Ivoire.

The company — with an Uber -like app that connects truckers and companies with freight needs — gained the equity financing in an IFC led investment. The funding saw participation from others, including TLcom Capital and Y Combinator.

With the investment Kobo360 aims to become more than a trucking transit app.

“We started off as an app, but our goal is to build a global logistics operating system. We’re no longer an app, we’re a platform,” founder Obi Ozor told TechCrunch.

In addition to connecting truckers, producers and distributors, the company is building that platform to offer supply chain management tools for enterprise customers.

“Large enterprises are asking us for very specific features related to movement, tracking, and sales of their goods. We either integrate other services, like SAP, into Kobo or we build those solutions into our platform directly,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will start by developing its API and opening it up to large enterprise customers.

“We want clients to be able to use our Kobo dashboard for everything; moving goods, tracking, sales, and accounting…and tackling their challenges,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will also build more physical presence throughout Nigeria to service its business. “We’ll open 100 hubs before the end of 2019…to be able to help operations collect proof of delivery, to monitor trucks on the roads, and have closer access to truck owners for vehicle inspection and training,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will add more warehousing capabilities, “to support our reverse logistics business”—one of the ways the company brings prices down by matching trucks with return freight after they drop their loads, rather than returning empty, according to Ozor.

Kobo360 will also use its $6 million investment to expand programs and services for its drivers, something Ozor sees as a strategic priority.

“The day you neglect your drivers you are not going to have a company, only issues. If Uber were more driver focused it would be a trillion dollar company today,” he said.

The startup offers drivers training and group programs on insurance, discounted petrol, and vehicle financing (KoboWin). Drivers on the Kobo360 app earn on average approximately $5000 per month, according to Ozor.

Under KoboCare, Kobo360 has also created an HMO for drivers and an incentive based program to pay for education. “We give school fee support, a 5000 Naira bonus per trip for drivers toward educational expenses for their kids,” said Ozor.

Kobo360 will complete limited expansion into new markets Ghana, Togo, and Cote D’Ivoire in 2019. “The expansion will be with existing customers, one in the port operations business, one in FMCG, and another in agriculture,” said Ozor

Ozor thinks the startup’s asset-free, digital platform and business model can outpace traditional long-haul 3PL providers in Nigeria by handling more volume at cheaper prices.

“Owning trucks is just too difficult to manage. The best scalable model is to aggregate trucks,” he told TechCrunch in a previous interview.

With the latest investment, IFC’s regional head for Africa Wale Ayeni and TLcom senior partner Omobola Johnson will join Kobo360’s board. “There’s a lot of inefficiencies in long-haul freight in Africa…and they’re building a platform that can help a lot of these issues,” said Ayeni of Kobo360’s appeal as an investment.

The company has served 900 businesses, aggregated a fleet of 8000 drivers and moved 155 million kilograms, per company stats. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote, and DHL.

MarketLine estimated the value of Nigeria’s transportation sector in 2016 at $6 billion, with 99.4 percent comprising road freight.

Logistics has become an active space in Africa’s tech sector with startup entrepreneurs connecting digital to delivery models. In Nigeria, Jumia founder Tunde Kehinde departed and founded Africa Courier Express. Startup Max.ng is wrapping an app around motorcycles as an e-delivery platform. Nairobi-based Lori Systems has moved into digital coordination of trucking in East Africa. And U.S.-based Zipline—who launched drone delivery of commercial medical supplies in partnership with the government of Rwanda and support of UPS—and is in “process of expanding to several other countries,” according to a spokesperson.

Kobo360 has plans for broader Africa expansion but would not name additional countries yet.

Ozor said the company is profitable, though the startup does not release financial results. Wale Ayeni also wouldn’t divulge revenue figures, but confirmed IFC’s did full “legal and financial due diligence on Kobo’s stats,” as part of the investment.

Ozor named Lori Systems as Kobo360’s closest African startup competitor.

On the biggest challenge to revenue generation, it’s all about service delivery and execution, according to Ozor.

“We already have volume and demand in the market. The biggest threat to revenues is if Kobo360’s platform doesn’t succeed in solving our client’s problems and bringing reliability to their needs,” he said.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Europe’s ride-hailing companies aren’t scared of Uber

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Uber is speeding toward a historic IPO next year that could value it as high as $120 billion, but that doesn’t scare its rivals that operate across Europe.

Speaking on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, Markus Villig — the CEO of $1 billion-valued Taxify — and Via CEO Daniel Ramot, whose company has expanded from Israel into Europe, North America and beyond, said they are not fazed by battling the U.S. ride-hailing goliath.

Having raised over $170 million from investors including Didi Chuxing, which defeated Uber in China, Taxify operates in 26 markets predominantly in Europe and Africa. That means that Villig is very familiar with going toe-to-toe with Uber .

“We compete with them in every country and city we’re in so we’ve always been accustomed to having quite fierce competition,” Vilig said. “But what’s already clear from multiple mergers around the world, whether we look at Russia, China and now Southeast Asia [where Uber has sold to local rivals] it’s clear that the local operating model is the one that’s going to win out over the long-term.”

“If you need to actually localize, then the U.S. companies aren’t typically best suited to do it. We see this happening city by city,” he added.

While Grab in Southeast Asia and Didi in China managed to outmaneuver Uber by doubling down on local factors like regional payment plans, Villig explained that, in Europe, he sees Taxify’s local advantage as its ability to mix up its strategy. So it can get fierce in open markets that bring significant competition for drivers and riders, or work collaboratively with local government in places where a challenging regulatory landscapes  requires a more nuanced approach.

“We are more focused on treating drivers better, which is something that’s quite unique to Europe because the regulations are so high that you have a lot less drivers who you can actually work with you in every city. So treating them well is a much bigger factor than it might be in a market where the supply of drivers is multiple times bigger,” the Taxify CEO said.

Taxify’s Markus Villig is one of the youngest founders of a unicorn startup

Via, which has raised some $390 million to date, specializes in shuttle vans both in collaboration with local transport authorities and as a standalone consumer-facing service, is also standing up to Uber’s significant ride-hailing chops.

“Where we are operating our own consumer service [such as New York, Chicago and London] we are facing this quite fierce competitor, but often times we are fighting that first shared ride which is our core product,” Ramot said.

“I think we have a pretty good advantage in the technology that we’ve developed because it was built from the ground up to allow people to share and the way the drivers are being compensated on the Via platform all fits together very well. So we usually find we have good success launching our own service even when Uber is competing,” he added.

Far from resting on those laurels, Ramot revealed that Via — which, like Taxify, counts Daimler as an investor — has floated an idea with Daimler to develop bespoke vans designed as the ideal shuttle to ferry passengers. The collaboration is in its early stages, but someday we might see the fruits of this partnership out on public roads, he said.

Daniel Ramot (center) co-founded Via in 2012

Also on the future, but back on the Uber battle track, Villig — one of the world’s youngest founders of a unicorn thanks to an investment earlier this year — voiced his optimism that, in spite of Uber’s enormous war chest and imminent public listing, he believes that the future of on-demand transportation is truly local.

“We see that, country-by-country, we are actually overtaking them. Now fast forwarding a couple of years, we think we’ll see a similar future in Europe and Africa as we have seen in other parts of the world,” he said.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Carbo brings its light and peppy electric bike to the U.S.

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The Carbo is a new electric bike that weighs a mere 27 pounds and can pep up your morning commute. Created by the Montreal-based team that successfully shipped the Veco, this crowdfunded electric bike can collapse for travel and can go 40 miles with pedal assist and 28 miles on full automatic.

Early birds can get the single gear bike for $1,199 or upgrade to a seven gear bike for $100 more. The tema has already hit their $50,000 and they will ship in April 2019.

I saw an early version of the Carbo and was impressed. Although it looked thin and flimsy – the entire frame looks like you can bend it on a bad curb – it was very resilient and withstood my urban abuse. There are multiple modes including Sport which takes you almost immediately up to about 20 miles an hour with pedal assist, a great feeling. The battery is hidden inside the seat post and can be swapped out.

The bike seems like a good last-mile solution. Since you can collapse it almost completely it works as a portable mode of transport similar to a scooter but far more effective. As a fan of electric bikes, this thing really hits the sweet spot between price, portability, and power.

While the price is a little high, it’s on par with other pedal assist bikes and it should be considered legal in the United States when it ships because it does not have a full throttle system. Ultimately, however, this thing is about convenience and portability versus true power so it’s worth looking into if you want a boost to work or school.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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