12 Dec 19

Get ready for the mobility game changers from TechCrunch Disrupt

TechCrunch Disrupt is a global event, typically held in innovation hubs such as San Francisco and Berlin. As technology has become an important of the Fleet industry, FleetEurope decided to fly to Berlin and have a look for ourselves to see what’s happening in the tech arena.

About the Berlin event

The event is split into 3 different areas: stages for presentations, startup booths and a large space for the WeChat Developer Challenge. As is the case for every event that respects itself, awards are handed out to startups that have been either exceptionally innovative or disruptive.

Interestingly, the startups are organised by theme (Mobility, blockchain, robotics,…) as well as by region. Korea has booked a significant part of the startup area, but also up-and-coming tech countries such as Romania are investing in visibility.

WeChat Developer Challenge

The Chinese tech giant occupied what looked like a quarter of the total square meters with its Developer Challenge. For those who don’t know WeChat, it’s essentially a “WhatsApp with more functionality”. A lot more functionality: WeChat has integrated mini-programs in its platform, which means that, in order to order food, for instance, the WeChat user doesn’t need to go to a different application, but can stay within the WeChat environment and consult, compare, book, pay and communicate with vendors.

WeChat is constantly expanding services and is now actively looking into the Western markets to find these. During the event, startups were asked to develop mini-programs for 6 new services; Sixt and LVMH (the holding that owns Louis Vuitton amongst many other luxury brands), but also a fashion outlet business will be available on WeChat and cater for a digital buying experience for the Chinese consumer or tourist in the West.

Mobility + Transportation

16 young companies presented their mobility or transportation innovations at TechChrunch. Examples are Alvario (last mile delivery coordination), Pix Moving (a flexible self-driving platform), goUrban (a tech platform for sharing services). A small table, a banner and an iPad is what the startups had to work with to engage with passers-by, but the limited exposure didn’t keep them from trying hard to promote themselves and – this is what TechCrunch is about – find investors.

Money fair or tech event?

The main reason for startups to attend events such as TechCrunch is to find funding. TC’s sponsors are the likes of WeChat, Google and SAP for whom these events are tech prospecting opportunities. Alongside these giants, a handful of investment companies are scouting for opportunities in various stages from angel to A-round. They’ll walk around the event, stop left and right and ask the young kids to pitch their product. If the pitch is ok, they’ll inquire about the development stage of the offering, the teams, the funding and scalability of the solution. If this works out well, the startup will be invited to send their pitch deck to the potential investor. There’s little time for pleasantries and scrutiny is tough, sometimes plainly brutal. Startup life is not easy.

A familiar face

Also showcasing at TechCrunch, is OviDrive, the digital fleet manager company. Preparing for their next investment round, the Australians had lined up a series of meetings with investors. Irwan Iriks, OviDrive’s money man: “We attract a very specific type of investors. OviDrive is already making money and we’re not looking for funds to build a product or survive, like most of the young girls and guys here. We’re looking for investments to scale globally and increase the functionality of our solution. This means that we’re a low risk and high potential type of investment, which typically attracts a better type of investor.”

Interesting for Fleet Managers?

In one word: no. Most of the mobility solutions are extremely niche or developed for the supply chain rather than for fleet managers. Nevertheless, some Fortune 500 companies had sent their digital innovation people to look out for new tech, not only in mobility, but in various categories. These people will eventually report back to their businesses and feed decision makers with trends and innovations. If that’s your job, TechCrunch is the place to be.


Authored by: Yves Helven