How do you scale your platform in an industry that is much too big to dominate? With help from your partner. Our newest move on that path is to team up with Brazilian MaaS operator Quicko and its previous owners Grupo CCR and J2L Partners. Quicko was founded four years ago, and it offers an efficient way to use public transportation in eight Brazilian metropolitan areas, delivered through a beautiful interface. In practice what happens is that MaaS Global acquires Quicko, and Quicko’s sellers CCR and J2L invest in MaaS Global. Then, with this structure, we develop MaaS in Brazil and worldwide together.
There are several reasons to be excited about this. The first, as said, has to do with growing the platform. The promise MaaS makes is to be available everywhere at any time. To achieve this globally is just too expensive if you go at it with a standard platform economy approach and try to blitzscale to world dominion, like Google, Facebook, or Netflix. Just look at the challenges ride-hailing companies and the micromobility players are encountering. They are trying to provide one modality, and just doing this demands insane amounts of capital. And MaaS – which wants to offer all modalities – is in another universe.
At MaaS Global we do not believe in the virtues of monopoly, nor do we see it as a sensible goal for us, or for anyone in MaaS. For environmental reasons, we have to rush MaaS. Therefore we cannot wait to raise gigantic amounts of money and aim to control the transportation market. Instead, we have chosen an open model. We seek partners that have proven themselves and are ready to join forces. And as we partner, we focus on aligning not just our technologies and services but also incentives.
A year ago, we partnered with WoNDo in Spain, and in the same manner we are now partnering with Quicko in Brazil. WoNDo was built and owned by Ferrovial, a major industrial operator in sustainable infrastructure. Technically WoNDo was acquired by MaaS Global and Ferrovial made a strategic investment in MaaS Global. Today, WoNDo and Whim work in unison, and the ownership of the two is aligned. Now we are repeating the exercise with Quicko and CCR, one of the largest infrastructure conglomerates in Latin America. Quicko and Whim join forces and CCR and J2L become owners in MaaS Global.
Instead of going around seeking capital to take over companies, we seek partners and gather momentum with them. We do it systematically, but we also believe in serendipity. The Quicko deal started when I sat as a guest on the Ride podcast together with Quicko’s founder Pedro Somma. After the podcast, we started talking about our plans for the future and the role of fundraising in making them happen. It did not take us long to start talking about how a partnership would be the fastest way towards a future we both want.
Partnering is our current scaling playbook, and I only see reasons to play more. What everyone seriously involved with MaaS wants is simple: fewer cars and better mobility. When Pedro and I talked about the congestion problems in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, I remembered how I was sitting on a bench in Istanbul in late 2015 and looking at traffic that wasn’t moving. I had just met with a potential investor Karsan Otomotiv Sanayii and Tickaret AS and was trying to decide if I should take on the role of CEO of the recently founded MaaS Finland (later MaaS Global). It would be a Quixotian task to take on the world’s car manufacturers, the oil lobby, the political passions, and the local interests that support our car-centered culture. But the traffic before me wasn’t moving. And the world wasn’t moving on a burning issue. One had to do something.
If no one does anything, the congestion and the emissions will go from catastrophic to apocalyptic. If you take a look at the statistics since the Second World War, the rise of the GDP and the number of passenger vehicles have grown in unison. More GDP means more cars or more cars mean more GDP. The direction of causality does not matter much here since the result is more cars no matter what. In Europe, there are currently 600 passenger vehicles per 1000 inhabitants. In Brazil, the number is 200 but rises as the GDP grows. This development feels unstoppable, even if putting more automobiles on the streets of major Brazilian cities or more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere makes no sense.
The telecom revolution and the adoption of cell phones is a metaphor I like to use to describe the possibilities of MaaS. Many of the same changes that made cell phones a success are available to MaaS: deregulation to build markets, international roaming to attract users, and business usage to make adaptation easy. But it does not stop here. What happened in many developing nations with mobile phones was that they were able to skip printing machines and landlines and take a quantum leap into mobile communication. And then there is our neighboring Estonia: after the Soviet rule ended, they went directly from not having modern democratic institutions to having the most advanced eGovernment in the world.
What finally pushed me into taking the job as the CEO of the world’s first MaaS operator was partly the scene in Istanbul. We have to start getting those cars off the streets, not by force, but by offering something better. The challenge in the wealthiest parts of the world is to offer an alternative to a car that is so good that people get rid (at least some) of their cars. The challenge in the countries that aren’t economically as prosperous yet is to build a service so good that people can jump directly to MaaS, and skip the economically questionable and environmentally disastrous worship of the privately owned automobile.
Skippering MaaS Global has been and will be a bumpy ride, but I’m happy I got off that bench and chose to try to move things. The goal is set, and the ways to get there make sense. It is all about getting it done now.