Along for the Ride #112
Chante Harris takes the wheel this week, bringing you a VC perspective on mobility tech, climate tech, and urban tech—focusing on the intersection they all share.
My name is Chante Harris, and I’m thrilled Sarah invited me to share my thoughts with you this week. A bit about me, I’ve spent years scaling innovative and impactful nationwide campaigns, technologies, and ideas for the Obama Administration, Fortune 500 companies, and most recently startups.
As a go-to-market strategist, I’ve driven long-term expansion for startups and established companies by leading them through the complex processes of winning procurement opportunities, securing pilot projects, undertaking design challenges, and launching community impact initiatives.
I’ve worked to advance Citywide and Statewide initiatives across New York that champion solutions to the climate crisis through the deployment of technologies and creation of policy. I’m now leading the growth of an investor network and corporate partnerships for Venture for ClimateTech , a venture studio and accelerator hybrid model sourcing the most promising climate solutions across the globe through SecondMuse.
Now that you know a bit about me and my work, let’s dive into a topic that I’ve had a lot of time to explore recently: increased investment in mobility tech over the past few years and an unprecedented attention on solutions being built and scaled in this space. According to a CBI Insights’ report, The State of Mobility Tech: Sector & Investment Trends to Watch, $27.6 billion total funding was committed to the mobility tech space in 2020. Additionally, since 2009 venture investors have poured $197.3 billion into mobility technology, according to a 2019 PitchBook report.
Let’s talk about SPACs. What are they and how are they affecting the future of mobility?
Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) are companies that have no explicit business plan other than to acquire or merge with an unspecified private company at some point. What makes SPACs particularly interesting is the alternative they offer to traditional initial public offerings (IPOs). According to a recent Forbes article, 248 SPACs listed compared to 209 traditional IPOs. While an IPO can take two to three years to close, SPACs offer an easier and faster option for companies to go public.
You might be asking what’s the downside to an alternative that cuts out a lot of the regular oversight and hurdles to taking a company public? The government is addressing this question as the SEC devotes resources to addressing the emerging issues associated with SPACs. One growing concern is that many investors are more likely to get in too late to see meaningful gains.
While we wait to see how this all pans out, what we do know is that mobility tech companies benefited greatly from this rising trend and demonstrate that successful exits are possible for venture-backed startups and subsequently can attract more early-stage capital. 26 mobility tech companies merged with SPACs in 2020 representing a combined valuation of over $100 billion. Some exciting acquisitions and IPOs vacating the SPAC route include autonomous driving startup, Zoox acquired by Amazon and TuSimple which took the traditional route of going public through an IPO.
Is Mobility Tech Climate Tech? Urban Tech?
As we consider and aim to benefit from the recent buzz around and growth across mobility innovation, some (including myself) are asking how does mobility tech correspond with climate tech? Like mobility tech, climate tech investment is skyrocketing. According to PWC’s 2020 The State of Climate Tech report, total venture funding increased to $16.1b, a more than 3750% increase from 2013. Simultaneously urban tech, a $65 billion industry increased from $20 billion in 2010 to $70 billion in 2018 in 128 nations and 669 global cities.
It is critical to see these numbers delegated to a specific category to understand the breakdown of investment. That being said, it is even more important that we break silos across these conversations and recognize mobility solutions will be climate solutions and urban solutions. I find it quite surprising that when I talk to people across mobility, urban and climate they aren’t always thinking about the work they are doing in relation to the broader landscape of these three varying but merging themes. There will not always be overlap but when we think of building and scaling mobility solutions of the future my hope is that we think of building solutions that are sustainable AND address the unique challenges of cities which account for two-thirds of the world’s energy consumption and more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.
Where are the opportunities?
Top categories in mobility include ride hailing, autonomous vehicles, micoromoblity (e-scooters, e-bikes, and e-mopeds). While these categories have produced the most unicorns, mobility tech includes electrification, fleet connectivity, logistics, aviation and other categories. I’m including some snapshots from a Dealroom global mobility ecosystem map I like and believe has some great categories and current companies for consideration.
Building on my earlier point about the merging of climate, urban and mobility innovation, there is not only an opportunity to invest in early and growth-stage companies but also ensure their ability to successfully scale by creating ease in navigating regulations, creating policies that propel go-to-market strategy, investing in infrastructure that can champion emerging technologies and advancing incentives and education for adoption across consumers and industry.
Let’s not miss this opportunity at an exciting time when so many things are aligning. We must think outside of the box and across sectors to identify, support the best solutions and implement winning strategies for deployment. I wrote a piece for the Milken Institute that dives deeper into how to do this here.
I’m thrilled that my team and I are backing the founders behind emerging solutions in the mobility solutions and supporting the larger ecosystem needed to bring solutions like theirs into fruition. Our companies include:
Voltpost: Transforming lampposts into smart electric vehicle charging stations managed by a mobile application.
New Frontier Aerospace: Designs and builds a unique, liquid natural gas (LNG) fueled hypersonic aircraft with the landing precision of a helicopter putting significantly less carbon into the atmosphere than jet fuel.
Clean Ocean Coatings: Create toxin and solvent-free fouling release coatings to save our oceans for the commercial shipping industry.
Thanks Sarah for having me as a guest writer. If you’re an investor, policy wonk, community builder or industry player interested in learning more about V4C, our portcos, deal flow across the climate and mobility industry, and/or how to get involved into this growing ecosystem feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to my newsletter, or shoot me an email.
I look forward to investing in mobility tech solutions of the future with you all.