When I want to get to work in the morning, I open my phone and check options. I could drive with Waze to see traffic and find parking, open the Moovit app to catch a bus, or use a neighborhood Whatsapp group to carpool. Mobile apps are changing the way people get around, and are one factor that is dramatically changing the automotive industry as well. With simultaneous pressure from the rise of car sharing services, automation and technology, electric vehicles, and changing consumer behavior, auto manufacturers are being forced to evolve to avoid being disrupted by tech companies. To keep up with the changing world, automotive companies are changing into something new: mobility companies.
So what is mobility?
The definition of mobility has evolved over the past few years. At Axis Innovation, we define it is everything that helps people or things get from point A to point B — whether its a car, bus, bike, donkey, you name it. The disruption of the mobility space is is driven by 5 main factors:
- City Life — Urbanization: Today more than half of the world’s population lives in towns and cities, and by 2040 2 out of 3 people will live in urban areas. (Forum for the Future research)
- Our World — Environmental: Air quality and pollution is a serious issue with greater consumer awareness and customer attitudes and priorities are changing rapidly.
- Community — Sharing economy: We’re transitioning from an ownership driven economy to sharing. As our friends at Freshbiz put it, “Accessibility trumps ownership”
- Culture — On Demand: Consumers expect products and services instantly, anytime and anywhere they are.
- Technology — Mobile adoption: Nearly half the world’s population has a smartphone, and expected to reach 59% by 2022 (Strategy Analysis report). The boom of smartphones has enabled a new generation of entrepreneurs will massive opportunities to change industries.
For nearly 100 years, car companies were only concerned with selling cars. However, these changes are a clear warning sign for the auto industry: disrupt yourself and evolve or face a major risk of becoming irrelevant. Major auto manufacturers have seen the writing on the wall and responded by investing, acquiring, and actively partnering with startups and early stage technology. In particular, the focus of this partnership has gone beyond hardware and is about new forms of services through software.
Since 2011, more than a dozen automakers have entered the startup space, either through corporate venture capital arms, M&A activity, startup accelerators or open innovation programs. (For a great overview of these companies and their specific activities, check out this CB Insights article here). This is a smart decision — while these companies have huge R&D divisions, the real innovation usually comes from outside of the corporation and is found in lean startups all over the world. Large car companies and startups are learning that working together can produce mutually beneficial relationships.
One of the car companies at the forefront of mobility innovation is Ford. Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett was former Chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC — a Ford subsidiary designed to develop and invest in mobility services, which says a lot itself about Ford’s direction. Just this year, senior Ford executives have stated they are ”not only a car, utility and truck company, but also as a mobility company” (Interview with Mashable) and at this year’s Mobile World Congress, announced “Ford [is beginning to] take on one of the most significant strategic shifts in our company’s 113 year old history as we expand our business from being an auto company to an auto and a mobility company.” (transcript text here)
But Ford has been thinking about mobility for many years — here are just a few highlights:
- 2009: Bill Ford introduces and leads Fontinalis Partners, a new VC investing in mobility
- 2011: Ford was the first automakers to reveal a new vehicle at MWC and announce Ford SYNC — their in car connectivity technology.
- 2011–2012: Bill Ford announces Ford’s blueprint for mobility calling for cars, bikes, and pedestrians to link together (article here)
- 2013: Ford launches open developer program on AppLink to let mobile apps interface with its cars, the first auto maker to do so. (see article here)
- 2015: Ford introduced Ford Smart Mobility (article here)
- 2016: Ford booth at Mobile World Congress shows themselves as a tech company — for the first time didn’t even have a Ford car! Check out their press release here.
- 2016: Ford Smart Mobility acquires Chariot, a Silicon Valley based ride sharing startup.
Ford Open Innovation
These are a few reasons we’re excited to be strong partners with Ford in their mobility vision and to engage with mobile startups. As mentioned above, at the end of 2013 Ford launched Applink, their in car infotainment system and platform for mobile app developers to create apps safe to use in the car. Soon after, Ford first came to us looking for startups and developers that could create apps for use in the car, and help them be at the forefront of mobile innovation.
Working together with Ford’s Connected Vehicles and Services Team, in 2015 we created Get in the Car TLV, a 24 hour hackathon with over 100 ideas and developers and even giving away a new car to the winner. In 2016, we expanded our search for new ideas to Europe with the Make it Driveable challenge and created a roadshow for Ford of 18 events in 6 countries, ending with a hackathon and demo in Berlin and a customized accelerator in partnership with Techstars. Over 30 teams from more than 14 countries participated, as well as senior Ford management from the US.
This year for 2017, we’re taking it up a notch with the Ford Make it Driveable Challenge. This summer our road show will take us to Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, and Vienna, followed by our main event in Paris October 25–26. We’re scouting across Europe and the Middle East for apps that fit into 4 broad themes: mobility, the multi-connected car, vehicle data monetization, and in car productivity. To see the full agenda of events — and to apply to pitch or attend — find the details here.
Today, we are witnessing the convergence of some of the most exciting technology and brightest minds to redefine what mobility means. For auto companies like Ford, it’s not only about new revenues but creating the future of transportation. For consumers everywhere, it means faster, cheaper, more fun, and more efficient ways to get around. It looks like exciting times ahead!