With cities resuming activities and social distancing measures set as the new normal, the pandemic challenged concepts of mobility and public transportation was transformed from an urbanity solution to a pain point for city governments.
“All of sudden an industry that was kinda partially vitamin became a pain killer,” says Jonathan Calmus, CEO at CosmicGo, a multimodal transportation platform for renting bikes, electric bikes, scooters, motorcycles, and cars through shared ownership. Founded in 2018, CosmicGo entered Colombia with its scooters at the end of that year but left afterward for reasons that Calmus summarizes in “a perfect storm of government regulation combined with private interest.”
“[Micromobility] is not a business that you can just throw money at, that’s not the solution, the solution is actually thinking through the steps, figuring out how to make things efficiently and this comes with time,” he ponders.
“That’s why I think everyone kind of got too big for their own good at the same time because nobody gave the patience that it was needed to actually solve the problem. All we did was create a new bubble.” The micromobility sector has shown issues yet to be solved, especially in Latin America, with companies such as Grow and Lime cutting staff and reducing or ceasing operations in markets like Brazil and Colombia. At that time, CosmicGo decided to step back, but now the company is back again in the country with a scooter rental service from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m, to be launched in August.
“Micromobility, especially shared mobility is a very valuable system,” the executive affirms. “On average, people are really using their vehicles between 5-20% of the time in general, 80% of that your vehicle is sitting there doing nothing for you.” Through a partnership system, CosmicGo allows users or partners, as they are called, to buy e-bikes or e-scooters as an investment or rent their vehicle fleet on the network to generate income. “We seek that the two types of public that we have can register their car, bicycle or motorcycle to invest, or rent the means of transport they choose, directly from our platform,” said Jairo Ochoa, partner of the company.
In addition to the on-demand rental scooter service soon to be launched in Colombia, Cosmic’s platform allows users to rent a bicycle, motorcycle, or car for a week to six months. “We know that there’s a group of people in the world who really want to access things super on-demand, so Cosmic has free-floating networks and that’s for people who need to use by the minute typically,” Calmus explains.
“But this is a bit cost-prohibitive to a lot of people. There’s another group of people in the world, who also need access to vehicles, that don’t qualify for traditional financing and can’t spend 10 or 20,000 dollars or even 2,000 dollars, and that’s where Cosmic comes in,” he ponders. “Our real objective is to get any vehicle at anyone’s hand to as long as they need it. Whether is by a minute or by month.”
Available in 15 countries, 19 cities, and with more than 70,000 users globally, the platform has 17,000 users in Colombia, and now seeks to improve safe individual transportation amid the pandemic. In Latin America, the company, which claims to be the largest network of shared resources in the region, is gaining ground in Chile and Peru, and is also starting to put a foot in Mexico. “We do have networks across Europe, parts of the Middle East, even parts of Asia, but we are heavily focused on Latin America more than anything,” Calmus points out.
Part of a strategy designed to promote independent entrepreneurship through franchises, CosmicGo’s business model relies heavily on the right partnerships to thrive. Counting on 30 global partners, Calmus tells that the Colombian company helped the Spanish delivery app Glovo to enter Argentina, at the beginning of 2018. “Over half of them [partners] are passive investors: people who are buying vehicles for Cosmic to operate. They want to be part of an impact investment, a social cause.”
“The other side of our corporate partners are what we call franchisees, those are people who are buying fleets but to operate themselves,” the executive explains. “Those are global companies, we had the opportunity to work with Glovo to help launch them in Argentina, now we’re gonna be working with them in another city that we are not allowed to talk about yet,” he anticipates.
The size of the opportunity
In the midst of preventive isolation, Cosmic has been running up to 1,000 daily trips globally in vehicles on demand and free fleet available on the platform. Through a monitoring center, the company tracks all of its vehicles, besides conducting strict disinfection and cleaning protocols at the end of each journey. “Right now the trend is moving towards rentals and subscriptions, meaning long-term access to our vehicles with insurance and maintenance fully included,” Cosmic CEO reveals. “I do believe that there is a world where free-floating will be a dominant form of share mobility again, but maybe not right now.”
As millions of people gradually resume some daily activities and resort to urban mobility over the globe, new social dynamics on transportation are a major concern in order to avoid contamination risks. According to the consulting firm Mckinsey & Co, individual mobility in 2030 will be a market to exceed $200 billion in the US and will hit $100 billion in Europe. “Now that society is more aware of preventive mobility, we want them not to buy a new form of transportation, but to invest that money in a safe and reliable service,” he defends.
To roll-out in August in the Colombian cities of Medellín, Bogota, and Pereira, the shared mobility startup will offer the scooter rental service from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m through its website, and soon, it will make it available through an app, 24/7.
“Now we actually have user data that tell us where people are trying to use the service and so we leverage that to go find partners locally in different places.” Asked about why CosmicGo is not available in Brazil, Calmus says that the company is looking for the right partner. “When we find that partner, and we can provide the best customer experience, we enter Brazil. For now, our hands are full.”