Cities across the U.S. are adding new shared bike and scooter programs from the likes of Lime, Uber, Lyft, and other fast-growing and well-funded mobility companies. Many have data-sharing agreements to help track ridership activity and enforce appropriate regulation.
Now a Portland, Ore.-based startup is riding that wave with a platform that provides data auditing, management, analysis and enforcement tools to more than 30 cities in the U.S. and overseas including Atlanta, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Portland, Oakland and Madrid.
Ride Report officially announced its $3.4 million seed funding round this week. The company originally started as Knock Software, which made a small device that counted bicycle traffic.
But it has evolved since then.
Unlike other mobility data platforms that focus on the transit or autonomous vehicle space, Ride Report serves the micromobility niche, providing city transportation offices with software to help oversee the various fleets being rolled out on their streets and sidewalks.
Cities with equitable mobility goals need to keep an eye on whether scooters are available in underserved areas or ensure that the vehicles are inoperable in parks or other off-limits spaces, for example.
The cash infusion comes at a time of rapid development in the micromobility sector, where the number of shared bike, e-bike and e-scooter trips in the U.S. more than doubled last year to 84 million over 2017, according to an April report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
All those connected bikes and e-scooters generate a whole lot of data, and as municipalities require increasingly robust mobility data services, firms like Ride Report are stepping in. In Portland, where the city recently re-introduced e-scooters onto the streets, Ride Report provides auditing services to ensure e-scooter operators send accurate data in the proper format to the city.
“It sets the tone that they’re going to be held accountable,” said Ride Report CEO William Henderson, a former engineer at Square and Apple.
But who’s accountable to whom in the emerging world of mobility data is in question. Ride Report operates in an exciting but chaotic environment born from the beginnings of Uber and Lyft in which city governments, micromobility providers and third-party data management firms are negotiating agreements and rules that could set precedents for future mobility-related data practices for data-centric and autonomous cars and freight vehicles, delivery drones and more.
As cities with limited tech or data management know-how welcome the new wave of transportation, they are trying to figure out what information they need from mobility companies and how it will be gathered, stored, managed and analyzed. Local governments want granular data to improve mobility services and ensure equitable transportation options, while e-scooter providers worry about privacy and intellectual property concerns. Civil rights observers want strong data privacy protections against law enforcement access.
Henderson said Ride Report aims to bridge the cultural gaps between mobility tech firms and governments. And ultimately, he said, “we want to help cities move away from an auto-dominated society.”
Ride Report offers its basic compliance service for free. It has a premium offering meant for cities that evolve their pilot programs to permanent ones. The company said it can help customers scale the number of vehicles and trips offered by mobility operators.
The seed round was led by San Francisco’s Homebrew, which focuses investments on “mission-driven founders who embrace big – big ideas, big impact, big risk,” according to its website. Urban Innovation and Better Ventures also participated in the round.
“We were really, really picky about when we raised money and who we raised it from,” said Henderson. Praising Homebrew in particular, he added, “I’ve never before had the experience where an investor is actually helping hold me accountable to the values that I founded the business around and helping provide me with resources and tools to do that.”
Ride Report has added 15 municipal clients since November and brought on an additional seven employees; it now has 13 people on staff.
Much of Ride Report’s business has been generated through word-of-mouth among city agencies, but the funding will support additional sales staff it has yet to hire, Henderson said.
Ride Report both complements and competes with San Francisco’s Remix, which also offers transit management and planning. That firm landed a $15 investment round in February.