Acton’s latest acquisition hints at the future of docked micromobility – TechCrunch

Startups

The term “shared micromobility” often brings to mind the Lime e-bike on the nearest street corner or the Voi e-scooter parked next to the bus stop, both of which can stand up straight or fall onto the pavement on any given day. In fact, dockless vehicles have become so normalized that they are almost synonymous with the idea of ​​scooter and bicycle shares. That may be changing.

Acton, an American startup that provides electric micromobility vehicles and the cloud-based software infrastructure to run shared fleets for cities and operators, has just acquired Duckt, an Estonian docking and charging infrastructure startup, a move Acton says will help the company grow. to step up. its product range, especially for cities.

Working with hundreds of cities and shared operators around the world, the company aims to provide customers with more of an end-to-end product and sees an opportunity to bring some order to the chaos of today’s dockless vehicles and cut back some operational costs. which are spent on finding and charging vehicles in the wild.

“More and more cities want to organize things better, so it’s not just about charging, but also parking,” Janelle Wang, Acton co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch. “The free-floating vehicles are beautiful, but at some point it will have to be organized. You know, if we’re talking about a 15-minute city like Paris or Berlin where there’s going to be a car-free zone in the city center, micro-mobility vehicles have to be in a central location, like a station, but also free-floating.”

While the majority of Acton’s customers are shared operators, with the Duckt acquisition the company is also focusing more on government customers as it positions itself as a company that can provide cities with another way to integrate shared micromobility. The great thing about using Duckt docking stations is that the stations are compatible with almost any scooter or bicycle, be it a private vehicle or one from the larger operators. The goal is to one day provide enough value for some of the bigger players in the game to sign up to use Acton’s docking stations as well, Wang said.

Delivering vehicles or fleets to DIYers or delivery companies is a fast-growing industry and an additional B2B game for Acton, which counts Buyk, a 15-minute grocery delivery startup, as one of its customers.

Until then, the strategy is to solve the problem of too many scooters and bicycles polluting the sidewalks, and that requires playing to cities. Duckt, now Acton, has been working with Paris since March last year on a pilot to install 150 docking and charging points that can be connected to bus stations and street lighting for a power source.

In addition, Acton is working on an upcoming project in New York along the Hudson River, where the local government will get everything from a fleet to a software platform to manage the fleet to the charging and docking stations.

Acton has made similar deployments in cities like Ankara and San Francisco, with plans for upcoming projects in Miami, Athens, Cape Town, Mallorca and Barcelona, ​​Wang said.

Other companies have emerged over the years offering docking and charging stations, such as Swiftmile, which has piloted Spin, and PBSC Urban Solutions, which has a large docking footprint with notable clients such as Citibike.

But overall there are far fewer players in the docked game and far less VC money going in, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great market opportunity for e-bike and e-scooter docking and charging. Despite the apparent market dominance of dockless micromobility, 56% of all bikeshare services in North America were docked by 2020 and only 19% were dockless, according to the North American Bikeshare and Scooter Association’s state of the industry report. † None of the e-scooter’s shares were docked, but that says less about its potential market share and more about the lack of implementation of the docking and charging technology for e-scooters.

The larger geographic market right now is in Europe, where there is more talk about making cities walkable and pedestrian-friendly and greatly reducing reliance on cars, Wang said. Part of that urban planning could very well be where docked micromobility stations should be located, and Acton’s investor, EIT InnoEnergy, could help build connections and expand its reach in Europe.

Neither Duckt nor Acton would share the terms of the acquisition, but the merger was fueled by an undisclosed investment from the fledgling investor, who specializes in energy transition and EV and grid technology and is backed by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, a body of the European Union.

“The Acton and Duckt merger makes for a perfect growth story,” Jennifer Dungs, EIT InnoEnergy’s global head of mobility, said in a statement. “Together, they have it all: well-designed, high-quality vehicles, the software to manage operations cost-effectively, widely compatible charging and docking stations, plus the experience and capacity for large-scale rollouts. For any city or business looking to integrate a turnkey micro-mobility solution into their transport offering, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

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