Travel & Mobility Tech Newsletter

Dear Readers

This is Junior Intelligence Analyst Oswin taking over from Lennart today, who is busy chasing after Travel & Mobility Tech unicorns. As we discussed previously, the crazy weeks in unicorn land continue: latest changes include Uber going public (thereby leaving the startup universe) and an uprising Airbnb competitor (called Sonder) joining the prestigious startup club as part of its latest financing round.

Today's newsletter will cover:

Space monetization as a result of space exploration might sound crazy. However, we looked deeper into the topic and found out that Coca-Cola billboards on the moon or platinum extractions from flying asteroids are just two potential business-model hypotheses that space startups are eagerly exploring. We'll give you an overview. Enjoy.

Oswin Krüger Ruiz
Junior Intelligence Analyst

Startup Radar

Blacklane: Premium Ride-Hailing Made in Germany

In 2018, Uber generated 15 percent of its ridesharing gross bookings from trips that either started or were completed at an airport. Uber also launched a consumer rewards program in the U.S that includes a perk of priority pickup at airports, highlighting the important relationship between ride-hailing companies and airports.

But also from an airline's perspective, airport transfer services are highly relevant: the combination of a premium flight experience with equally high-end onward transportation to the final destination sounds like a very attractive product offering.

Blacklane, which specializes in the luxury chauffeur car-rental business, is Germany's high-quality answer to the global ride-hailing wave and a frontrunner in addressing the lucrative airport-transfer segment.

We took a closer look at Blacklane's business model and the team behind this Berlin-based, Daimler-backed mobility startup.
 Read the full analysis on Medium
Trend Radar

How Private Companies Aim to Monetize Space

Space is grand and mysterious... but can it also be a financial opportunity

Starting with the legendary movie "2001 A Space Odyssey", film culture has led people to believe that space is a field which only the government, or government collaborations, have the resources and incentives to explore. The reality looks different today: government spending only makes up 1/4 of all spending on space exploration.

Private investment activity in the space-technology vertical – both in terms of capital raised and deal count – has been skyrocketing in recent years, especially in 2017.

Rising private investment in space might sound lunatic, but according to a UBS report from late 2018, the space economy is expected to grow from $340 billion today to $1 trillion in the next few decades.

The primary drivers of this development are two-sided, UBS argues:

1) Advancements in rocket and satellite technology

Space technology is becoming more efficient and affordable. R&D advances have lowered the cost of launching rockets to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by a factor of four in the past three decades.

These lower costs reduce the barriers of entry for space-enthusiastic investors.

2) Tech billionaires fancy exploring space

Here is where the eagerness to explore space by tech billionerds with deep pockets comes in. Technology entrepreneur Jeff Bezos – the world's richest person in 2019 – founded Blue Origin to promote human access to space and already employs more than 2,000 people.

Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) recently accomplished his company's first manned space flight and Elon Musk (SpaceX) eagerly invests in reusable rocket technology, which seems to be bearing fruits. SpaceX has rapidly increased the number of launches per year to reach a record 21 in 2018.

But what is the investment rationale? 

Despite lower unit costs, whether private investments can deliver returns in the near future remains unclear. What powers rising investment amounts is the potentially huge scale of returns. Various startups are trying their best to identify viable business models around space exploration, both in the short and in the long term. Here are a few outlined: 

The nearest business model around space exploration is connectivity via satellite constellations, which experience falling prices and can increase orbit bandwidth by 10x. Sofbank recently financed OneWeb, for instance, which aims to offer fast internet through 720 satellites that closely orbit the earth. 

As the Internet of Things proliferates, there will also be an increased demand for transferring data from devices everywhere at high speed. Autonomous driving is one of the many use cases that could rely heavily on improved satellite connectivity.

 Space tourism
Visiting space is not your typical holiday. In fact, very few have been able to afford it. Only 550 people have visited space to date. 

This type of holiday will likely continue to be exclusive. Nevertheless, the price of visiting space has fallen from $20 million in 2001 to $250,000 in 2018. That is a dramatic drop. 

 Asteroid mining 
Asteroids are gold. A football-sized asteroid can contain platinum worth $25-50 billion, according to Goldman Sachs. As resources on earth become more scarce, looking into space might be inevitable. Check out this video by PBS Space Time for a detailed deep-dive into asteroid mining.

NASA says that each year, a car-sized asteroid reaches the atmosphere and burns before reaching the earth. A popular consulting case study asks candidates to estimate how many footballs fit in a car: a common response is around 1700. If we assume that the typical asteroid reaching earth each year has the platinum density estimated by Goldman Sachs, we can calculate 1700 x $25 billion: a value of $43 trillion. Not bad. 

 Space-based manufacturing 
This is still far away. Yet might be the only way to sustain long-term space missions. It involves applying 3D printers and robotics to manufacture in space, which might be cheaper than producing on earth and shipping through space. 

 Space marketing 
A unique business model is that of iSpace, which has raised >$90 million from various Japanese corporations. It targets space marketing, by putting up company logos in space. One of its aims is to erect a billboard on the moon. 

Stars on demand
Another Japanese startup, ALE, has raised $7.3 million to offer "Shooting Stars. On Demand". Its product would involve shooting man-made meteorites in space for celebratory purposes. 

We conclude: While uncertainty is large, opportunity is huge. And in today's investment-friendly VC environment, no wonder investors are looking at the stars.

To finish off, see below our own take on the 10 most promising space startups in 2019.

It's a purely subjective ranking, based on factors such as test-flight track record, R&D investments, technological readiness, and more. We're very much aware that this leaderboard could be set up totally different, depending on the criteria one finds most relevant.

Airline Radar

The Airline Digital Index (ADiX)

Our Airline Digital Index (ADiX) measures digitalization amongst the major western airlines. Check out our previously published newsletters to find the repository of digital rankings:

This week we return to website usability, analyzing the ease of checking into a flight online.


Definition: The number of clicks to complete the online check-in process

The online check-in process is a crucial aspect of modern air travel. While it is still not the most popular check-in method among passengers (only capturing 39% of all check-ins), it is estimated to become the most dominant method by 2020. Check out our previous analysis on the current state of airline online check-in to learn more.

Why do we check in? 

It is a way for the airline to ensure whether you are actually taking the flight you booked. The airline also collects important administrative passenger information during the process, identifies the passenger and assigns a seat.

AirlineCheckins, which is the first airline-agnostic automatic check-in service developed by us, the Lufthansa Innovation Hub, shows that these steps could be automized for the convenience of the traveler. Through AirlineCheckins, we were able to track the ease of checking in for flights by a dozen different airlines.

See below the airlines with the fewest clicks to check-in online: 
Note: ADiX airlines excluded from this metric due to lack of data: Brussels Airlines, Air France, KLM, Norwegian, WizzAir, Vueling, British Airways, Iberia, Air Canada, JetBlue, TAP Portugal, Aer Lingus, Turkish Airlines, Latam, and Alaska.

What do these numbers mean?

A tedious online check-in process is an annoying pain point along the digital air-travel experience. Having to copy and paste the booking code from an email onto the airline website seems like a redundant step for many. Repeatedly entering personal information (name, birth date, etc.) can be as tiring as continuously clicking the same box to confirm that you left all your weaponry at home. Being forced to browse through several pages of car rental, insurance, and hotel offerings is painstaking to say the least. 

Our metric does not capture all elements of the check-in process, but it is at least a quantifiable and comparable way to assess how seamless the online check-in process of airlines is designed. Mouse clicks are directly proportional to digital effort. Fewer clicks mean less time spent on a task that doesn't offer any perceivable benefit for the traveler. 

Therefore we are happy to congratulate Delta, SAS and United for making the online check-in process as seamless and straightforward as possible.

Automation instead of click-reduction

Rather than reducing the number of clicks, some airlines (i.e. Air France, LOT and our parent company Lufthansa) already offer automated check-ins to their registered users in the Schengen Area. Automating the online check-in could be seen as the highest rating on our scale, as it would require zero clicks – therefore zero effort – from passengers.

Some airlines might resist eliminating the check-in process because it offers a touchpoint through which to sell ancillaries and generate extra revenues. We at the Lufthansa Innovation Hub, however, believe that if airlines do not exploit the potential of making air travel easier through digital channels, startups and tech giants will do it for them. For instance, Google revealed a new service of its digital assistant during its I/O conference Tuesday night. The assistant clicks through the booking flow of a car rental provider, automatically filling in information for you. Check it out here (minute 18:45 onwards). The check-in process of airlines could suffer a similar fate.
Disclaimer: The ranking was completed for only half of the airlines in the ADiX due to data availability and trustworthiness. Nevertheless, we still choose to share the metric and include it in the ADiX because of its importance in the digital experience of flying.

Another important aspect: our ranking was based on data points by unregistered users on domestic flights. Also, some airlines are able to substantially reduce the number of clicks to check in by remembering a user's check-in history.
Press Radar

Our Recommended Must Reads 

EUROPE'S ROLE IN ONLINE TRAVEL – The development of online travel is often seen through the prism of the brands that have emerged from the U.S., with Expedia, TripAdvisor and Booking in particular seen as pioneers in the sector. Innovation by European companies is often overlooked.
 Read more in PhocusWire
THE AIRBNB STARTUP ECOSYSTEM – Airbnb spawned an ecosystem of startups that sweat the details so owners don’t have to by filling in the gaps or solve a pain point that Airbnb and the others can’t or don’t address.
 Read more on Bloomberg
AIRBUS & SIEMENS EVTOL DEBUT – The City Airbus eVTOL prototype – an unmanned, ducted-fan-driven urban air taxi prototype developed by Airbus and Siemens – successfully made its first flight in Germany. 
 Read more in AviationToday
Funding Radar

Most Recent Venture Capital Deals

 = Exit Alert (Startup listed at stock exchange or acquired)
 = Unicorn Alert (post-deal company valuation at >$1B) 

 Cruise Automation – the US-based developer of advanced self-driving vehicles raised $1.15B in funding from General Motors, SoftBank Investment Advisers, and further investors. 

 Uber  – the US-based operator of an online platform designed to offer peer-to-peer ride-sharing raised $500M in funding from PayPal Holdings. 

 Byton – the Chinese developer and manufacturer of electric vehicles raised $500M in funding from the China FAW Group. 

 @Leisure – a Dutch operator of online portals for vacation rentals was acquired by OYO Rooms for $415 million. 

 Ola – the Indian developer of an online ride-hailing platform raised $300M in funding from 3T Ventures, Hyundai, and further investors. 

 Faraday Future – the US-based designer and manufacturer of intelligent electric vehicles raised $225M in funding from Birch Lake Partners. 

 Sonder – the US-based provider of a peer-to-peer home rental platform raised $200M in funding from Structure Capital, Spark Capital, and further investors. 

 Gett – the Israel based operator of an online on-demand car booking platform has raised $200M in funding from VW, Kreos, and further investors. 

Selina – an Israel based developer of an online platform designed to offer affordable travel accommodation raised $100M in funding from Access Industries, Grupo Wiese, and Colony Latam Partners. 

Tourlane – a German developer of a travel consultancy platform raised $47M in funding from Spark Capital, Sequoia Capital, and further investors. 

Zūm – an US-based provider of on-demand reliable child transportation raised $40M in funding from BMW i Ventures, NGP Capital, and further investors. 

Masabi – a UK-based developer of a mobile ticketing and innovative fare collection platform raised $20M in funding from Smedvig Capital, MMC Ventures, and further undisclosed investors. 

Bond Mobility – a Swiss developer of micro-mobility service platform raised $20M in funding from Denso and Innovest Global. 

Wheely – a UK-based developer of an online luxury ride-hailing application raised $15M in funding from Concentric, Oleg Tscheltzoff, and Mikhail Sokolov. 

Quick Ride – an Indian car and bike-pooling startup raised $14.4M in funding from Naspers, Sequoia Capital India, and Venture Highway.

Pana – a US-based provider of a web and mobile-based corporate traveling platform raised $10M in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Techstars, and further investors.

Elenium Automation – an Australian developer of airport check-in self-service technology raised $10.5M in funding from Acorn Capital. 

Sweetguest – an Italian developer of an online property rental platform raised $8M in funding from Indaco Venture Partners, Invitalia Ventures, and further undisclosed investors. 

Bykea – a Pakistan based ride-hailing app raised $5.7M in funding from Sarmayacar and further investors. 

Rentals United – a Spanish developer of a channel management platform designed for short-term rental raised $4.25M in funding from HOWZAT Partners, Stella EOC, and further undisclosed investors. 

Spare Labs – a Canadian provider of a community-driven ride-sharing service raised $4.5M in funding from the Mitsubishi Corporation. 

TransitScreen – a US-based provider of a real-time transportation display raised $3M in funding from  TIMIA Capital.

Flynote – an Indian provider of an online travel booking platform raised $200K in funding from Sequoia Surge and further investors. 

Circuit – a US-based provider of micro-transition services raised $100K in funding from Urban-X. 

Flyla – a German provider of a ticket booking platform for flights raised an undisclosed amount in funding from the apaFriends Investorengruppe and further investors. 

SafeBoda – a Uganda based operator of a logistics application designed to offer motorcycle taxi raised an undisclosed amount in funding from GOJEK and Allianz X.

 Quest2Travel – an Indian corporate travel management firm was acquired by online travel firm MakeMyTrip for an undisclosed amount. 

 Eurolines – a French provider of bus transportation services was acquired by FlixMobility for an undisclosed amount.

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