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Entrepreneurs who fight traffic and pollution with a new transport option

Urbvan is the shared transport for long distances that offers comfort, safety, savings of 60 minutes on average in transfers and also prevents the emission of more than 556 tons of CO2.

It was the afternoon of October 24, 2016. Passengers lined up, showed their code and boarded the van van labeled “Urbvan” that was waiting for them in the bay of a corporate in Santa Fe. The host wore his red shirt that identified him as a driver. After checking all the passengers, he started towards his destination: Tacubaya.

The trip only lasted two and a half minutes. When he turned around the corporate, taxi drivers blocked his way, began hitting the truck and shouted at the driver to get off.

“People supported us immediately. Without knowing the driver, they told him: “Take off your shirt and put on my sweater.” Then, when the police arrived, they accompanied us to the Public Ministry to set up the minutes. Everyone stayed until 4:00 am because they told us that what we were doing was what was needed to end this pain in the market: working in a corporate in Santa Fe itself is stressful because the pace of work is very strong. It cannot be an ordeal also to arrive at the place”, explains Óscar Mendoza, director of Operations of Urbvan.

This is how the day of operations of this app that offers safe and efficient transport in shared vans took place. This solution, created in 2016 by the Mexican Renato Picard and the Portuguese Joao Albio, allows you to travel pre-established routes in the most affluent areas of the cities.

The impact is multiple. Trips are 60% cheaper than using a car and 70% cheaper than taxi services in a shared application. In addition, you get the comforts of a private transport that causes less pollution by decreasing car use.

The concept has grown at an accelerated rate since its creation, accumulating more than one million trips in Mexico City and Monterrey. Today it has more than 40,000 users who in many cases have decided to leave their cars to travel daily in the comfort of a van equipped with Wi-Fi, security cameras and real-time location.

The partners are trained in driving and safety issues / Image: Courtesy

They currently have more than 35 routes and 50 frequencies in Mexico City, ranging from Coacalco, Izcalli, Lindavista, Perisur and Coyoacán to Santa Fe, Polanco, Interlomas and Reforma. A month ago they started operations in Guadalajara and the expansion plans continue.

With its proposal to improve mobility and reduce pollution, Urbvan won the Entrepreneur 2019 Powered by Facebook Award in the Green Innovation category.

“Our goal is to improve the day-to-day life of our users, support the growth of our employees, create opportunities for overcoming the more than 200 truck owners who work with us and find a solution that helps improve air pollution,” he explains. Renato, founder of the startup.

Megalopolis pain

Road congestion and the long hours people spend on public transport or in their cars to get to their workplaces has been a constant problem in large cities, especially in those such as Mexico City that do not have a efficient public transport

Braulio Venezuela, Marketing Director of this startup, remembers that the idea arose because Renato was transporting ITAM daily, where he studied business administration, to his work located in one of the busiest colonies in the city, then he had to return home , located south of the capital.

“I lost hours of productivity because I was behind the wheel,” he recalls. Renato has always hated traffic and constantly commented on it with his friends. In a meeting he met Joao, who came from the Mercadoni startup and, having lived in Italy and England, had also suffered the problem in his own flesh, which was not exclusive to a Latin American country”.

Both friends studied the various alternatives that existed in the world and discovered a couple of options of shared vans that operated in Egypt and India. Then they set out to undertake something similar in Mexico.

“The solution to the problem is definitely that there are fewer cars circulating so they get stuck and people move faster. With that concept they brought us on board and we began to shape what today is Urbvan”, recalls Oscar.

The founders got from Nazca Mountain and DILA Capital a round of seed capital with which they acquired five vans and developed the digital platform, which these three years of operation has undergone multiple improvements.

“At first we were departments, but we all covered all the needs that came out. Even Oscar drove a van,” recalls Braulio, who points out that today there are more than 30 members in the team and 200 driving partners”.

When Renato and Joao proposed to join the adventure, Renay, Óscar and Braulio had no doubt of accepting. “Urbvan was born to solve a great social problem and with the commitment to generate impact on the lives of citizens. Following this premise, we have focused on being a standard of efficiency and mobility in the cities where we operate. As well as an agent that contribute to the reduction of the vehicle fleet and improvement of air quality, “they comment.

In this way, the number of cars on the streets decreases by joining passengers with similar routes. 51% of its users have decided to stop using individual transport services. In addition, they have avoided the emission of 556 tons of CO2 in just the second quarter of 2019.

The app saves 60 minutes of daily journeys to its users by creating direct routes and choosing to travel on the roads or highways. “Now they have 175 extra hours a year to use Urbvan,” says Braulio.

Team climbing

The incident with the taxi drivers on day one, far from driving users away, served to reiterate the demand. Those passengers became their early adopters and their best promoters.

Today the trucks do not stop on public roads, but in private bays previously established with corporations, stores or pharmacies with which the entrepreneurs have closed agreements.

The app has had several improvements in its interface to make it more friendly for drivers and the public user. “At the beginning we had an MVP and from there it has been building new things”, says Oscar.

“The key from the beginning has been the service and that we are always attentive to listen to the comments of the users, either directly, through emails, or in comments that leave us on social networks. The more you grow, the harder it is to maintain the service of excellence, but we have succeeded”, says Renay.

It also takes into account comments from hosts and supervisors because they are an important source of information. In addition, they rely on their website, where they have a section in which people vote for their route, which tells them where the expansion should go.

To achieve efficiency and that there are no empty seats between paths, the entrepreneurs measure the demand they receive in the app all the time.

Derived from this demand, entrepreneurs faced a second problem: to open new routes and frequencies they needed more vans and acquiring vehicles was not easy.

To provide a solution, the Acquisition team was formed and began to operate through a partner program. With it, the drivers put their trucks and go to a reveneu share, with which the partner keeps a percentage and Urbvan with another. Thus they acquired their first 20 partners. Then they modified the model until now having a payment per kilometer traveled. Currently 25 trucks come in a month to work with the startup. Of the total vans, only 25% belong to the startup.

Last August the company lifted a new round of financing. This time it was for $ 9 million from Kaszek Ventures, Angel Ventures, DILA Capital and Liil Ventures. The founders hope to continue advancing hand in hand with the best Mexican talent and grow the company five times in a year.

To continue strengthening, the startup has a People Care area that is in charge of constant professional development workshops, coaching, mentoring and activities that go according to the needs of each of its employees. All drivers, whether they own their trucks or not, are constantly trained to ensure excellent driving skills and safety in handling the units.

For next year the growth plan is ambitious. Braulio advances: “We expect to grow by the hand of thousands of associated flotilleros waiting to turn their trucks into Urbvans. This growth will result in an increasingly broad catalog of routes and schedules. We also anticipate the expansion in Latin America in 2020. The gateway will probably be Peru or Colombia”.


Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups

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