Helbiz acquires Wheels in micro-mobility merger

  • July 5, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

New York-based Helbiz is to acquire fellow micro-mobility company Wheels, a Californian last-kilometre shared electric mobility platform using proprietary vehicles with integrated helmet technology.

“The shared vision and purpose of Helbiz and Wheels makes this combination a perfect match,” said Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella. “Both companies began with the goal of changing how people move through their communities while lessening their dependence on climate-harming transportation options. We’re excited to join forces with the talented team at Wheels and introduce our respective riders to a further range of transportation options.”

He said the acquisition was expected to double revenue, expand the cities served, enhance margins, and reduce costs.

“Our focus is to adapt and grow with profitability at the core of every decision,” he said. “This acquisition makes us even more confident in our ability to achieve that goal in the next 18 months. Our customers are utilising cutting-edge technology to make their lives easier and they are educating their communities through adoption. In the same vein, our goal is to demonstrate to the capital markets that the micro-mobility model is sustainable through data driven, highly focused and tightly controlled expenditures.”

Helbiz has 50 licences to offer micro-mobility vehicles across the USA and Italy, using a fleet of e-scooters, e-bikes and e-mopeds available for rent via the Helbiz app.

The Wheels model, from its vehicle type to the business model, presents a different way of thinking about micro-mobility. Wheels has eight thousand vehicles deployed across major US markets, including New York, Honolulu and Austin. Wheels is the only operator across the four permitted markets of metropolitan Los Angeles – LA, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Culver City.

In total, Wheels operates in twelvecities and four universities across the USA. The company’s mix of business includes shared mobility, a subscription offering and a B2B operation, partnering with businesses to provide their employees and patrons with a vehicle as a benefit.

“Our businesses are complementary in really powerful ways,” said Marco McCottry, CEO of Wheels. “There is minimal overlap of city permits, and we believe the combination of our businesses can create a uniquely diversified mobility offering that generates compelling synergies across a large footprint. Helbiz’s shared vision of safety and accessibility matches ours and will be a significant element of the foundation of this venture into the future.”

The Wheels vehicle is unique in the industry as a sit down, two-wheeled device with patented technology for its integrated helmet. It pioneered swappable battery technology, which keeps vehicles on the streets longer and can drive strong margins. This form factor is more accessible to those who may not prefer or cannot ride stand up scooters, which expands the market for micro-mobility transportation. Wheels vehicles have been well-received by municipalities, universities and enterprise partners looking for alternatives to the traditional micro-mobility offerings of scooters or bikes.

Wheels was founded in 2018 and is led by veterans of the micro-mobility and shared transportation industries including Zipcar, Bird and Uber.

“The next phase of the micro-mobility industry will be about the right teams, products and partner ecosystems all coming together coupled with tight operational excellence to enable profitable growth,” said Wheels board chair and chief commercial officer of Nutanix, Tarkan Maner. “This combination of a uniquely differentiated vehicle platform, cloud-based software and talent positions us for market leadership in the short and long term around additional and larger geographic and vertical markets via focused innovation and operational efficiencies.”

Wheels board member and general partner of Tenaya Capital, Ben Boyer, added: “Wheels joining the Helbiz team is an ideal pairing. “The combined business should have a clear path to profitability and help define the future of micro-mobility.”

Launched in 2015 and headquartered in New York, Helbiz offers a diverse fleet of vehicles on one user-friendly platform with over 50 licences in cities around the world. It uses customised, proprietary fleet management technology, artificial intelligence and environmental mapping to optimise operations and business sustainability. Helbiz is expanding its urban lifestyle products and services to include live streaming services and food delivery, all accessible within its mobile app.

Wheels is a last-kilometre, shared electric mobility platform whose seated form factor changes the landscape in dockless mobility. In addition to being seated, Wheels devices have a low centre of gravity and 35.5cm wheels to help navigate uneven pavement surfaces. Wheels can give riders physical access to a shareable helmet with every ride they take. Because of its design, Wheels devices have a broad appeal, with half of its riders being women and one-third being over 35. Wheels is headquartered in West Hollywood, California.

The acquisition is subject to standard closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of the year.