“Our core mission revolves around mobility done right,” said Charlie Gleeson, founder and CEO of Zipp Mobility.
“Put simply, we have spent our time devising solutions to micromobility’s biggest problems; prioritising safety, sustainability and a community-first approach.”
After a banner year in 2019, McKinsey forecast the shared micromobility industry to reach up to $500bn in value by 2030. While this sector took a hit as we restricted movements over the past couple of years, it is still expected to make a strong post-pandemic recovery.
According to Gleeson, most e-scooter operators target markets with more than 500,000 people. Zipp, however, is doing the opposite.
“There are only 83 cities in Europe with populations of over 500,000,” said Gleeson. “But there are more than 930 cities with less than 500,000 people. This sums up how much bigger overall this less competitive market opportunity is.”
The 26-year-old entrepreneur has been working on his first start-up since 2019. “I graduated with a BComm from University College Dublin and felt it was a natural progression to move into NovaUCD, the university’s entrepreneurial hub,” he said. And that’s where Zipp still has a home today.
The Dublin-headquartered business is currently operating shared e-scooters and e-bikes in towns and cities across the UK and Poland, with plans to expand in these areas while also preparing for further launches in Spain and Ireland.
‘We have the ability to control the speed of the scooters, restrict their movements to certain areas, monitor fleet health and more’
– CHARLIE GLEESON
The process with Zipp is not unlike its competitors. Users with the Zipp Mobility app can locate an e-scooter or e-bike, then scan a QR code to activate the vehicle and get moving.
Internet of things technology fitted to the vehicles communicates with Zipp’s fleet management system. “With this system we have the ability to control the speed of the scooters, restrict their movements to certain areas, monitor fleet health and more,” said Gleeson.
“We use geofencing technology to identify and enforce ‘slow speed zones’, restricted zones, parking bays, etc, to fence in each city’s operating area.”
A frequent issue seen in cities across Europe that have dockless shared mobility programmes is how the scooters can end up obstructing the streets, discarded haphazardly when out of use. Gleeson called it “vehicle litter” and acknowledged that it’s “one of the industry’s biggest problems”.
To address it, Zipp has implemented ‘virtual parking bays’.
“These are essentially painted parking bays dotted across the town or city in which we operate,” Gleeson explained. “Using GPS technology, we make it compulsory for users to start and end their journeys in our parking bays.”
Zipp is also incorporating precise positioning and computer vision technology for its scooters through fellow Irish start-up Luna. It has also partnered with the Energy Institute at Gleeson’s alma mater to conduct research into e-scooter safety.
‘In five years, we plan to operate all across the globe’
– CHARLIE GLEESON
Ultimately, Gleeson established Zipp Mobility to promote more sustainable transport. “We want a higher percentage of travellers to use sustainable and fun scooters in place of other more environmentally unfriendly means of transport,” he said. “In five years, we plan to operate all across the globe, replacing tens of millions of car journeys per year and employing hundreds of people as we do so.”
But first, fundraising. To date, Zipp has attracted more than €2.1m in investment and is in the process of raising a Series A to drive its European expansion.
Funding so far has come from private investors – including Balderton Capital founder Barry Maloney and former rugby player Brian O’Driscoll – as well as support from Enterprise Ireland.
Like any first-time founder, raising funds was a new learning experience for Gleeson, though it helps that micromobility is a rapidly growing sector and Zipp has its unique proposition.
Another challenge has been leading a quickly scaling team. “We grew our team from one to 20 in the space of four months which was also a little crazy,” said Gleeson. He added that having solid structures in place helped achieve this seamlessly.
“I’m fortunate to say we’ve had an excellent past 18 months,” he said, and there are plenty of stats to back that up. Zipp Mobility has clocked hundreds of thousands of journeys in its first few months. The team now numbers 25 and will continue growing this year. And, very recently, Free Now partnered with the Dublin start-up ahead of its planned roll-out in Ireland this year.
To have gotten to this stage, Gleeson is grateful to NovaUCD, Dublin BIC, Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland for the support he has had through each stage of this start-up journey.
“Not enough people know this bank of support exists,” he said. “I believe if more people knew about the resources available for early stage start-ups, more people would start businesses.”
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