Hitting road to Madrid, Israel firm offers variety of shared vehicles with 1 app

GoTo Global deploys cars, motorbikes, bicycles, e-bikes, and electric kick-scooters in Spanish city, kicking off European expansion plans

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

GoTo vehicles by GoToGlobal in Madrid (Courtesy)
GoTo vehicles by GoToGlobal in Madrid (Courtesy)

Seekers of Tel Aviv’s rare parking spots have become familiar with the feeling of triumph followed by deflation when it becomes clear that a spot they found is actually reserved for Car2Go, a car-sharing enterprise that allows commuters to rent a car for a few hours and park them in allocated spots.

Thanks to GoTo Global, the newer, worldwide iteration of Israel’s Car2Go, a similar experience is now being shared by the Spanish citizens of Madrid.

After offering its services to Malta as a steppingstone in its expansion from Israel to Europe, GoTo Global deployed its shared cars, motorbikes, bicycles, e-bikes, and electric scooters in the capital and most populous city of Spain, under the GoTo name and app.

“We are one of the global pioneers of ride-sharing, one of the first in the world offering such a service,” said GoTo Global CEO Gil Laser in an interview.

The company is a “one-stop shop” for a wide variety of vehicles, offering users “mobility confidence” — i.e., the knowledge that they can reach their destination using just one app and a variety of vehicles rented by the hour.

“You as a user need to know that no matter how and when, you will always be mobile,” said Laser.

GoTo vehicles in Madrid (Courtesy)

In Madrid, GoTo Global customers can select a shared vehicle that suits their needs from a “multimodal fleet” of options, booking a combination of cars, motorcycles and electric scooters through a single app. GoTo has the largest shared multimodal fleet in Madrid, with over 1,300 vehicles, the company said.

The vehicles can be rented by the minute.

A survey of Madrilenians’ mobility habits before the company moved in there showed that multimodality was entrenched in the city: 70% of respondents reported that in at least half of their travel they use a mix of vehicles to get to their destination, and 26% said all or nearly all of their journeys across the city involve a range of vehicles. The respondents noted that using a diversified shared mobility solution (cars, motorbikes, scooters, and bicycles) increased their satisfaction of moving around the town.

The use of shared mobility vehicles promotes environmental quality, making cities greener and less congested, said Laser. And it is worth the price of having those precious parking spots taken up by the cars, said Laser. Each of the firm’s cars services an average of 22 households as opposed to just one family per car, he said.

“We are the solution to cut our dependence on the private cars,” he said. “We are the solution for transport problems in cities.”

“Cities are getting denser,” buildings are getting higher, but there is no more space at streel level, he said. Thus, municipalities are doing their utmost to get cars out of city centers.

The firm’s Israeli arm, GoTo Israel, formerly known as Car2Go, has been operating a fleet of cars and bikes in Israel for the past 13 years. The firm collaborates with the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality on the municipal car-sharing service Autotel, and has additional collaborations with other municipalities in which the cities designate parking spots and the vehicles are reserved via what is still known in Israel as the Car2Go app.

The firm’s activities in Israel are profitable, said Laser. The company plans to launch multimodal service in Israel by autumn, he said, adding electric vehicles to its fleet of existing cars and bikes.

Gil Laser, the CEO of GoTo Global, with the GoTo vehicles (Gilad Bar Shalev)

The pilot run in Malta was “very successful,” he said. “We got to over five rides a day per each vehicle.”

The company’s initial Maltese fleet of 150 vehicles is now over 500 and growing, Laser said. These include short-term fully electric cars. “It is like a taxi, but it is a self-driving taxi and 70% cheaper,” he said. Malta has 450 parking places designated for the GoTo vehicles. There are also long-term cars.

That success paved the way for the Madrid launch, he said. “We realized we are ready to continue to the rest of Europe. Our journey is to be the biggest multimodal provider in Europe.” He said the company is hoping to add Germany, Italy and the Netherlands by the start of 2022. By 2025, the company hopes to be in all European city centers.

Last February, amidst the COVID-19 year, GoTo Global completed two capital fundings totaling $22.5 million, including investments from TelCar, a company owned by the Unger family, and a funding round led by Adam Neumann’s family office.

AI to predict demand

The company’s app uses artificial intelligence-based software to predict by the minute where vehicles will be needed and allows the firm to rebalance its fleets to meet demand and report damaged vehicles, Laser said.

Its fleet has mechanical bikes, electric bikes, electric kick scooters, and mopeds, or small motorcycles, that don’t need a license, electric cars for one-way services and regular cars for longer round trips. The scooters and mopeds come with two helmets. The company also offers seven-seaters, nine-seaters and vans, on demand,  for its European customers. “You can choose any asset that you want,” said Laser.

The company also offers its services to business that want to provide their employees with alternative transportation options instead of private cars. There are more than 1,000 business customers in Israel that use the service. Thirteen percent of GoTo Global’s income comes from the enterprise sector — from flower shop deliveries to accountants and lawyers —  and it wants to raise that to 50% by 2025, Laser said.

The company had a revenue of $12.5 million in 2020, most of it from Israel, he said. In 2021, Israel will continue to be the company’s significant market, but starting 2022, with the opening up of the European market, “that won’t be the case anymore,” he said.

The firm employs 200 workers in three countries and has generated more than 4 million rides to date on its vehicles via its platform, worldwide. The company has 5,000 vehicles in its fleet.

Laser, who lives in the center of Tel Aviv, said he hasn’t owned a car in five years. “Who needs the fines, looking for the parking, and insurance? I haven’t been to a garage for years,” he said. By using taxis and Car2Go vehicles, he saves some NIS 30,000 a year on travel expenses, he said. “It is [the equivalent of] a family holiday, or fixing up your home.”

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