MaaS. You may have never heard of this acronym, but every business owner should know what it means and how it could dramatically impact your business trajectory.

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) may sound dry, but it’s far from it. Think electric scooters, Segway’s, gravity-defying hover boards, unicycles, motorised skateboards and self-driving cars. Once the domain of science fiction and Hollywood movies like Back to the Future, these futuristic modes of transport are fast becoming the norm. Electric scooters are illegal in the UK, but walk around Central London and you are likely to be overtaken by someone zooming past on one. Not only does the public want them - it expects them on demand.

Workspace hosted a Business Insight Dinner at The Frames in Shoreditch to discover the latest developments in Mobility-as-a-Service, why businesses should be up to speed on this growing market and the wider opportunities for business owners across industries.

Read on to hear from:

Why should businesses care about this technological investment in London and how can they leverage it?

We are now gravitating from spending thousands on owning our own car - our pride and joy - to using transport as a service that we buy on demand, like nipping to work on a Boris Bike, ordering an Uber to get home from a nightclub or hiring a Segway to explore a beach boardwalk. It is estimated that the adoption of MaaS platforms will cut out more than 2.3 billion urban private car journeys every year by 2023, according to Juniper Research.

But MaaS is about more than just transport – it's changing the way we do things and live our lives. This presents new business opportunities for fledgling entrepreneurs, but also gives pause for thought for well-established businesses. From how we order our food to whether we buy a family car to how we enjoy holidays, this technological revolution is shaking up traditional industries, most notably in transport, services and the travel sector.

Harry says, "MaaS as a way to manage our choices of how we spend our time and money is one of biggest disruptive innovations out there."

Opportunities lie in the service sectors. James says, "If you’re a business leader in the service sector, see MaaS as a great opportunity to mine value from people’s time whilst travelling and form a relationship with a consumers in a crowded market. MaaS is a way in to capture people's spend and time in a way that previously was hidden. Uber to Uber Eats as an example of a small jump, but there’s lot of other opportunities. "

Uber started out as a ridesharing app but within five years it took on the food delivery market - worth £8.1 billion last year in the UK alone - by bringing people's favourite food to their doorstep on a user-friendly app, Uber Eats. This opened up new opportunities for the restaurant industry – from local delis to fast food chains like McDonald’s – by widening its potential customer pool, although it's not without its critics.

Existing businesses that may be swept up in the MaaS revolution can analyse how other companies have reacted. Automobile manufacturer BMW launched e-scooters this year, in a nod to the growing move away from cars.

"Long-term change is coming," says Harry Porter. "It is time for companies to adapt and evolve. For example, a traditional parking company could find other revenue streams like charging points for electronic cars."

Travel firms could take advantage of experts' predictions that the next frontier for subscription-services are the sea and the sky. Uber is launching Uber Copter in July to fly people from JFK airport to Manhattan in half an hour, avoiding gridlock on the roads. The concept of travelling at the push of a button presents opportunities for travel firms to democratise elitist forms of travel to a globetrotting generation.

How big a trend is this in London?

Ask the investor crowd. Emilie Hannezo is an Associate at InMotion Ventures, the VC arm of Jaguar Land Rover that invests millions in companies at the cutting-edge of transport, mobility and travel. Its investments include ridehailing giant Lyft, self-driving car operator Voyage and outdoor adventure app Fatmap. InMotion invests globally, with half its portfolio based in the US and the rest in Europe – mostly in the UK.

Emilie says, "We see massive disruption in those sectors. We see a move in the industry towards a single, modal platform, with multiple modes of transport providers integrated seamlessly. There is a battle to 'own the customer' and deliver a one-stop-shop for mobility. There are two prevailing strategies to do so.

The first one is through verticalisation – providers like Lyft moving into adjacent services like bike and scooter sharing. The second is through aggregating transportation providers, acting as smart intermediaries and as an effective form of arbitrage of different providers. This is the route that journey planners are taking today. As a business leader, you should look at this consolidation today and wonder where it's going to go in the future. Ultimately, these new services offer cities a great opportunity to improve consumer experience."

What can London learn from other cities?

Helsinki is often touted as the poster child for the MaaS concept. Travellers can plan and pay for trips across public transport, bikeshare, private taxis and rideshares on a single app. It's ranked by Juniper as the world's top city for its readiness for large-scale MaaS service deployment. Other cities have had mixed success.

About a third of electric scooter riders in France are foreign tourists, making MaaS a great advantage for the country's tourism industry. But Paris has now moved to rein in the influx of electric scooters, following a death in June, serious accidents and abandoned scooters blocking pavements.

The broader benefits for London are less congestion from fewer cars on the road, quicker commutes and the ability to connect more remote parts of London with innovative forms of transport like scooters.

Lina says, "The question is how do you use [these] advancements to put London's businesses on the world stage? London has to be a place to live, work and raise a family. Given that London will grow to almost 11 million by 2040, the stakes are high as to what kind of city we want to see flourish. How do we use these technologies and innovations without losing the target of a liveable city?"

London is taking a somewhat cautious approach to foster a better-connected city, yet also protect consumers. Uber recovered its license but is on probation, BIRD is trialling its scooters on private land while Transport for London (TfL) mulls whether to relax strict scooter laws and just this week rideshare app Bolt returned to London with TfL's blessing, following a failed attempt in 2017 to set up properly. It would appear that in the MaaS arms race, Londoners come first.

Here is what our guests thought about the discussion:

"Very insightful and engaging content that provides leverage on how I can build and implement my strategies." Bybreen Samuels, Rookie Software Engineer / Tech Translator
"I’ve had a great insight into new modes of transportation and “green” alternatives especially in large cities, started my thinking process about re-inventing how we travel." Karin Kraemer from Karin Kraemer Jewellery based at The Record Hall
"Transport is so key for the future of our cities." Freddie Talberg, CEO of EMSOL

Further reading

Wondering what MaaS means for your business but short on time? Read: How to emerge as a winner from the mobility disruption. Time to read 2 mins

What will happen when driverless cars become a reality on the roads? Listen to this explanation from Bloomberg QuickTake in Kiss your car goodbye: The rise of mobility as a service. Time to read 5 mins

L.E.K. Consulting details the forces behind the MaaS movement and how to unlock its value in this special report, Mobility as a service: The Next Transport Disruption. Time to read 30 mins

Did you enjoy reading this piece?

Hear more great insights at our upcoming WBI dinner event, Cracking the Failure Taboo. Join our panel of experts on Wednesday 24th July from 6pm at Clerkenwell Workshops in Farringdon for an evening of thought-provoking discussion that will arm business leaders with critical insight on the importance of acknowledging and capitalising on failure.
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