Why we invested in Walk15 – Counting steps towards sustainable mobility in CEE

Nowadays, the online toolkit for active mobility enthusiasts is abundant and represented by multiple mobile apps having at the core couple of common features: (1) activity tracking; (2) data storage and personal analytics; (3) community building interface; and (4) interoperability with frequently used software. Some of them are aimed at sports fans betting on sophisticated functionalities while the others – to enlarge the total addressable market (TAM) – welcome any type of user. In the past years, in line with public debate on mobility challenges in rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, as well as with the burning issue of global warming, gamification apps for clean mobility gained attention. Since the idea of converting one´s sustainable and healthy choices into benefits is straightforward and building scalable business models in the niché is challenging, the competition is ultimately tough.

Even despite unfavourable winds, many decide to take their ideas and test them in real market conditions. The incentives come from public authorities, ranging from local to governmental bodies, keen on supporting businesses that are clearly citizen-oriented and for the public good. With academia broadly addressing the advantages of such subsidies on health, environment, or local economy, it seems to be a so-called safe bet for public money to be spent. If yes, why is private software subsidized by local authorities not omnipresent and fundamental to short-distance urban commuting? 

The answer is complex and subject to the respondent´s profile, however, the traction due date is clear in two points, namely: (i) increasing motivation threshold and (ii) lack of long-term profitability. The first point refers to decreasing motivation as the value of the reward received by the user is perceived over time as insufficient to maintain engagement. A straightforward solution to this problem is not feasible due to the second observation which is a high percentage of bankruptcies for companies losing access to public aid. Central programmes are usually, and due to various reasons, constrained in time, thus sooner or later every venture working with public bodies is about to face the realities of undistorted market competition.

This bumpy trail has been already half-completed by Walk15, one of the recent investees in EIT Urban Mobility´s equity portfolio. With an impact-driven investment thesis and appetite to be a non-local investor across Europe, entering into new geography intertwined with the unveiling of a vertical that was missing the due date. Why did EIT Urban Mobility decide to join the second part of the walk as an investor?  

To start with, the main reason lies in clear vision. The impact-driven mission of Walk15 is to assist people in the continuous process of shifting their daily habits towards healthier for themselves and sustainability from an environmental perspective. The company, through its step challenge solution, is working with businesses nudging them to have a closer look at the benefits coming from more motivated and cohesive and physically active employees.

The idea – resonating with the mission of EIT Urban Mobility – was framed in a defensible business model, proved at its early stage with market traction growth of 800% in two years. Walk15 paved the way to the successful closure of its first fundraising following the mechanism discussed above, i.e., gaining the attention and trust of public authorities. However, this was only the very first step in order to increase success odds, followed by swift introductions to investors and businesses in the region. To this date, over 1,000 B2B clients have used paid Walk15 services in Lithuania, Denmark, Latvia, Germany and other countries.

First pilots and commercial cooperations proved that the company is living up to its values on the field, contributing both to society and the environment. As one may believe, it is not only about the steps that have the power to substitute combustion engine vehicles and help to maintain physical shape. Here is also where the reward programme comes into the picture. Different to many similar initiatives where collected points can be traded for discounts for any type of product/service, only actual steps – not points – can be collected in the steps wallet of the app #walk15. Walk15 supports only local, sustainable, and planet-friendly options. In partnership with IKI (part of Rewe Group), a Lithuanian supermarket chain, the consumer could exchange their steps for a discount on fruits and vegetables. The first-of-its-kind deal with National Railways of Lithuania gave steps discounts on train tickets meaning economic reinforcement of multimodal journeys and integrated mobility schemes, being often declared as insufficiently addressed bottleneck by citizens. On the current lookout for fundraising for an expansion to Germany and having potential customers pipeline in Poland, yet much more potential could be unlocked with scale.

To sum up, a high-level strategy complemented by an actionable plan – two inseparable components all investors are keen to see – played strongly in favour of Walk15 when reaching out to EIT Urban Mobility.  The company´s name – mentioned in previous paragraphs – always refers to the team that is of utmost importance – especially at the early stages where all the efforts are accompanied by high uncertainty of the results. With the core team stemming from the world of professional sport, and later complemented by highly skilled IT and business profiles, it marks all the boxes of well-optimized human assets.

These are only brief highlights of introducing a Lithuanian company to our community. The investment decision process at EIT Urban Mobility is a multi-stage, structured work with further information and literature available at the dedicated website. To wrap up, and recap on the portfolio-building strategy, it relies on such pillars as supporting inclusive teams; playing the role of non-local investor in vulnerable entrepreneurial ecosystems; and promoting technological excellence with impact embedded at its core.

Do you want to know more about the Walk15 mission and its software? 
Visit the company website and LinkedIn.

This article is part of Why we invested? series presenting EIT Urban Mobility equity portfolio.

About the author

Mateusz Kaluza – investments analyst at EIT Urban Mobility, passionate about data and active mobility. Scouting for impact-driven innovations enabling a shift towards citizen-oriented transportation systems. Contact at: mateusz.kaluza@eiturbanmobility.eu

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