Three startups including two from New Jersey, pitched at the TechUnited:NJ and Tech Council Ventures Startup Showdown on electric vehicles in April, hosted by Jasmine Hoffman, head of experience at TechUnited:NJ.
RideGOAT, an Andover startup that offers franchises to “fleet owners” who rent out electric scooters, bikes and other types of micro transportation, won the competition.
Judging the startups were Dawn Neville, who manages electric transportation at PSEG; Steve Socolof, managing partner at Tech Council Ventures (Summit); and Andrew Ramer, principal at Marqera (Chicago), an organization that advises and represents companies in licensing and commercialization situations.
Pitching to the judges, David Nazaire, CEO of RideGOAT, explained his company’s mission. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of college towns, college cities and small towns that have a need for transportation and micromobility, but they are not deemed profitable enough for larger scooter operators. And if you’re someone who wants to start a scooter or bike fleet in your local town or city, there’s no easy way to navigate local regulations,” he said. “So, we believe that we can provide the easiest way for anyone to start a micromobility fleet on their campus or city. We do this by providing a go-to platform, and a brand for anyone to launch their fleet in a desired location.”
Neville asked Nazaire some technical questions: “What is the standard range that each battery will get in terms of either mileage or time? And, then, how much time is it taking to recharge those batteries at stations?” She also wanted to know how large the stations were and what their power requirements were. Sokolof thought the franchise model the company was pursuing was interesting.
Next up to pitch was Power2Peer (Boston). The company is creating a secure trading platform to allow producers of solar, wind and other forms of clean energy to connect to consumers who wish to purchase from them. “We are trying to create a virtual power network for electrical vehicle charging,” said Mamta Sonwalker, cofounder and vice president of operations. She explained that increased use of electric vehicles will cause problems for the grid, as they use a lot of electricity. Power2Peer wants to harness the excess energy being produced by households with solar rooftop installations. Producers of solar energy can sell their excess energy through the Power2Peer system, she said. The biggest challenge for the company is the need to partner with the utilities that oversee the grid, she noted, but there has recently been more willingness on the part of utilities to allow renewables to be part of Power2Peer system.
Ramer wanted to know if Power2Peer had filed for any intellectual property protection. Sonwalker responded that they had filed a preliminary patent on their virtual platform, which is a software-defined network. Neville seemed skeptical regarding the approach the startup is taking, and asked for specifics on how Power2Peer would manage the demand from the grid.
The final presenter was Mark Scotland, cofounder and CEO of the Newark company 4.0 Analytics, a software and data-analytics company specializing in improving vehicle-engine and emission systems, while reducing operating costs and carbon emissions. The company’s product is called “Mechanic on Board” (MoB).
While at first glance, MoB doesn’t appear to be related to electric vehicles, Scotland explained the connection. “We’ve developed Mechanic on Board technology, which is a wireless solution to assist public and private sector fleet owners and motorists [in improving] vehicle efficiencies, while also reducing operating costs and carbon emissions. … We do have an electric vehicle platform, once the EV [electric vehicle] market evolves, but we say MoB is the bridge to EV because there is a process to electrification, which we wholeheartedly support, but we’re a mechanism in between to get us there.” Scotland mentioned that the company is involved in a 20,000-vehicle pilot program with the State of New Jersey.
Socolof asked Scotland to clarify the specific innovations made by his company on the system, which logs data from participating vehicles, and asked about the return on investment (ROI) for the fleet owners. Scotland said the ROI had been demonstrated in several key pilot programs, and that the company has two distinct modules for remote emissions testing and remote diagnostics.
The video of the event, Episode 13, is available on the TechUnited:NJ Startup Showdown page.