October 2, 2020
An Interview with Zoba, a Wunder Marketplace Partner
Today we hear from Joseph Brennan, Co-founder of Zoba, one of our Wunder Marketplace partners.
Learn more at https://www.wundermobility.com/marketplace/zoba/.
What is Zoba?
Zoba is a mobility demand forecasting and optimization company. Our platform enables mobility operators to forecast demand and optimize supply to meet it. We primarily focus on supply positioning and dynamic pricing optimization for shared mobility operators.
My brother, Dan, and I founded Zoba in 2016 to develop a demand forecasting and optimization platform for the wave of new mobility services popping up globally. These services are here to stay in our increasingly urban world, but nearly all of them struggle with some of their most foundational issues around the dynamics of demand and supply. Building off of leading MIT research on demand forecasting, we spent years developing the core technology that powers our products today.
Zoba is now the leading spatial optimization provider in the shared mobility space supporting major operators in the US, Europe, and Asia. We are fortunate to be backed by some of tech’s best investors—including CRV, Founder Collective, and Mark Cuban—and are growing fast in our Boston HQ and Berlin office.
Why is Zoba partnering with Wunder Mobility?
Zoba is already working directly with some of the largest micromobility companies in the world, and we’re tremendously excited to expand our reach with Wunder Mobility and their new Wunder Marketplace. The Wunder Marketplace allows their clients to extend their mobility business on top of their own operating system. We see Zoba as a must-have application on the operating system.
Wunder Mobility’s platform makes it easy to integrate with Zoba: with an API key and some easy configurations, users can send their data to Zoba and get started. This will broaden access to our technology and help more mobility providers make use of it.
How does Zoba work?
At its core, Zoba provides access to a decision-making engine via an API. Behind that engine is a suite of models that ingest information about operations—event data, geospatial data, and weather—and output specific operational decisions. With a relatively small amount of data, Zoba can create an accurate picture of a market and help operators capture more demand.
What is the current state of demand forecasting in shared mobility?
It’s difficult to run a profitable shared mobility service—and next to impossible without data-driven operations. Today, it’s still rare for shared mobility operators to leverage anything more than the most basic geospatial analysis to inform their operations. In many cases, these decisions are being made entirely on intuition. It’s not surprising so many operators struggle to operate fleets efficiently.
Operational efficiency in mobility services is still in its earliest stages. Zoba offers the mobility industry the opportunity to leap forward in this domain. I believe in 3 to 5 years the idea of running an operation without a sophisticated demand forecasting and optimization system will sound crazy. I also expect dynamic pricing to be commonplace by then. Today, it’s very rare to see these systems used at all—and even more rare to see them used well. At Zoba, we are hard at work to change that.
What sort of impact does Zoba have on performance?
We focus on increasing per asset utilization and streamlining operational decision making using data. Our goal is to maximize utilization of mobility assets—targeting an increase of10-50%—while making life easier for operations teams by arming them with insights they need to do their best work.
Take rebalancing for example. Most operators who rebalance vehicles today use intuition or very basic models to answer the key questions—where should I rebalance vehicles from and to, and what volume should I move? The end result is huge expenditures to rebalance either too much or too little—and very rarely to the right locations at the right time. In the worst examples, the operators are spending tons of money for almost no gains.
Zoba can suggest an optimal volume to rebalance, given costs and anticipated ROI, and select the exact optimal locations to rebalance given current fleet distribution and prevailing demand conditions. The result? Less wasted money, a happier operations team, and vehicles positioned precisely where they need to be at all times.
What products do you offer today?
Zoba offers three products today: Intelligence, Move, and Dynamic Pricing. Intelligence is a suite of APIs and a web portal that lets mobility operators forecast demand, estimate the impact of weather on operations, and view their operations through interactive maps. Zoba Move is our deployment and rebalancing product that recommends where to position vehicles within a market and how many need to be moved.
We’re particularly excited, however, to work with Wunder Mobility’s customers as we roll out our new Dynamic Pricing product, which allows operators to realize the benefits of deployment or rebalancing optimization through price signals rather than operational interventions. Your users move your vehicles 10x more frequently than your operations staff do, so why not incentivize users to move those vehicles more optimally for the fleet? We’re really proud of the product and look forward to seeing what Wunder Mobility customers do with it.
How does Zoba Dynamic Pricing work?
Zoba’s Dynamic Pricing models identify vehicles that are in low-demand areas and are likely to be ridden to high-demand areas. The model then recommends vehicles to be discounted based on their future potential for circulation. What’s exciting is that operators get two benefits: incremental revenue from rides that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, and a more optimally-placed fleet that is higher performing overall—all for a small discount off a ride, which is much less than the cost of physically moving a vehicle.
We wrote another blog post on the methodology behind the system here.
What kinds of operators does Zoba Dynamic Pricing benefit?
We’re particularly excited about the use of Zoba Dynamic Pricing for fleets that are hard to move. Kick scooters are pretty easy to pick up and put in the back of a van, but a 135kg moped is much harder to move, not to mention cars. Deploying two operational staff to physically ride the moped or car to a new location is quite expensive. With Zoba’s dynamic pricing, your users do it for you.
Where can Wunder Mobility’s customers learn more?
We’ll be available in the Wunder Marketplace as of October 1st, but in the meantime, customers should check out our website and blog at zoba.com, and feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions!