Via Transportation has raised USD 200 million in Series E financing, valuing the on-demand van-and bus-sharing company at nearly USD 2.3 billion.
The fundraise comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the economic environment worldwide. Social distancing and work-from-home arrangements have severely curtailed businesses for ride-sharing apps and hotel aggregators, among others. Startups are also finding it particularly tough to secure fresh or committed capital from investors.
So far, logistics and transportation services have bucked the trend. Total funding in February dropped 26% from a year earlier to USD 4.6 billion, according to an analysis by Tech in Asia. Logistics and transportation was the top vertical with a USD 1.1 billion raise across 13 deals.
In late February, Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant Grab said it raised over USD 850 million from investors including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and TIS. Its Indonesian rival, Gojek, closed a USD 1.2 billion funding round in mid-March as well.
Via’s latest round was led by Exor, the holding company of Italy’s Agnelli family. New investors include Shell, Macquarie Capital, and Mori Building. Existing investors Pitango, 83North, Hearst Ventures, Ervington Investments, Planven Ventures, Broadscale Group, and RiverPark Ventures also participated in the round, Via said.
“Especially in these difficult times, we greatly value Exor’s commitment to Via’s vision of a dynamic, data-driven public mobility system,” Via co-founders Oren Shoval and Daniel Ramot said in a statement.
Founded by the Israeli entrepreneurs in 2012, the US-based company helps aggregate multiple passengers or packages headed in the same direction. The app is available in more than 70 cities in 20 countries and has provided over 70 million rides around the world, the company said.
Via says it works with regulators and public transport agencies across the world to make existing infrastructure more efficient.
In Singapore, it partnered with the Land Transport Authority to offer an on-demand public bus service. In Japan, Via has a strategic partnership with Itochu Corp. and Mori Building to offer a van-commuting service for the latter’s employees. And in Indonesia, it partnered with Teknologi Rancang Olah Nusantara (TRON) to offer mass transit and van-sharing services in Bekasi. TRON’s mobile app allows users to request a 15-person shared van.
Via’s partnerships with local players in Asia address a unique need. Most users in Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and rural India take private shared vans—somewhere between a taxicab and a bus—due to the lack of public transport options. The app will likely address the issues of safety and pricing in these services.
Though industry giant Uber offers ride-sharing services for multiseater vehicles under its UberXL service, most users on its platform identify the app with its car service. The US-based company and its India rival, Ola Cabs, recently suspended their ride-sharing services in India, one of the world’s most densely populated countries, due to COVID-19. This followed Grab’s suspension of its GrabShare services in Singapore and the Philippines.
This article first appeared in Tech in Asia.