Financial terms were not disclosed, but the funding will allow Kite to accelerate its business model, operationalize pipeline demand and help fund geographic expansion. Kite also plans to recruit additional talent, expand live projects and its reporting on carbon reduction impact.
Co-founder and chief product officer Jason Mota told SustainableBiz his fellow founder, CEO Scott Macwilliam came to him and COO Joseph Cabral with the idea of centralizing the electric micro-mobility/vehicle-rental business model.
“What if we centralize(d) the business model and brought it in-house? Work with large-cluster developers and robust urban downtown communities, both from the residential side, but also hospitality?” Mota explained. “(Offering) quick accessibility to those vehicles, we can maintain them really well, we don’t have to worry about that OPEX (operational expense), or those flatbed diesel trucks used for getting them back (to a hub).”
One key usage of the funds will be to help develop the app’s next feature in Q1 of 2023 — a monthly subscription for the user’s choice of vehicle.
Founded in Toronto in 2019, Kite now operates in several buildings in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area along with buildings in Montreal and two in Ottawa. The company plans to expand to 25 buildings by the end of next year, with about 45 to 50 contracts with different developers to take it into 2024.
By 2025, Kite aims to have approximately 150 locations throughout Canada and the U.S.
Good & Well funding
Funding talks began about a year ago, with Kite’s launch at Tridel’s Bianca condos in Toronto earlier this year helping to solidify the relationship with the impact investment firm.
Kite will use part of the funding to grow in the U.S., specifically looking at California and Florida primarily due to the consistent weather.
Mota said conversations with partners who have locations in both states is another factor in considering them as potential “central hubs” for Kite. He also noted California’s forward-thinking approach to sustainability and Florida as a hotspot for tourism.
Prior to releasing the subscription model, Kite plans to roll out a scheduling feature in the next few weeks — allowing users to reserve an electric vehicle up to a month in advance.
The subscription service would likely be between $400 and $500 per month, with vehicle insurance and charging covered.
“It’s one thing for us to say that we can help and remove private-car ownership, which solves a lot of challenges,” Mota said. “It’s another thing to say that we’re always going to have something available for you.”
Kite is also working with Good & Well to determine the carbon impact from users and residents, although the companies are in the early stages of figuring out those datasets.
The plan is to grow to between 15 and 20 employees in the next 18 months.
A release on the funding also mentions possible expansion into Europe, which Mota says wouldn’t be until 2024 or 2025. There are different barriers to entry given that Europe is more walkable and less condensed than North America, but Kite is specifically looking at Portugal, Spain and France as hub countries.
Kite’s rates for its electric bikes and scooters average 15 cents per minute, while its electric vehicles average 20 cents per minute. Its services operate from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days per week. In order to begin the ride, users will need to input their property’s unique four-digit code.
The number of EVs varies depending on the location and size of the property, but Mota used an example of a 400-unit property, saying it would likely be broken down into two to three cars and eight to 10 e-bikes or scooters. Kite provides a docking station for the latter two options to make them interchangeable.
Aside from the size of the property, the company also looks at demographics and how that informs its choice of vehicle, like the Tesla Model 3.
“As we get a little older, we’ve started to skew away from them,” Mota said. “Just because there is quite a bit of a learning curve with now driving an iPad (referring to the Tesla’s touchscreen panel) rather than a typical OEM (original equipment manufacturer) automobile.”
Kite also provides the BMW i3 and the Nissan LEAF.
According to Mota, most developers have been amenable to having Kite at their buildings. The major barrier comes with the question of whether or not the residents are ready for a shift in mindset around their transportation. He attributes Kite’s success to the idea that it is agnostic regarding platforms or suppliers.
“It’s really about building that relationship with other OEMs and buildings, and even local providers,” Mota explained. “We’ve spoken to a few in the micro-mobility space that may be coming out of Toronto, maybe some of the universities, which also supports local businesses.”
Reduced need for building parking facilities
Kite’s conversations with building developers and owners extend beyond simply agreeing to utilize space on the property, but have included discussions on reducing parking infrastructure.
The company has been working with a few developers to eliminate entire floors of parking space – potentially an enormous cost savings for a developer or building owner. One goal for Kite is to establish itself with REITs as a way to integrate into older building infrastructure.
“We started working with them to say, ‘What if we could actually help you reduce the parking infrastructure, and help you with your parking ratio?'” Mota said.
“Outside of GHG (greenhouse gases) and everything else, can we help you actually start to save money in your development plans, whether it’s reducing an entire level of parking, and then positioning that as having the shared mobility in the vehicles in that space, which is significant from a builder perspective?”