Global MobiTech company Today has had one key focus since it merged six micromobility brands into one.
With expertise in assembling investors to fund over $50m of capital, Today’s Co-Founder David Touwsma is in the know on how to profitably drive micromobility into the 2.0 phase.
Once the COO of Gotcha Mobility, David now takes on board the challenges that operators must overcome and navigates the industry from the perspective of an investor.
Zag: Why does Today feel it so important to focus on profit?
DT: “After it became clear that the micromobility sector was here to stay, we realised its next evolution was delivering business models focused on profitability. We made investments in companies and helped founders shift to providing meaningful transportation but with a profit-focused business model rather than a fixation on headcount, market share and scale. The emphasis on scale is what’s caused a lot of challenges in the industry; first-round venture capital investments all went into the purchase of assets and trying to encourage people to ride these vehicles. The scale was rapid but Return on Investment was poor and this resulted in a lot of business failure. So, we’ve had a profit-focused approach since day one. We saw adjacencies between the businesses that we invested in, and we organised them according to three focus areas that we now operate today to drive profits.”
Zag: What are these three focus areas?
DT: “Our first focus is contracted services such as universities, municipalities and other groups that are willing to pay for a service provided to them. The first phase of micromobility often saw companies put their services onto the street and just hope to drive enough revenue. This model isn’t something that we work with because it doesn’t deliver the profits needed.
“Our second focus is subscription. For example, we’re partnered with Uber Eats in London where we’re supplying e-mopeds that drivers may not be able to procure on their own. We make the service simple and easy and give drivers the option of renting vehicles weekly. This generates recurring revenue that we can count on and drives profitability. The third focus area is direct sales. We’ve been heavily involved in design and manufacturing for years and we have strong supply chains and teams in China and Southeast Asia. We have facilities in the US and we’re also working on one in Europe. This enables us to provide unique products to operators as well as the data services, the warranty, the support, and the parts.”
Zag: How do you choose which companies to invest in?
DT: “We look for what fits our strategy, philosophy, and culture. Number one is finding the people that will grow our business. We also look at business assets and consider if the products they currently have will fit into our business model. For example, with our moped subscription service, we’ll look to find other forms of micromobility that could also fit into this subscription business. The third consideration would be what investors and founders are willing to do to make a transaction happen. It all comes down to the deal and whether we can put something together that yields a return on a business’ past investments. Ultimately, that’s what we’ve been doing: working with founders and investors and confidently demonstrating that our vision for the next stage of micromobility will yield them a return.”
Zag: People, assets, and actions are what make companies stand out to you. How about what makes Today stand out to investors?
DT: “We’ve been in the industry before micromobility was even a word. There’s been a lot of money invested in this space, but the investments haven’t worked. Our approach is to focus on the three unique pillars that we’ve spent a lot of time streamlining and to take assets that haven’t worked in a business model over the last 5 to 10 years and operate them differently in order to leverage the business model today. For example, whereas the assets may not have worked in a traditional sharing business, perhaps they’ll work in a subscription business. Processes and systems are key to our success.”
Zag: What is Today working on in 2024?
DT: “The next frontier that Today is working on is charging and battery technology. This is in terms of innovation in batteries, charging technology, and infrastructure. With the increase in utilisation of subscriptions and a longer duration of usage, this will be key to providing the right consumer experience and we’re always looking for unique positions in the market.”
Zag: Micromobility companies have struggled to find even one company to merge with. You’ve found six. How big do you want Today to become?
DT: “As long as we’re giving customers a meaningful service while providing returns for ourselves and our investors along the way then that’s enough. We’re not looking for a billion dollar market cap. We’re looking for a profitable company that can provide the return our investors are expecting. With the stage that Today is at, we can afford to be selective. We might see 100 potential deals next year but only take five.
“There’s a lot of consolidation that’s going to happen in 2024 but there will also be a lot of failures. I’ve been a founder of a micromobility company before, and we were fortunate enough to grow it and also exit it at the perfect time. What’s happened over the last few years has been even more challenging for some of the companies that are out there. Now, we can afford to cherry pick, and there will be many opportunities we’ll pass up because the deal needs to be right for us.”