Investment Note

Sustainable transport for all: why we invested in Lanterne

Written by
Tom Smalley
On behalf of the Skalata Investment Team
“Optimising urban fleets for efficiency – in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the 20th century – will give us the best shot at continuing urban economic growth and social mobility while supporting liveable and vibrant cities.”
Alex Barnes
Co-founder and CEO

The smartphones we keep in our pockets are unrecognisable from the original supercomputer.

But the London Underground is not much different from when it opened in 1863.

As London aggressively expands its Low Emission Zones to force combustion engine traffic out of the city, the iconic tubes are not enough to sustain the city’s growth.

Combustion engine cars may be getting forced out, but demand for urban logistics is still growing. In 2022, Amazon alone made over 5 million deliveries within London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. 

Urban last-mile delivery emissions and traffic congestion are on track to increase by over 30% in the top 100 cities globally. 

By 2030, there will be 36% more vehicles in inner cities. 

Moving technology forward at scale is not easy in the transport sector.

This is why Lanterne exists.

Meet the team

Accelerating the mission towards sustainable transit are CEO Alex Barnes and CTO Sebastian Mueller. Alex is a Canberra and Oxford University graduate (DPhil), and former analyst for the Australian Department of Defence. Sebastian is a London School of Economics MSc grad.  

We like the team’s in-the-field experience. Backed by the European Space Agency, the University of Oxford and London School of Economics, they began by working on a product to help delivery drivers safely navigate routes in Colombia.

“The original idea was to help people navigate safely in conflict zones. If we understood what the environment looked like, we could predict which areas were going to be safer and which would be more dangerous.”

But when the pandemic scuppered relocation plans, the founders reevaluated.

Next was Crowdless (100k+ downloads), a free app that used open source, mobile location, and crowd-sourced data to help people gauge how busy their local supermarket is. An excellent (maybe even life saving) resource during the pandemic, but one the founders understandably decided should remain free. 

In October 2020, the team saw the secular trends that were taking place in the transport sector in terms of connectivity and electrification, and recognised the huge opportunities this unlocked for data solutions. They decided to re-focus to support the transition to sustainable transport.

Not wanting to waste their growing bank of data science and geospatial analytics expertise, the founders pivoted towards micromobility. 

This time they began looking at how to improve transport systems across the world, not just in unsafe areas. It’s clear logistics is their wheelhouse. And demand prediction and route optimisation is the product. 

Meet the product 

Lanterne helps micromobility companies (scooters, bikes, mopeds - anything smaller than a car) optimise their fleet.

According to Alex:

“Micromobility was a new form of transport that helps us decongest cities. Because it's so young, there's a culture of experimentation. And there's also the available data feeds, which are far more standardised than what other industries such as taxis or buses have. So we felt this was an ideal place for us to land.”

There is so much to play for here. So many factors feed into an efficient fleet (which is why so many are struggling). Demand can ebb and flow and change in a heartbeat. Services can be overstretched or underextended. Units can break or need charging or replacement. 

Lanterne’s Operations Manager and Operations Planner software are the answers to these issues faced by every single micromobility fleet. 

They help companies understand where they should position their vehicles to attract riders. They guide technicians in their duties, including battery swapping, maintenance, and positioning vehicles for rides. 

Lanterne’s Operations Manager predicts demand for rides and creates a ‘shopping list’ of tasks for technicians, so that they complete the highest value tasks in the optimal order, creating more rides and reducing operations costs.

They also address the challenge of finding optimal positions for physical infrastructure, helping customers assess costs and evaluate efficiency across zones of operation.

Lanterne’s Operations Manager app

Accelerating returns

In an early pilot with just 100 vehicles, Lanterne managed to increase revenue from e-scooter rides by 13% and delivered a 500% return on investment for a UK council. All in the space of 2 months.

Lanterne has since partnered with micromobility providers TIER (Germany), Ginger (UK), Zwings (UK), Zolo (Iceland) and Zvipp (Norway)... clearly starting in the back of the phonebook with their sales strategy!

E-scooters and bikes were a great place to start. But the founders are sensitive to technological changes and rapidly-evolving transit trends. 

The vision now is broader fleet optimisation, which can be applied to much more than e-scooter banks.

The market need 

In the long run, fleet optimisation will be (almost) everything for urban transport.

As the transport sector becomes more connected, autonomous, shared and electric, it will create completely new optimisation challenges. 

Most existing fleet software is only aimed at digitising manual transport systems. But once these secular trends take hold, Lanterne believes that scaling dynamic task logic - a system that dynamically calculates the value and cost of operational tasks - will radically reduce urban congestion. 

Optimising urban fleets for efficiency - in a way that wasn’t possible in the 20th century without the data and connectivity we have today - will give us the best shot at continuing urban economic growth, improving social mobility, and supporting liveable and vibrant cities.

The next destination 

Lanterne is operating in a market with a global CAGR of 17.4%. By 2024, there will be an estimated 40.4 million micro mobility vehicles on the road.

So it follows that Lanterne doesn’t plan on stopping at urban e-scooting.

Plans to scale into adjacent markets will take effect in 2023. Ride-hailing, freight, and delivery services might seem like a broad range, but “last mile” services share similar demand prediction and dynamic routing processes to mobility.

The founders are confident they can adapt their solution to cater to these sectors. Across them, Lanterne’s estimated TAM skyrockets to $52 billion by 2024.

Inspired by Lanterne's story?