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The bankruptcy of MaaS Global, known for the mobility app Whim, is a crucial turn for the mobility sector.

Finnish company Maas Global, known for the Whim app, has filed for bankruptcy, as reported by the bankruptcy register managed by the Finnish Legal Register Center. This follows an announcement at the beginning of March about the discontinuation of the Whim app, which since its inception in 2015 was known for bundling various transport services such as public transport, taxis, city bikes, electric scooters, shared cars and rental cars. 

Despite around 10.000 active monthly users in Helsinki, the company had long been loss-making, with a loss of more than 9,3 million euros on a turnover of 3,8 million euros in 2022, and employed 38 people. Despite the impressive investment of €149 million from major players such as BP Ventures, Toyota and Mitsubishi, the Finnish company could not cope with the economic reality. This incident highlights the inherent challenges of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and sheds light on the difficult path to a sustainable business model in this innovative sector.

MaaS Global positioned itself as a pioneer in the mobility sector with its aim to simplify urban travel through their Whim application. This app provided users with an integrated solution for planning and booking different modes of transportation through a single platform. After a promising start in cities such as Vienna, Antwerp, Helsinki and Tokyo, the company was confronted with financial setbacks. With a loss of €9,3 million on a turnover of €3,8 million in 2022, the figures illustrate the challenges of achieving a sustainable business model.

satisfying

The news also came out through a emotional announcement from Esra Özbay, Chief Investment Relations Officer (CIRO) and COO of MaaS Global. “Together with Sampo Hietanen, the father of the MaaS concept, and their team, Özbay has completed a journey that, despite challenges, will forever remain their pride.”

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"Here's to the next chapter, carrying forward the spirit of innovation and the friendships we've made. Let's see where the journey takes us next."

In the announcement, Özbay speaks with both gravity and gratitude about the end of MaaS Global. She highlights the dreams she and Hietanen started the project with, the changes they wanted to make in the mobility sector, and the inevitable bumps in the road. Although not everything went as planned, Özbay remains proud of what the team has achieved together. 

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the company had around 10.000 active users in Helsinki. The company made a loss of €2022 million in 9,3, with revenues of €3,8 million in the same year, according to its latest financial report. According to LinkedIn data, the company's employee count has fallen from a peak of 120 people in January 2020 to 28 in the last month.

problems

MaaS Global's problems reflect a broader transformation within the mobility sector, where startups are facing economic changes, mergers and restructuring. The search for viable business models forces companies to rethink their strategies, often resulting in layoffs and drastic workforce reductions. From 120 employees in January 2020, MaaS Global's workforce fell to 28 in the last month, a trend that is visible industry-wide.

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Sampo Hietanen
Photo: MaaS Global Ltd, Sampo Hietanen

Sampo Hietanen, one of the pioneers behind the MaaS concept, was the founder and CEO of MaaS Global. He is widely recognized as a visionary within the mobility sector, with a strong belief that the future of urban mobility lies in providing integrated mobility services that are more accessible, efficient and sustainable than traditional ownership-based models.

Hietanen has a background in civil engineering and has had a significant impact on the way cities and businesses think about transportation and mobility. Through his leadership, MaaS Global has played an important role in shaping the debate and practice around Mobility as a Service, despite the financial and operational challenges the company faced.

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"Exactly 8 years ago, we were busy creating the first release of Whim, which would become the standard for its user-centric design, and the first commercial MaaS subscription service. I'm amazed that the UX benchmark still holds up. So much fantastic colleagues contributed. I think that playfulness was visible in the product. Unfortunately, we were probably guilty of trying to go from zero to one in one step – the transport market is fragmented and moves slower than an agile start-up."

In spite of the collapse of MaaS Global, the future of MaaS does not seem bleak. The effectiveness of MaaS applications and their role in urban travel planning remain a priority for many cities. A study conducted in Zurich highlights the positive impact of aggregating transport services through a single application, which facilitates access to different transport modes and can encourage their use.

The bankruptcy of one company, however emblematic, does not call into question the viability of the MaaS concept itself. On the contrary, it underlines the importance of continuous reflection on business models and implementation strategies adapted to this complex and constantly evolving ecosystem. The mobility industry is at a strategic crossroads, where innovation, collaboration between different players (public, private, start-ups, large groups) and adaptation to the real needs of citizens will play a decisive role.

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