Internal combustion engines still dominate the automotive issue, but there are signs that they are slowly disappearing, at least in some markets. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom plan to ban the sale of diesel and gasoline cars by the end of the decade, while markets such as Australia and California are also moving in that direction, albeit at a slower pace.
Part of that process will have to include making the transition to electrification easier for consumers and businesses, for example by expanding access to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, as the US recently announced as part of its $1 trillion infrastructure bill. But companies will also need help procuring and managing their electric vehicle fleets — and that’s where new startup Papaya is set to play a role.
Launched in February, Papaya’s software is designed to help fleet operators acquire and manage electric or light electric vehicles (LEVs), solving something that co-founder and CEO Santi Ureta says is often “very fragmented and opaque.” And to help take things to the next level, the London-based company announced today that it has raised $3.5 million from a range of institutional and angel investors.
For context, there’s no shortage of vehicle management systems, from Automile and Fleetcheck to Webfleet, but Papaya hopes to stand out with its industry-specific focus on smaller electric vehicles likely to be used by last-mile delivery companies. and similar . It is about solving very specific pain points, reducing fragmentation and serving as a single platform for everyone to connect and communicate.
“No one is really connecting all the sides of the market like we are and building the necessary tools to better manage the relationship,” Ureta told TechCrunch.
Co-founder of Ureta and Papaya CTO, Renato Serra, has experience working in companies where transport and logistics are critical to their bottom line, including European food delivery giant Deliveroo and e-commerce unicorn Gopuff. And that experience proved the origin of Papaya.
“We realized firsthand that acquiring an electric fleet is difficult, and that managing it effectively is even more difficult,” said Ureta. “Managing a hybrid electric fleet with current software tools is impossible to do in one place.”
Among the problems Papaya aims to solve is the complexity of multimodality – electric fleets require different types of vehicles for different use cases. For example, an e-van might be more suitable for large grocery deliveries, while a cargo bike or e-bike might be sufficient for food deliveries. And for every type of vehicle, there is a wide range of suppliers, maintenance companies and other service providers to keep everything in working order.
Papaya essentially bridges the gap between fleet operators (e.g. Gopuff or Deliveroo) and service providers which may include vehicle suppliers (e.g. Hop or Otto), maintenance providers (e.g. Fettle or Cycledelik), insurers (e.g. Laka or Zego) or even warehouse spaces designed to accommodate and load electric vehicles (such as Reef or Infinium Logistics)
“Every service provider has their legacy systems – Google Forms, spreadsheets, email or clunky fleet management tools – and the fleet has to communicate with all these tools to report incidents and maintain their availability, which makes everything very difficult and ineffective”, said Ureta. . “Papaya centralizes all of these disparate processes and tools into one operating system, enabling fleets to have full visibility, accountability and transparency over the status of their vehicles and manage all of their relationships in one place.”
In its original form, Papaya was primarily concerned with enabling the control of existing electric and electric vehicles, but its overall goal is to help companies transition from traditional fossil fuel vehicles to zero-emission alternatives. And that’s why the company is preparing to launch its vehicle marketplace, serving as a single channel for fleet operators to purchase electric and electric vehicles and all related services.
“You can see [the marketplace] as a way for vehicle suppliers and service providers to present their products and services to fleets in the areas they operate in,” explained Ureta, adding that he expects the marketplace to be launched by the end of the year. “Papaya will make it much easier for companies to acquire and operate electric vehicles – accelerating the transition from combustion engine fleets to electric vehicle fleets.”
Papaya is now available in five markets, including the UK, Spain, France, Germany and Estonia. And in its short lifespan so far, the company has already amassed an impressive list of customers that includes the aforementioned Gopuff (currently valued at $15 billion) and package delivery giant Evri.
Gopuff, according to Ureta, uses Papaya to interact with all the vehicles in its fleet, track availability and costs, and manage incidents as they arise.
“Gopuff uses Papaya as their main vehicle management system – they have all their vehicles on the platform and their main service providers integrated on the other side,” said Ureta. “The platform is used by a variety of actors, from passengers to hub operators, fleet managers and operations managers.”
In addition to providing and managing electric vehicles, as well as other vehicle management systems, Papaya is also significantly responsible for generating data and gathering information about everything happening in the fleet at any given time.
Reduction of emissions
A quick look at the data reveals that Papaya is on the right track. The European Commission (EC) is targeting a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2050, while last-mile logistics is currently responsible for around 5% of a company’s supply chain emissions – but with e-commerce on the rise, that number is likely to increase. In fact, the World Economic Forum suggests that the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities will increase by 36% by 2030, with traffic emissions rising in tandem.
In short, if the world has any hope of meeting lofty climate goals, it must tackle the issue of emissions. And that’s what’s at the heart of Papaya’s growth plans—the company’s new $3.5 million investment has brought in a slew of backers, including Giant Ventures, Seedcamp, 20VC, FJ Labs, Flexport, Cocoa, the Raw Family. Richard Branson (specifically: Freddie Andrewes and Holly Branson, who runs the family fund), Glov co-founder Oscar Pierre and former TechCrunch reporter Steve O’Hear.
The company said it plans to use its cash injection to “build Europe’s largest electric vehicle ecosystem and decarbonize Europe’s fleets.”