The mobility startup Mobiko has an app up its sleeve that companies’ employees can use to invoice all of their mobility expenses — regardless of whether from carsharing, the bus or a train. We spoke with the founders.
Munich Startup: 1. Who are you and what do you do? Please briefly introduce yourselves and your product / service!
Mobiko: We’re Mobiko (an abbreviation for mobility contingent: Kontingent in German). About two years ago, we started focusing on mobility in companies and realized that the mobility services many companies offer their employees are extremely outdated and inflexible: Management and sales agents often get their own company car and another part of the staff might get a job ticket for local public transport. In many cases, the offers don’t match up with the individual and flexible mobility needs of the employees and their increasing demands in terms of sustainability. A great number of employees go away empty handed, but the basic need for mobility still exists. At the same time, a multitude of interesting mobility offers are taking root right on our doorstep. And although many employees already regularly use these services when off duty, alternative means of transport still haven’t found their way into companies. We want to change that — with Mobiko!
The idea and first prototype for the mobility budget service arose in our in-house business model incubator, Audi Business Innovation. In collaboration with the Munich-based company builder Mantro, Mobiko was brought to market maturity and became a spin-off in February 2018 as its own GmbH. We, the founding trio Nicola Büsse, Franziska Mayr and Andreas Reichert, came together while working on the project. The Mobiko team now includes approximately ten individuals who are all passionate about shaping the future of employee mobility — what else?
The goal of our startup is to offer companies a smart solution for making their environmental and economic responsibility compatible with the values and needs of each employee. With Mobiko, employers give their employees a digital mobility budget that can be used flexibly for their commute and for trips when off duty as a benefit. So Mobiko makes it possible for employees to use all available forms of transportation worldwide to suit their individual needs and sense of environmental responsibility and easily invoice their employers with an app. The mobility expenses that they submit are reimbursed in their next month’s paycheck.
Simple mobility expense invoicing with Mobiko
2. But that’s nothing out of the box!
It really is. Mobiko is the first mobility budget that can bill all means of transportation worldwide for employees and their employers in compliance with tax laws and, most particularly, optimized to those tax laws — supported by an intelligent algorithm. There are a few other mobility budget offers on the German market already, but they are all pursuing different goals and strategies. Mobiko is distinguished most notably by the fact that no limits are placed on the available mobility service providers and services, which allows us to offer employees global mobility freedom — regardless of whether for a daily commute or private trips when off duty.
With the flexible modular design of our self-service solution, companies can individually customize the mobility benefits for their employees according to their sustainability and tax requirements. What we realized is that every company functions differently when it comes to mobility, which is why everything we offer can be customized. With the Mobiko tax algorithm and the available mobility data, automatic and optimized taxation is guaranteed for the employer.
Obstacle: German tax law
3. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
In all honesty? Sorting through and organizing the “black box” of benefit in kind. German tax law, with its ifs and buts, was new and relatively obscure to us in the beginning, but was of central importance to our business model. Anyone who has ever worked their way through the subject will definitely know what I mean. So we buckled down and worked through all kinds of situations. We’re very proud to have used our acquired knowledge and the advice and support from experts on the subject to develop a unique tax logic to automatically tax and invoice submitted mobility receipts and that we can now offer it as the core technological element of our app. And we’re obviously also happy that we’ll never have to go back to that place of darkness. That being said: a few team members now actually enjoy working on tax issues.
4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?
Urban growth, traffic, a lack of parking and driving restrictions – these are just a few of the reasons why an increasing number of companies in urban environments are rethinking mobility. High up on the agenda: employee mobility. Employers are expected more than ever to assume responsibility and react to those changes, but also respond to the individual needs of their employees. As a result, we are in high demand and can look back on rapid growth since completing our pilot phase in January 2019. In spring this year, we started with customer acquisition. We were also able to welcome many new users to our platform within the German-speaking region just this month who are diligently making use of the benefit provided by their employers.
“A wide variety of industries and company sizes”
5. What does Munich mean to you?
Munich is our hometown and offers high standards in many respects: education, culture, soccer, etc. The startup ecosystem also offers many opportunities and prospects. Because we as Mobiko primarily reach out to employers and Munich has a wide variety of industries and company sizes, it’s basically paradise for us here.
The diversity of local mobility options is particularly exciting. Each day on our front doorstep, we see how flexibly Munich residents get from point A to point B: They take the subway to work, the e-scooter to lunch, a bike to the fitness studio and do their weekend grocery shopping with carsharing. That inspires us to continuously develop our own product because we’re surrounded by it.
6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
We would be happy to come to an Epic Fail Night — as part of the audience. Constant learning — from mistakes, of course — is part of our daily business and is fundamental for every successful business model. That’s why it’s of particular importance to us to stay in constant contact with our customers and users and learn from their feedback. That’s the only way to optimally develop our service and hopefully become a member of the Unicorn Club in the future.
7. Isar River or English Garden?
We’re not fans of “either, or.” So that means both — we love every aspect of our hometown.