The Recursive: What problems in public transport does Skipit solve?
Conor Clancy: When it comes to paying for mobility, especially in public transport, across different cities across Europe, there are many different rules, regulations, price points, and currencies. Each city has their own sort of public transport card. For example, there is the Oyster card in London, the Navigo card in Paris, and the Rejsekort in Denmark.
We believe that it shouldn’t be so difficult to simply pay for public transport in another city. That is why we took the concept of a public transport card and digitized it.
What we see is that when travelers go to another city, they often end up taking a taxi or private motor transport because they can’t be bothered to deal with the issues, the challenges, and the headaches that come with trying to understand the local public transport network. And a big part of that is payment. Questions range from do I have the right ticket, am I being charged too much, or will I get a fine going this way?
To solve this in the most meaningful way, we built a network of all that ecosystem of public transport partners. They have limited time and budget to deal with this target group. We have also teamed up with hotels, who also see the need for this product. They usually get two questions from their guests: How do I get around and what should I go see? Therefore, we saw a use case for Skipit. Other stakeholders are also local businesses because we help tourists to experience local areas.
How was the idea of Skipit born?
One day I was walking down the stairs of the central station in my home city, Copenhagen, and I saw a big line of travelers and tourists queuing up at the ticket machine. They were trying to figure out the zone system, Danish language, and the direction they have to head. And at the same time, I just saw Danish people walking past, tapping in and tapping out with their public transport card, and I thought to myself what happens is that they could work in multiple cities, and those people queuing up, no longer had to do so.
My co-founders and I worked together at the Danish Institute for Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship. And at the start of 2020, we were ready to get our hands dirty and decided to leave our job. Then the Coronavirus came along and he gave us a few challenges. But it allowed us to have the breathing space to be able to create a network.
What is your business model?
At the moment Skipit is working on a deposit model. In order to activate your card, you have to put a small deposit on that card. And secondly, we are also working on commission as well.
How does the digital public transport card of the Skipit work?
First, the users plan a journey via our mobile application and then top up their card with your balance that they like. Then the app recommends the cheapest and quickest route and ticket. Users then purchase their tickets using two factor authentication – their face ID or fingerprint, or password, and then they are good to go.
At what stage of development is Skipit?
We are already making revenue, which is a success point, given that we have built this company in bootstrapping mode for the past two years. In total, we invested around €65K in the company. We are looking to close our first investment round within the coming months and use that money to be able to scale out into new cities.
Additionally, as we have done agreements with public transport entities, we already have the infrastructure to be able to include these different public transport ticketing systems.
In the future, we will aim to optimize the customer experience, but for now, our main focus is to get the Skipit card up and running in multiple cities. Skipit is currently working in Helsinki and in Zurich, and we have agreements with around 12 other cities to begin operating in the next 12 months. So far we have spent literally nothing on advertising. All of our users have come from our partnerships with hotels. Therefore, we are looking forward to using part of our budget to push our product forward.
How did the Visa Innovation Program help you grow?
We wanted to reach out to Visa for a long time and ironically, we were actually approached by them before the Innovation Program. And the scope within the project is to work with them to leverage NFC technology so we can open up more markets.
And what we’ve got out of it is we’ve really understood how exactly we can work now, together with Visa. They help us build a strong network both within Sofia, but also within Athens and Turkey as well. So we can start leveraging that network in terms of our expansion plans, and we also got a better understanding of where Visa is, as an organization when it comes to urban mobility.