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MaaS Global (Whim) files for bankruptcy, a turning point for the sector?

This news sounds like a wake-up call for the mobility sector… Despite raising an impressive $162 million from giants such as BP Ventures, Toyota and Mitsubishi, MaaS Global has been forced to file for bankruptcy. A stark statement, highlighting the inherent challenges of MaaS. But how did the Finnish company get there? Find out in our exclusive article…

An innovative concept faced with difficult economic realities

Founded in 2015, MaaS Global positioned itself as a forerunner in the field of mobility as a service. Its ambition was to simplify urban travel with its MaaS Whim application. This offered users an integrated solution for planning and booking different modes of transport via a single platform. Operational in cities such as Vienna, Antwerp, Helsinki and even Tokyo, the idea seemed to meet a growing demand for flexible and sustainable mobility solutions.

However, despite promising take-up in some cities and the number of active users reaching 10,000 in Helsinki, financial realities have caught up with MaaS Global. With a loss of €9.3 million in 2022 on turnover of €3.8 million, the figures bear witness to the difficulties of achieving a sustainable business model. And that goes for even the most innovative start-ups in the sector…

A sector in the throes of change: between consolidation and the search for viability

MaaS Global’s situation is part of a wider transformation of the mobility sector. Start-ups that were once thriving are now facing a changing economic environment, marked by mergers and restructuring. The search for viable business models is forcing companies to rethink their strategies, often at the cost of redundancies and drastic reductions in headcount. From 120 employees in January 2020, MaaS Global fell to 28 last month, reflecting a sector-wide trend towards rationalization. This development raises fundamental questions about the future of MaaS… While innovative ideas abound, the ability to turn them into profitable businesses remains the main challenge. The example of MaaS Global illustrates the fragility of start-ups in this field in the face of economic imperatives… And this, despite an attractive offering and substantial financial support.

End of the wild ride. Pretty much exactly 8 years ago, we were busy creating the first release of Whim, which was to become the benchmark for its user-centric design, and the first commercial MaaS subscription service. It boggles my mind that the UX benchmark persists still today. So many fantastic colleagues contributed. I think that playfulness showed in the product. Unfortunately, we were probably guilty of trying to get from zero to one in one go – the transportation market is fragmented and moves slower than an agile startup.


What does the future hold for MaaS?

Despite the recent collapse of MaaS Global, the future of MaaS seems far from cloudy. Indeed, the effectiveness of MaaS applications and their role in urban travel planning remain a key priority for many cities. A study carried out in Zurich highlights the positive impact of aggregating transport services via a single application. This facilitates access to different modes of transport and can encourage their use, particularly through incentive systems.

The failure 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 ongoing reflection on business models and deployment strategies adapted to this complex and constantly evolving ecosystem. The mobility industry is at a strategic crossroads, where innovation, collaboration between the various players (public, private, start-ups, major groups) and adaptation to the real needs of citizens will play a decisive role in realising the promises of MaaS.