WHILL raises $45 million to accelerate global expansion and fund Mobility as a Service (MaaS) business growth
WHILL, the startup company behind the next-generation Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs), has raised $45 million dollars in funding to to accelerate global expansion and fund Mobility as a Service (MaaS) business growth. The latest investment was led by investors SBI Investment Co., Ltd., Daiwa PI Partners Co. Ltd. and Daiwa Corporate Investment Co. Ltd (affiliates of Daiwa Securities Group Inc.), and WHIZ Partners, Inc., as well as Endeavor Catalyst and others. This funding round brings WHILL’s total funding to around $80 million.
Founded in 2013 by Junpei Naito, Muneaki Fukuoka, Naoto Sakakibara, and Satoshi Sugie, WHILL’s mission is to change the perception of mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters through advanced technology and smart design. WHILL aims to transform today’s antiquated power wheelchair and scooter experiences into a new kind of empowering device, an intelligent personal electric vehicle (EV). WHILL is reinventing the personal mobility industry with an Intelligent Personal EV that focuses on an approachable and aesthetically pleasing powered vehicle that boosts confidence and pushes the boundaries of personal transportation. Headquartered in Yokohama with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taiwan and Europe, WHILL is focused on enabling everyone to explore the world in comfort and style.
“WHILL began in 2010 with the voice of one wheelchair user saying, “I’ve even given up going to a convenience store just two blocks away,” and today we have grown into a brand used by people all over the world,” said Satoshi Sugie, Co-Founder and CEO. “Through innovative technology and design, we’re giving people greater independence and opportunities to fully participate in society and the activities they love, and this pushes us to do even more and better.
“With the world’s population over the age of 60 drastically increasing over the next several decades–900 million people worldwide in 2017, and expected to more than double to 2.1 billion people by 2050–there is a huge opportunity and need to address current and future mobility and infrastructure challenges. Therefore, as we continue to build personal mobility devices they require, we will further accelerate the expansion of our business while strengthening our MaaS business in order to achieve our mission to “Deliver Fun and Innovation to Pedestrian Travel.” Our goal is to build a service that can be utilized normally like public transportation”
WHILL launched the Model Ci in the US in January 2018 at the Consumer Electronics Show where it took home the Best of Innovation award in Accessibility Tech. In April of the same year, WHILL expanded sales into Canada, then into UK and Italy in July. This latest funding round will give WHILL the ability to greatly broaden its geographic footprint across other European countries through new partnerships, branches and hiring employees to support this global growth.
Beyond their global expansion efforts, this funding will offer flexibility to significantly expand WHILL’s innovative consumer product offerings while developing and expanding its MaaS (Mobility as a Service) side of the business. WHILL’s MaaS business will help to shape the future of autonomous personal mobility technologies and infrastructure as society prepares for the paradigm shift in the aging population by building the technology and infrastructure to efficiently and safely move people through large and crowded venues such as airports, sports venues, shopping centers, and public sidewalks.
To start, WHILL will be addressing a major issue in the current PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility) service within airports, which is very labor intensive. Currently, airline passenger assistants are required to manually push PRMs in a wheelchair through different parts of the airport, which is highly inefficient. Passengers are then dependent on the assistant to take them where they want to go, including the restroom.
Based on 2013-2016 wheelchair assistance requests and passenger data from the Port Authority of NY and NJ and the Bureau of Transportation, WHILL estimated that there were over 20 million passengers who requested wheelchair assistance at US airports in 2016 (a 4.1% CAGR from 2013). This number is expected to grow substantially as the population ages.
Currently, WHILL, in collaboration with strategic partners, is developing self-driving and self-stopping technologies, which provides more independence to passengers and reduces the workload of PRM service agents. In the near future, WHILL is looking to further expand their MaaS business into device-sharing and last-mile transport solution. This allows anyone, including those with physical limitations, to access mobility sharing service.
Below is a video of the new Model Ci Personal EV.