Electric scooters, or escooters, were one of the big breakout trends in 2018, with hundreds of millions in investors’ cash plowed into the likes of Lime, Bird, Spin, and similar 4-letter-named mobility startups.
With 2019 now well underway, the escooter hype-train trundles on with even more investments being made. The rise in urban micro-mobility transport isn’t limited to scooters, though — everything from motorized skateboards to foldable electric bikes are also firmly on the agenda. While the underlying intention of these new transport platforms is to get people onto cleaner modes of transport (and make money), it has also led to a reported rise in accidents — Paris recently banned escooters from sidewalks for this reason.
“The development of these [escooters] was very rapid and a little anarchic,” France’s transport minister Elisabeth Borne told Le Parisien. “And it is true that we are seeing an increase in accidents and but also an increasing sense of unease on our pavements. Our main objective is that pedestrians no longer walk the pavements in fear of getting run down.”
And it’s against that backdrop that on-demand insurance startup Voom launched today, with $5 million in funding from Verizon Ventures, Arbor Ventures, F2 Capital, Kaedan Capital, and Plug and Play Ventures.
Though many people will assume that they are sufficiently covered for any damage (physical or otherwise) caused by an ill-conceived scooter stunt, that isn’t necessarily the case. Voom will offer coverage that encapsulates third-party liability, property, and personal accidents, and is designed to serve as an “additional layer” on top of any existing health care coverage the user may have.
“With the rise of on-demand mobility services such as escooters, we discovered that in most cases, riders are not covered in case of an accident,” Voom cofounder and CEO Tomer Kashi said. “And much more importantly, they are not aware of this fact. Voom will ensure that users of unique mobility platforms can grab insurance on-the-go from their mobile devices whether they ride, fly, or sail.”
In a nutshell, Voom is targeting those who use on-demand mobility services episodically, providing cover for accidents that affect themselves, third parties, and properties. So rather than paying for holistic insurance coverage that provides 24/7 coverage, Voom charges on a per-trip “pay-as-you-go” basis — it’s purpose-built for mobility services such as escooters, e-bikes, drones, boats, small planes, and more.
Voom is a newly incorporated company that’s officially launching today. However, it is actually the successor to an existing brand called SkyWatch, which was founded back in 2016 as an on-demand insurance service for commercial drones. SkyWatch had raised around $2 million in funding, and will now fall under the Voom brand as it expands to cover more vehicle types.
Voom builds on SkyWatch’s automated risk analytics platform for drones, which sends operators real-time hazard warnings through the app, in addition to other feedback and insights on how their flying is. The new Voom platform meshes a range of telematics data from the user’s phone, including GPS and accelerometer, which detect crashes or near-misses. Voom leverages other environmental data points too, such as weather conditions and road types, for insights into potential hazards the rider may face. It uses machine learning to assess the user’s safety and performance, which may affect premiums.
In terms of how much the user pays, well, this will depend on the vehicle and how long coverage is required for. But as an example, Kashi told VentureBeat that escooter coverage will cost a “fraction” of the ride’s price — a typical 15-minute escooter ride may cost a buck or two, meaning the insurance element from Voom will likely amount to dimes.
“Insurance is a given across every traditional mobility category,” added Arbor Ventures VP and head of Israel Lior Simon. “However, coverage offerings clearly haven’t kept up with shifting consumer behaviors and emerging risks, such as those associated with micro mobility usage. I believe in the Voom team’s ability to execute their vision and am thrilled for them to join Arbor’s portfolio.”