Populus to tackle curbside parking chaos with millions in new funding – TechCrunch
Populus, the San Francisco-based transportation data startup, got its start as shared scooter mania took hold and cities tried to figure out how infrastructure was used by fleets of tiny vehicles.
Now Populus Co-founder and CEO Regina Clewlow is positioning the company, which collects data on transportation fleets and shares it with cities, to capitalize on another hot opportunity: curbs and congestion.
Populus has continued to ride the wave of micromobility and expand into other areas such as commercial fleets, transit vehicles, and other new forms of mobility like autonomous vehicles. Its software-as-a-service product, which is now used by more than 100 cities in the United States and Israel, collects data on shared fleets such as scooters, e-bikes and car sharing. This data is then shared with cities to help planners and regulators understand and manage street usage. Cities can also use the Populus API to share information such as motor vehicle restrictions, preferred scooter parking areas, and bike path information, with mapping platforms and other third parties.
Clewlow argues that the next big opportunity for current growth is in Populus’ curb management feature, which provides cities with data on how curbs are being used so they can set dynamic pricing and reduce traffic congestion. This opportunity is driven by the growing demand for same-day and next-day delivery.
The company will use a further injection of $11 million in venture capital raised in a Series A funding round to scale its existing product as well as sidewalk management software. The money will also be used to make key strategic hires, Clewlow said, noting that Populus hopes to double its current staff of 25 over the next year.
The round was co-led by Zero Infinity Partners and Climactic with participation from Comcast Ventures and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures.
Populus’ sidewalk management software “allows cities to better manage anything that moves, from commercial delivery operations to the future of self-driving vehicles,” Clewlow told TechCrunch. “Cities can receive data from fleet operators through our platform so they know where the greatest demand is, then they can create new parking policies and enforce them through our platform as well.”
The data is particularly relevant for cities trying to reduce emissions and improve air quality. While many delivery companies are testing fleets of e-bikes or self-driving sidewalk robots, most deliveries today are still made by gasoline-powered trucks and vans, which are the biggest contributors to tailpipe emissions in urban areas.
Populus says its sidewalk management software can encourage fleet operators to park in areas that reduce conflict. At the same time, smarter policies supported by Populus sidewalk data can incentivize delivery operators to use smaller, more carbon-efficient modes of transportation.
Going forward, Populus would like to focus on congestion pricing, which cities like New York are implementing to discourage driving in downtown areas.
“There’s no reason our platform can’t be used to manage vehicles that are increasingly connected, driving in and out of an area and charging them for using those areas,” Clewlow said.
While Populus is primarily based in North America, the startup has reached Tel Aviv and is pursuing a number of pilot projects in major European cities, with a view to expanding.