Whether or not the City of Portland succeeds in its bid for a $40 million “Smart City” grant to advance a collection of ideas about digitally connected transportation, the private sector is already leaping forward on similar lines.
Last week, two startups that have been near the front of digital transportation innovation in the United States merged under a single mission, brand name and CEO — all based in downtown Portland.
GlobeSherpa, a Portland-grown company that makes mobile ticketing apps for transit agencies, joined with RideScout, an Austin-based company that helps people plan multimodal trips (think bus to meet a friend, bikeshare to go somewhere with them and Lyft to get home at night) to form Moovel North America.
Both brands were previously acquired by the unit of German automaker Daimler that also owns car2go, the point-to-point carsharing service that has been disproportionately popular in Portland. Daimler, meanwhile, has a major corporate location in Portland: Daimler Trucks North America.
DTNA happens to be celebrating the opening of a big bike-friendly new headquarters on Swan Island — more on that later today.
In any case, Moovel NA said in an email Thursday that Nat Parker, GlobeSherpa’s CEO and co-founder, has been named CEO of the combined operation. GlobeSherpa spokesman Mac Brown said the change had been “in the works” since July, when the Daimler family acquired GlobeSherpa.
Michael Gray, GlobeSherpa’s other co-founder and like Parker a Portland State University grad, remains as chief technical officer of the combined company.
Both the Portland and Austin offices of Moovel NA are adding staff, Brown said.
This news is promising because the best bet for replacing today’s transportation culture in the United States — “when in doubt, use a car” — is to make it cheap and easy to use the right tool (be it a train, your bike, your neighbor’s pickup or whatever) for the right job.
“At moovel, we believe that mobility is an ecosystem — a group of interconnected transportation modes that form the fabric of our cities,” is how the company puts it.
It’s great to see a company like Daimler, which currently makes its money from cars, working to find profits in getting people away from cars instead. And it’s great to know that a good chunk of that work is being done here in Portland.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.