The Business of Mobility: EcoMotion

Jennifer Schwarz, Executive Director of EcoMotion, discusses EcoMotion's role as a global smart mobility community fostering connections among startups and industry players, while addressing the challenges and opportunities in Israel's vibrant tech startup ecosystem.

The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.  

Q&A with Jennifer Schwarz (Executive Director of EcoMotion) and Ross Douglas (founder at Autonomy).

EcoMotion is a global smart mobility community that provides a networking platform for mobility startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. Their yearly event EcoMotion Week, held in Tel Aviv, gathers thousands of innovation enthusiasts.  

Ross: What is EcoMotion about?

Jennifer: We were founded in 2012 to support the development of more startups from Israel in the mobility space. In fact, we’re Israel’s first ecosystem community dedicated to a specific sector. Over the past 12 years EcoMotion has established itself as the go-to platform in this country for mobility startups to connect with industry players, investors, academia, governments, etc, from across the globe.

Ross: What makes Israel such an exciting tech startup destination?

Jennifer: There’s a strong talent pool here of software developers and tech experts. Success breeds success; when people see a company succeeding they want to emulate them and so we now have an exciting startup culture in Israel.  

Ross: How are you helping to shape the mobility industry?

Jennifer: Firstly, we bring people together so they can discover synergies for their business. We’re also very engaged in where the industry is going, and which gaps need closing for the sake of safer, cleaner transport. 

Ross: How are you funded?

Jennifer: We’re a nonprofit; about half our funds come from Israel’s Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Economy; the other half is from industry sponsorships.

Ross: Do you have plans for expansion; in terms of becoming more global and less Israel-focused? 

Jennifer: EcoMotion Week is a unique global event in terms of bringing together major global players, with a focus on Israeli startups. But we don’t only promote our own industry, we’re also a meeting point for the global mobility industry. We see an opportunity to expand and become a global networking hub for mobility. In which case Tel Aviv is an ideal hub, given the tech talent on offer. 

Ross: With higher interest rates around the world, what’s the appetite like these days from VCs for investing in startups? 

Jennifer: There’s still money for startups, but VCs are being more careful. To raise funds, startups need think carefully about their business model and their market fit. They should also show investors they’re willing to share the risk, e.g. being prepared to forego their salary for a while. That’s why Israel is doing well in the space: we thrive on risk.

Ross: Where do you think mobility is headed; what’s the next big thing in the industry?

Jennifer: There are two major areas. The electrification transport is creating new challenges in terms of infrastructure outside the vehicle. We’re shining a light on this area because we feel it needs attention; and it’s about more than just charge stations. We need to build the ecosystem that supports electrification, which throws up so many challenge: like battery safety, and the supply chain of materials. The second area is infrastructure. How do we adapt our infrastructure for new mobility? Not only infrastructure for electrification but also things like logistics, deliveries, and optimising traffic flow. 

Ross: In terms of EVs, China is a big story with BYD now outselling Tesla. 

Jennifer: We have some startups working with Chinese firms, but our top two markets are still Europe and the US. 

Ross: How would you advise an investor looking to make some money on mobility? 

Jennifer: I will defer to McKinsey on that. They recently worked with us on a report (Mobility tech as a source of innovation) where they talk about the five biggest trends in mobility that investors should be putting their money.

Ross: I’ll take a look. Many thanks for your time. 

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