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SMRT-backed start-up and transport app cease operations less than 2 years after launch

SMRT-backed start-up and transport app cease operations less than 2 years after launch

The Zipster app, officially launched by Singapore-based start-up MobilityX on Sep 16 2019, will allow users to pay a flat monthly fee for travel via buses, trains or private-hire cars. (Photo: Zhaki Abdullah)

SINGAPORE: Less than two years after it made its debut, an app that aimed to bring multiple transport options under one platform has folded, along with the SMRT-backed start-up that developed it. 

Launched in September 2019, Zipster - developed by mobilityX, a subsidiary of transport operator SMRT - said then it planned to offer commuters virtually unlimited rides on buses and trains for a flat monthly subscription fee, as well as discounted rides on ride-hailing services and shared-bikes. 

It said at the time it had about 16,000 users following a beta trial, and had partnered with Grab, Gojek and electric car-sharing firm BlueSG to offer their services through the app.

During the launch event, it was also announced that Enterprise Singapore was working with mobilityX to expand Zipster's operations to other countries in the region.

However, checks on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store on Tuesday (Jun 29) found that Zipster was no longer available for download.

“The shareholders reviewed mobilityX’s prospects and progress taking into account the current tough business and regulatory environments, and jointly decided not to continue funding this start-up company," said Mr Axel Tan, general manager of SMRT's corporate venture arm SMRT Ventures. 

mobilityX was backed by the local transport operator as well as Toyota Tsusho, the general trading arm of carmaker Toyota, which invested an unspecified amount in the start-up in 2018.

"Registered users were notified in advance before Zipster app services were discontinued," said Mr Tan, adding that the intellectual property developed will be "retained and evaluated for future projects".

He did not say when the decision was made to shutter mobilityX and discontinue Zipster's services.

In January this year mobilityX had partnered with ST Engineering and the Alliance for Action on Robotics to allow commuters to use Zipster to book driverless buses as part of a three-month trial at Singapore Science Park 2.

SMRT did not respond to queries from CNA on whether mobilityX employees were affected by the closure.

Zipster operated on a "mobility-as-a-service" (MaaS) model - referring to apps that allow commuters to plan their journeys and pay for different transport modes through a single platform.

Another MaaS app, Whim - developed by Finnish firm MaaS Global, which billed the app as the "Netflix of transport" - has yet to launch here, despite promising to do so in 2019 in partnership with transport giant ComfortDelGro.

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported last week that MaaS Global had used about €50 million (US$59.5 million) of investors' money in failed expansion ventures across Europe.

Attempts to contact MaaS Global via a press email address on its website were unsuccessful.

Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert Park Byung Joon told CNA that the MaaS model is a "very ill-defined concept".

"What is it exactly? No one knows," said Associate Professor Park.

He added that the model relies on "a lot of assumptions" and would only work in "an ideal world".

Source: CNA/ic


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