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BMW sponsors Oct. 10 mobility panel in PCS as part of German cultural and business road show; does Portand still have it when it comes to micromobility?

COURTESY: WUNDERBAR TOGETHER - A recent Wunderbar Together popup event in Chicago. The roadshow of German culture and business will be in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday Oct. 10 and includes a panel of local experts talking about transit, micromobility, e-scooters and rideshares.

The Germans are coming.

This time it's to assess Portland as a mobility town, tapping a panel of local experts at on Thursday, Oct. 10, in under a tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The Wunderbar Together PopUp tour is a German culture and business roadshow. In Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland, the PopUp Tour showcases German business and culture in the U.S. and highlights the close economic and cultural ties between the two countries. It will be in Portland Tuesday, October 08, 2019 to Saturday, October 12, 2019.

New York based Micah Kotch, who is managing director of URBAN-X, which is part of the BMW Group, will chair the panel on Oct. 10. The panel that will explore startups in Portland and the future of mobility, and will include Will Henderson, the CEO of RideReport, Skip Newberry head of Technology Association of Oregon, Jon Maroney of the Oregon Angel Venture Fund and Jo Brickman Deputy director of Vertue Lab.

Every six months, URBAN-X invests $150,000 in up to ten startups that are shaping the future of cities through technology and design. URBAN-X has worked with ClearRoad, a startup that helps government agencies automate toll road pricing for any section of road without the need for traditional proprietary hardware infrastructure. Their service is available in Oregon.

URBAN-X's Cohort 07 program will start this winter, as part of the new six-month cycle. They had 600 applicants.

Wonks versus geeks

Part of the Portland discussion will be about policy.

"We hope the panel can help explain what it means to be an entrepreneur in Portland focused on mobility, what are the technology regulations and policies needed to support urban growth, and how we can progress," Kotch told the Business Tribune.

The poor public share offerings of Uber and Lyft have been a setback, he says.

"Uber and Lyft both went public and haven't had the reception they were anticipating," he says dryly.

In that context the panel will ask, "What does the ecosystem look like in Portland? For entrepreneurs with in a subset of the startup community, what's missing and what might need to change?"

On the recent failure of Car2Go in Portland which left he city without a drive-it-yourself, leave-it-anywhere car share option, Kotch acknowledges it's difficult.

"(Daimler and BMW) can't sustain the margins of operating that kinds of service when the utilization rate isn't what it needs to be. Uber and the like have Silicon Valley or the public markets to give them a pass on profitability in favor of growth, but if Daimler or BMW require sustainable profit margins, how long can you sustain these services?"

Paris beats Portland for e-scootermania

When Kotch was in Portland in September 2018 one company they met with was Envoy. They are a "community-based shared mobility platform, providing on-demand electric vehicles as an exclusive amenity for apartments, hotels, and workplaces." That is, a building can come with its own handful of electric vehicles just for the occupants to use. Which is a good idea in a city like Portland where developers are phasing out apartment parking garages in favor of large bike rooms.

Kotch likes the look of RideReport, a Portland firm which processes data from rideshares such as e-scooters. Such vehicles spew data like trucks used to spew diesel, but cities and rideshare companies often can't agree on how to deal with the data in a safe and useful way.

He cites the Open Mobility Foundation and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation as pushing ahead to found a common standard for data for micromobility, and says 16 municipalities have so far signed on.

Paris, he says, is overwhelmed by scooters. In Berlin they have an integrated system where you can rent and unlock many types of vehicles, including BMWs and Mercedes, with your phone. "Berlin is the mobility as a service capital of the world."


As the official roadshow of Wunderbar Together, the PopUp Tour combines a culture tent with mobile container exhibits and various pop-up edutainment elements. Programs range from business conferences, science slams, art exhibits, concerts or interactive student-focused events to panel discussions on future-oriented issues such as future of work, digitalization and sustainability. With stops in Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland, the PopUp Tour showcases German business and culture in the U.S. and highlights the close economic and cultural ties between the two countries.


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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