Doctours offers packaged medical tourism for U.S. customers

Doctours, a Los Angeles-based online platform for booking trips and treatments for medical and dental care around the world, is expanding its services to 35 countries.

Founded by serial travel entrepreneur Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, whose last company TripScope was acquired by Travefy, Doctours aims to connect patients with doctors to receive access to quality, affordable healthcare around the world.

The cost of care in the U.S. continues to climb, leading patients with few options but to travel to the best facilities offering the lowest cost care. Some companies that provide insurance benefits to their employees, like Walmart, are opting to pay for better care upfront by transporting their workers to facilities to receive appropriate care, rather than pay later for shoddy treatment.

Doctours sort of expands that thesis in an international context.

“When it comes to medical and dental treatment, there is no longer any reason to limit ourselves based on where we live,” said O’Shaughnessy, in a statement. “There is an increasingly advantageous global marketplace available with highly trained practitioners offering quality healthcare solutions at affordable prices and, although medical and dental tourism is a safe and cost-efficient solution, the current market is extremely fragmented and challenging to navigate. Doctours eliminates this fragmentation and allows anyone to easily and affordably access international medical and dental treatments and procedures.”

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Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, founder, Doctours

The company, which is backed by investors including investors in Doctours include the former CEO of Expedia, Erik Blachford, Texas billionaire and CEO of multi-strategy holding company, Cathexis, William Harrison, and Charles Cogliando of Mosaic Advisors, offers more than 330 different medical and dental procedures and has a global service area that includes Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean, Thailand, Dubai, Brazil, Germany and Costa Rica. 

Currently working out of Quake Capital’s Austin incubator, the company helps patients search for and compare the cost of procedures, connect with doctors and book everything from in vitro fertilization to stem cell therapy, cosmetic and reparative plastic . surgery, weight loss surgery, dental work and Lasik. 

Once the procedure is booked, Doctours puts together itineraries that provide different options for flights and hotels based on the needs of the patient,  the company said.

The company also offers specialized medical tourism insurance to all of its customers, according to O’Shaughnessy. And the company vets its doctors by ensuring that they are Joint Commission International accredited physicians. Roughly 70% of the company’s doctors were trained at universities and medical schools in Europe or the U.S., O’Shaughnessy wrote in an email.

Doctours is certainly entering a lucrative market. Medical and dental tourism is a $439 billion global market growing at a rate of 25% per year, according to data provided by Doctours. In 2018 alone, 14 million patients traveled abroad to seek healthcare, according to the company.

Heat waves bring record-breaking temperatures on a geological scale

From Alaska to Europe the world has spent the past few weeks roasting under temperatures never before seen in recorded history.

In Alaska, all-time high record temperatures were set across the state on July 4th, according to the National Weather Service. In Anchorage, the mercury soared to highs of 90 degrees, the highest temperature since recording began in 1952.

Temperatures in Alaska have reached 90 degrees in other cities around the state before, but this is the first time that the thermometer hit that mark in Anchorage.

Meanwhile, hot winds blowing North from the Sahara set temperatures in Europe soaring to record highs, according to data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

It was Europe’s record three degree temperature spike that brought global temperatures to their recorded-history highs.

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“Although local temperatures may have been lower or higher than those forecast, our data show that the temperatures over the southwestern region of Europe during the last week of June were unusually high,” said Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. “Although this was exceptional, we are likely to see more of these events in the future due to climate change.”

According to data from Copernicus, the temperature spikes across Europe was the highest on record for the month.

Compared for the same five-day period during the last thirty year climatological reference period, six to ten degree Celsius temperature spikes happened in most of France and Germany, throughout northern Spain, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic.

As these events become common, the need for technologies that can reduce carbon emissions because more pressing.

Increasingly, businesses and investors are returning to the once-shunned market of clean technology and renewable energy to back new electric vehicle manufacturers, new energy efficient construction technologies, the rehabilitation of outdated infrastructure and consumer goods that have a smaller carbon footprint or reduce waste.

Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance published earlier this year indicated that venture investments into what was once called clean technology hit $9.2 billion in 2018. That’s the highest cumulative investment in the sector since 2009. Much of those deals were in Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers who attracted some $3.3 billion in venture capital and private equity dollars.

That’s critical because global carbon emissions have increased over the past two years, according to estimates from the Global Carbon Project.

“We thought, perhaps hoped, emissions had peaked a few years ago,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). “After two years of renewed growth, that was wishful thinking.”

In the U.S. specifically, climate related pressures (a warmer summer and a colder winter) led to increasing demand along with an uptick in gasoline consumption as demand for bigger vehicles fueled higher gas consumption.

“We’re driving more miles in bigger cars, changes that are outpacing improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency,” Jackson explained.

MAX.ng raises $7M round backed by Yamaha and pilots EVs in Nigeria

Nigerian motorcycle transit startup MAX.ng has raised a $7 million funding round led by Novastar Ventures, with participation of Japanese manufacturer Yamaha.

Based in Lagos, the company’s app-based platform coordinates motorcycle taxi and delivery services for individuals and businesses. Six-million of the investment is in Series A capital followed by $1 million in grants.

MAX has an extended menu for the round. “We intend to invest massively in our technology capabilities,” including the company’s payment infrastructure, CFO Guy-Bertrand Njoya told TechCrunch.

The startup will also expand to 10 cities in West Africa (starting in Ghana and Ivory Coast) and add new vehicle classes—including watercraft and three-wheeled tuk tuk taxis.

And in what could be a first in Africa’s growing motorcycle ride-hail market, MAX will use its new funding for EV development. “We’re piloting electric motorcycles in partnership with EV manufacturers and working with grid operators across Nigeria to deploy charging stations,” Njoja said.

He would not name EV partners, except to clarify Yamaha is not currently part of the e-pilot. The the research also includes renewable energy as an e-moto power source, according to Njoja. MAX’s current fleet consists primarily of Yamaha Crux Rev and Indian manufacturer Bajaj’s Pulsar motorcycles.

Co-founded in 2015 by MIT Sloan alumns Adetayo Bamiduro and Chinedu Azodah, MAX has completed over 1 million trips and is one of the largest delivery partners in West Africa for Jumia—the e-commerce unicorn that recently listed on the NYSE.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Zrosk Investment Management, and Alitheia Capital joined Novastar Ventures and Yamaha in the $7 million round—which takes MAX’s total funding to $9 million.

Yamaha confirmed its investment in MAX to TechCrunch. Part of the company’s interest in the startup connects to market research and Yamaha’s existing Nigeria operations. “We want to work with good entrepreneurs in Africa to develop new business in Africa,” Shoji Shiraishi of Yamaha Motor Company’s New Venture Business Development Section told TechCrunch.

He added that Yamaha sells and manufactures motorcycles in Nigeria. “We really want to understand local needs for motorcycles and…to support [MAX] expanding their business,” he said.

This is Yamaha’s second move in less than a year in an emerging market ride-hail company. In December it invested $150 million in Grab, a Southeast Asian two and four-wheel on demand transit company.

Yamaha’s investment in MAX suggests global interest in Africa’s two-wheel ride-hail space. Overall, the motorcycle taxi market is becoming a significant sub-sector in the continent’s mobility startup landscape.

Motorcycle transit ventures are vying to digitize a share of Africa’s boda boda and okada markets (the name for motorcycle taxis in East and West Africa)—representing a collective revenue pool of $4 billion (now) that’s expected to double by 2021, per a TechSci study.

Uber  began offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) started motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

Last month MAX competitor Gokada (also based in Lagos) raised a $5.3 round and announced it would expand in East Africa. Rwanda has motorbike taxi startups SafeMotos and Yegomoto. Uganda-based motorcycle ride-hail company SafeBoda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and recently raised a Series B round, co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s Go-Jek.

On the question of how MAX (a 2018 TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa participant) will compete in a market with more players, co-founder Chinedu Azodoh named diversification and satisfying drivers. “We’re a very driver-centric business and at the end of the day the driver is where the business is at,” he said, highlighting the ability of MAX’s platform to deliver market-share to those drivers.

Azodoh also believes MAX’s mix of business delivery and personal transit offers an advantage over competitors. He noted that MAX.ng has local developer team and is always looking at new revenue opportunities. “Strategic for us is making sure we’re doing the right thing at the right time,” he said, indicating the company has already scaled up and scaled down certain service offerings in response to market needs.

“If we find that maybe there’s something else we’re missing out on, we’re happy to jump into that,” Azohdo said.

One of those areas could be development of EV mobility services for Nigeria and Africa. “The economics are promising and could offer significant value to the drivers and end-users,” MAX CFO Guy-Bertrand Njoya told TechCrunch.

So electric motorcycle taxis in African cities powered by renewable energy could become a reality. That would definitely place the continent in a unique position in the transformation of global mobility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This new Honda e detail suggests it’s going to be fun to drive

New details keep trickling out about the Honda e, the compact electric vehicle that’s coming to market in spring 2020, from pop-out door handles and internal side view mirrors to the touchscreen display.

The latest, revealed Thursday, includes a battery capacity of 35.5 kilowatt-hours. An important nugget that is sure to get some folks excited is that the vehicle will have a 50/50 weight distribution, thanks to the position of the battery at a low level under the floor and centrally within the wheelbase.

The upshot: this electric car will have lots of stability and handle curves like a champ; in short, all things being equal the car will steer neutrally, not oversteer or understeer. Combine that with a rear-wheel drive and a high-torque electric motor, the Honda e promises to deliver lots of thrills in its diminutive package.

Want to dig deeper into why a 50/50 weight distribution is considered ideal? Check out this handy Engineering Explained video.

Honda also revealed the the 35.5 kWh lithium-ion high-capacity battery can be charged using either Type 2 AC connection or a CCS2 DC rapid charger. The battery pack is water-cooled to help maximum its efficiency and charge state, the company said.

Honda is still sticking with its previously stated estimated range of about 125 miles on a single charge.

The charging port includes an LED light that can be seen through a glass panel to illuminate the port for the driver and highlight the battery charging status.

The production version of the Honda e will be unveiled later this year.

Customers can make a reservation for priority ordering online in the U.K., Germany, France and Norway or register their interest in other European markets on the Honda national websites. No, the Honda e isn’t coming to the United States.

Honda plans to bring electrification, which can mean hybrid, plug-in or all-electric, to every new car model launched in Europe. The automaker is aiming for two-thirds of European sales to feature electrified technology by 2025.

Zava bags $32M to expand its AI-free telehealth service in Europe

More money is being injected into the telehealth space in Europe. Zava, a long-time player that bills its online service as offering a “discreet and convenient” alternative to an in-person doctor visit, has just announced a $32 million Series A round, led by growth equity firm HPE Growth.

Zava relies on patients filling in an online medical questionnaire which is reviewed by a person from its team of in-house doctors/clinicians as part of the remote consultation process. Test kits and/or medicine can follow in the post or be sent to a pharmacy for the patient to collect.

“Zava provides reliable and convenient access to a qualified clinical team, via written communication, which drives an effective patient:doctor relationship,” says co-founder and CEO David Meinertz. “The questions we ask in our written questionnaire are exactly the same questions a GP would ask — but the patient can do this in their own time, meaning their answers are often more thorough.”

“Our patients feel more comfortable not having to discuss medical conditions that they might find embarrassing face to face, so we often find our patient answers are very direct,” he adds. “We’re not replacing doctors with AI and we are not just putting doctors on video. Zava is providing healthcare that enables doctors to treat patients more efficiently and more safely.”

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Harry Dolman, partner at HPE Growth, added: “Zava offers a unique and highly scalable model to deliver a more convenient healthcare experience to patients while radically improving the efficiency of healthcare professionals, enabling healthcare systems to reduce the overall costs associated with primary care.”

The startup was founded nearly a decade ago, in 2010, and had only previously raised an angel round of $1.4M back in 2012 from an entrepreneur in Hamburg — but was profitable until the end of 2018. “We are now in investment mode,” Meinertz tells TechCrunch.

The growth opportunity its investors are spotting is both to expand to more markets, initially across Europe, but also to supplement over-stretched state healthcare services — with Zava gearing up to make a sales pitch to state healthcare services in the UK, France and Germany.

Its early profits have come from offering paid services either direct to patients, or via working with insurance companies or partnering with pharmacies. The next stage will be to open up a dual track in key markets such as the UK — supplementing direct paid consultations with winning business from the state funded National Health Service so the service is offered to their patients free-at-the-point-of-use.

Although at this stage Zava has not provided any details of state healthcare contracts it has won.

“We’re delighted that our latest investment will help fund the research required to enter this space in the UK, Germany and France,” says Meinertz of the Series A. “We feel passionately about the transformation of primary care and the Zava healthcare platform is primed to support it.”

“As Zava grows and scales in the UK, we are looking to work closely with the NHS to help it become more efficient. This will mean that we will be working with two distinct models in the UK, one where patients pay Zava for the services they receive from us, or, two, access Zava through the NHS and receive healthcare free of charge at the point of care,” he adds.

“Due to the different requirements of the healthcare systems in France and Germany, we are already exploring different routes to enter the statutory healthcare markets in these countries.

“In Germany, we will work with statutory and private insurance companies to provide healthcare to patients free at the point of care.”

Meinertz says the new funding will also go on expanding Zava’s medical and technology capabilities — to offer “many new services for patients across Europe”, with women’s health a near term focus.

“We will be launching dozens of new services in the UK and other markets during Q3 and Q4 of 2019. In particular, we are focussing on women’s health in the coming months, as well as new test-kits and mental health services,” he says, adding: “With our latest investment we are investigating routes to replicate Zava’s success in the current markets to new markets to accelerate growth. Our intention is to launch in two additional European markets by 2021.”

Since 2011, Zava has provided three million paid consultations across the six markets it operates in in Europe — with 1M those taking place in 2018 alone.

Every month it says almost 100,000 patients access its service from the UK, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland to seek advice, tests or treatment for a growing range of conditions.

On the surface, Zava’s approach looks considerably ‘lower tech’ than some of the other digital health startups also targeting a younger, tech-savvy generation of patients — such as London-based Babylon Health, which uses an AI chatbot as part of its telehealth mix.

But what it may lose in triaging scale and immediacy, by requiring patients spend time filling in a detailed questionnaire in order to access remote healthcare — vs offering a more dynamic chatbot-style Q&A with a patient — could represent a longer term, sustainable advantage if Zava can show this method reduces the risks of errors and misdiagnosis, especially as usage scales, and does indeed help to foster a stronger link between patient and app, as it claims.

“Patients fill in an online questionnaire giving details on their symptoms, past medical history and personal circumstances. This medical information is reviewed by one of our doctors who then decide the best course of action, whether this is prescribing medication, offering a diagnostic test, giving advice or requesting further information from the patient,” says Meinertz explaining Zava’s approach.

“The medical questionnaires have been developed by the clinical team and passed rigorous testing to ensure safe treatment to our patients.”

Patient dissatisfaction rates do appear to be an early challenge for ‘digital first’ healthcare services.

For example, an Ipsos Mori evaluation of Babylon Health’s rival GP at Hand service, published earlier this year, found high levels of patient churn — with one in four patients found to have left the practice since July 2017 vs an average across London during the same period of one in six.

How well Zava’s questionnaire review process scales will be key. (Trustpilot reviews of its current UK service skew overwhelmingly positive — but a full 3% of reviewers have left the lowest possible rating, with complaints including canceled orders, lost/delayed packages, privacy-related complaints and even the wrong strength medicine being sent.)

Currently the startup has an in-house clinical team comprised of more than 20 doctors, pharmacists and healthcare professionals. Though the plan with the new funding is to grow headcount.

“The majority of this team sits in our London head office but we offer flexibility for our staff, meaning that consultations can be offered by remote doctors. With this in mind, we have doctors based in France, Switzerland and Germany too who treat Zava patients,” adds Meinertz.

The typical Zava patient is a man or a woman aged between 20 and 40 who is resident in a major city.

“They are patients who are dissatisfied with their current healthcare options and they’re willing to try something new,” he says. “They want to avoid a face to face interaction or an inconvenient appointment, accessibility and reliability are the most important factors to them.”

While this tech-savvy target demographic may be willing to try an app over a traditional trip to the GP, they’re unlikely to stick around long if the underlying service doesn’t live up to their expectations. So there are major challenges for telehealth players like Zava — to make sure patients remain satisfied with the quality and reliability of the service as usage scales, and to find ways to foster a genuine sense of connection with remote doctors sitting in the equivalent of a call center. A shiny app wrapper on its own won’t go far.

Revolut adds Apple Pay support in 16 markets

Fintech startup Revolut has expanded its support for Apple Pay, confirming that from today the payment option is available for users in 16 European markets.

The list of supported markets is: UK, France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

Press reports last month suggested the UK challenger bank had inked Apple Pay agreements in markets including the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.

It’s not clear what took Revolut so long to join the Apple Pay party.

Customers in the supported markets can add their Revolut card to Apple Pay via the Revolut app or via Apple’s Wallet app. Those without a plastic card can add a virtual card to Apple Wallet via the Revolut app and are able to start spending immediately, without having to wait for the physical card to arrive in the post.

Commenting in statement, Arthur Johanet, product owner for card payments at Revolut, said: “Revolut’s ultimate goal is to give our customers a useful tool to manage every aspect of their financial lives, and the ability to make payments quickly, conveniently and securely is vital to achieving this. Our customers have been requesting Apple Pay for a long time, so we are delighted to kick off our rollout, starting with our customers in 16 markets. This is a very positive step forward in enabling our customers to use their money in the way that they want to.”

Key Vision Fund investors are reportedly lukewarm on a second fund

SoftBank shook up the venture capital world with its unprecedented $100 billion Vision Fund, and the speculation continues around its follow-up.

The fund hasn’t quite closed $100 billion — it is mighty close… — but that hasn’t stopped reports of a sequel from surfacing for the last 18 months. SoftBank has mown through its allocation at speed, dealmaking increased to a record speed in Q1 despite controversy while its hiring has intensified, but the latest chatter suggests that a number of the fund’s key backers are lukewarm at the prospect of a return act.

The Wall Street Journal this weekend reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which anchored the Vision Fund with a $45 billion investment (but also provides the controversy), and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are among those that “plan to make limited or no contributions” to the follow-up vehicle.

Sources told the Journal that a key factor is that many of these funds have disintermediated SoftBank to create their own vehicles that make late-stage investments in a more direct way. That cuts out the management fees to third-parties, and it gives the fund managers total control.

One wonders whether the criticism of PIF, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been strongly linked with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the regime, is part of the equation here. It isn’t mentioned in the report. The Vision Fund’s links to Khashoggi death hasn’t bothered startups offered access to billions, at least those in Asia that TechCrunch has probed over the issue.

SoftBank supremo Masayoshi Son has given the outside world a glimpse at the Vision Fund’s performance, which shows impressive gains on paper, but still the Journal reports that some investors are concerned a lack of transparency. Son pledged to provide a public update on the Vision Fund once per year on SoftBank’s annual earnings day; that’s a move that could provide greater transparency and, in the short term, potentially encourage an IPO for the fund itself, which has been rumored.

The Vision Fund refuted the Journal’s claims, calling them “misleading and even inaccurate.”

In the meanwhile, the Vision continues along at speed. In May alone it backed five ventures: India-based grocery startup Grofers, DoorDash, Germany’s GetYourGuide, lender Greensill Capital and GM Cruise.

Audi works with Fleetonomy to monitor and manage fleet utilization for its on demand program

Audi just completed a trial with Israeli company Fleetonomy as part of a potential wider rollout of the Israeli company’s fleet monitoring and management services designed to improve utilization.

Using Fleetonomy’s tools that provide predictive analytics of fleet utilization, Audi was able to improve the overall efficiency and utilization of its on-demand services.

Audi has always aspired to provide a great experience by advancing through innovation and technology. By taking an innovative multi-service approach, Fleetonomy’s platform showed great success in improving fleet efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs associated with utilization and operation according to fleet constraints,” said Nils Noack, Mobility Strategy, Audi Business Innovation GmbH. “We’re looking forward to exploring further the opportunity to leverage Fleetonomy’s AI-based fleet management platforms and to pushing Audi’s vision of innovative mobility services.”

Car companies around the world are rolling out on-demand or rental programs for their fleets as a way to replace traditional car ownership. Audi launched its on demand program back in 2015 and has a new version, Audi Select, which rolled out in 2018.

Using data from Germany and San Francisco,  Fleetonomy was able to predict demand and move supply of the Audi fleet around to rebalance vehicle availability in real-time, the company said.

“As the industry transforms, automotive manufacturers are expanding their role as providers of on-demand transportation services and are looking for efficient ways to manage their fleets according to dynamic demand and supply,” said Fleetnomy Co-Founder & CEO Israel Duanis, in a statement. “Fleetonomy provides unique fleet management solutions that help fleet operators automate, optimize and manage smart transportation services that meet current and future industry needs. We are very excited to have taken part in this project and are confident that Fleetonomy can positively influence overall efficiency, as well as enhance Audi’s smart transportation management capabilities in the future”.

Late last year, Fleetonomy snagged $3 million from investors including Vertex Ventures, with participation from Kardan Ventures and VectoIQ.

Now the company will look to expand on its success with other automakers as well as deepen its relationship with Audi.

The all-electric Honda e is bringing its side view mirrors inside

Honda e, the compact electric vehicle that’s coming to market in spring 2020, is bringing its side view mirrors inside. The company confirmed Tuesday that its side camera mirror system, which was on the prototype version, will be a standard feature when the car enters production. 

The side camera mirror system includes two six-inch screens, situated on the left and right sides of the dashboard, provides live images of traffic. Honda argues that the tech reduces aerodynamic drag by 90 percent compared to conventional door mirrors for an overall 3.8 percent improvement for the entire vehicle. This, in turn, can help with the battery’s efficiency and range.

The mirrors also improve visibility, Honda says, adding that the camera unit housings are shaped to prevent water drops on the lens. The lens has a water-repellent coating to prevent residual water build up.

You can check out how it works in the video below.

The driver can choose two views, normal and wide, via the vehicle settings. The two views extends the field of vision and helps reduce blind spots by about 10 percent in normal and about 50 percent when using the wide option, Honda claims.

If the driver, puts the vehicle in reverse, guidelines appear on the side view screens. As lighting conditions change, the brightness levels on the interior displays adjust.

Honda also has confirmed that the pop out door handles will be in the production version.

Honda e Prototype

The automaker has big plans for the Urban EV, officially named the Honda e, and more broadly electric vehicles. The Honda e is expected to have a battery range of more than 124 miles and come equipped with a “fast charge” capability that will provide a 80 percent change in 30 minutes.

Way back in 2017, Honda Motor Co. president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo emphasized that the Urban EV wasn’t some “vision of the distant future.”

Honda plans to bring electrification, which can mean hybrid, plug-in or all-electric, to every new car model launched in Europe. The automaker is aiming for two-thirds of European sales to feature electrified technology by 2025.

The production version of the Honda e will be unveiled later this year.  Customers can make a reservation for priority ordering online in the UK, Germany, France and Norway or register their interest in other European markets on the Honda national websites.

Nigeria’s Gokada raises $5.3M round for its motorcycle ride-hail biz

In many large cities across Africa, motorcycle taxies are as common as yellow-cabs in New York.

That includes Lagos, Nigeria, where ride-hail startup Gokada has raised a $5.3 million Series A round to grow its two-wheel transit business.

Gokada has trained and on-boarded over 1000 motorcycles and their pilots on its app that connects commuters to moto-taxis and the company’s signature green, DOT approved helmets.

The startup has completed nearly 1 million rides since it was co-founded in 2018 by Fahim Saleh—a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who previously founded and exited Pathao, a motorcycle, bicycle, and car transportation company.

For Gokada’s Series A, Rise Capital led the investment joined by Adventure Capital, IC Global Partners, and Illinois based First MidWest Group. Coinciding with the round, Nigerian investor and Jobberman founder Ayodeji Adewunmi will join Gokada as co-CEO.

Gokada will use the financing to increase its fleet and ride volume, while developing a network to offer goods and services to its drivers. “We’re going to start a Gokada club in each of the cities with a restaurant where drivers can relax, and we’ll experiment with a Gokada Shop, where drivers can get things they need on a regular basis, such as plantains, yams, and rice,” Saleh told TechCrunch.

The startup differs from other ride-hail ventures in that it doesn’t split fare revenue with drivers. Gokada charges drivers a flat-fee of 3000 Nigerian Naira a day (around $8) to work on their platform. The company is looking to generate a larger share of its revenue from building a commercial network around its rider community.

“We don’t do anything with the fares. We want to create an Amazon prime type membership…and ecosystem around the driver where we’re going to provide them more and more services, such as motorcycle insurance, maintenance, personal life-insurance, micro-finance loans,” Saleh said.

“We’re trying to provide a network of great services for our drivers that makes them stick with us, and not necessarily see a reason to switch to other platforms,” said Saleh.

Competition among those platforms is heating up, as global players enter Africa’s motorcycle taxi market and local startups raise VC and expand to new countries.

Uber began offering a two-wheel transit option in East Africa in 2018, around the same time Bolt (previously Taxify) started motorcycle taxi service in Kenya.

Rwanda has motorbike taxi startups SafeMotos and Yegomoto. Uganda based motorcycle ride-hail company Safeboda expanded into Kenya in 2018 and this month raised a Series B round of an undisclosed amount co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s GoJek.

Safeboda will use the round to further expand in East Africa and Nigeria in the near future, the startup’s CEO Maxime Diedonne confirmed to TechCrunch.

In Nigeria, Gokada faces a competitor in local startup MAX.ng, which offers mobile based passenger and logistics delivery services.

Overall, Africa’s motorcycle taxi market is becoming a significant sub-sector in the continent’s e-transport startup landscape. Two-wheel transit startups are vying to digitize a share of Africa’s boda boda and okada markets (the name for motorcycle taxis in East and West Africa)—representing a collective revenue pool of $4 billion and expected to double to $9 billion by 2021, according to a TechSci study.

“There is a formalization of an informal sector play here…to make it safer and higher quality,” Gokada investor Nazar Yasin of Rise Capital told TechCrunch.

The appeal to passengers is the lower cost of motorbike transit compared to buses or cabs ($1.85 is Gokada’s average fare) and the ability of two-wheelers to cut through the heavy congestion in cities such as Lagos and Nairobi.

A notable facet of motorcycle ride-hail companies in Africa is better organizing a space with a reputation for being somewhat chaotic and downright dangerous (see Nigeria’s past bans on the sector entirely due to safety).

For Gokada that includes training courses and certification of riders, the ability to track trips and safety stats from the app, and quality control for motorcycles—something that’s been lacking in East and West Africa’s non-digital moto-taxi space.

The company’s rider program offers a way for drivers to buy, own, and maintain their motorcycles as they earn. Gokada has entered into partnership with Indian motorcycle maker TVS Motors to create a custom version of the company’s TVS Apache motorcycles for Gokada drivers.

Gokada is also experimenting with adding sensors to its fleet to better track safety standards. “We’re looking at seat sensors and another GPS sensor to track things like ‘did this driver add more than one passenger on the bike’ and all that data will feed back into our servers,” Saleh said.

The company won’t enter any new countries in Africa in the near future. “We plan to expand all over Nigeria. We think its a large enough market for now,” said Gokada CEO Fahim Saleh. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation (190 million) and largest economy.