DC-based Split acquired by Volkswagen-affiliated mobility group – Washington Post

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2017

Ride-sharing start-up Split has been acquired by a Volkswagen-affiliated mobility company, its co-founder said, the latest disbanded ride-booking app to find new life with an automaker’s investment.

D.C.-based Split, co-founded by Ario Keshani, had about 100 drivers and had given tens of thousands of rides when it shut down in October, the company said. The app was popular for its $3 fares and commitment to compensate drivers fairly.

Now MOIA, an urban mobility-focused company under the Volkswagen umbrella, will secure the remnants of the app and roughly a dozen of its Europe-based employees, mostly engineers in Finland, where Split’s software team was located.

Split had accumulated about $12.5 million in capital when it disbanded last fall, Keshani said. At that point, the company shifted to a software-focused venture in Finland, which Volkswagen will now acquire.

Volkswagen and Split were finalizing the deal, believed to be in the millions, this week. It was unknown whether the deal was worth more than Split’s $12.5 million in capital investments, and the terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

“MOIA’s decision to acquire Split validates the thousands of hours we put into our technology and product,” Keshani said in a statement. “I am particularly excited about the fact that the Split technology will be at the center of MOIA’s future innovations around ride-sharing.”

Despite the acquisition, however, Keshani says Split shouldn’t be expected to return to the District anytime soon.

Keshani says the automaker will look to use Split’s routing platform, described as a “decision-making engine” that maps pickups and drop-offs based on the destinations of multiple passengers, to introduce a ride-pooling service in Europe. A news release from Volkswagen indicated the service is being developed for Berlin and Hamburg.

“Split Finland’s pooling algorithm will be an important pillar for our future shuttle offering,” MOIA Chief Operations Officer Robert Henrich said in a statement. “With this Finish team we are acquiring a usable platform that will noticeably reduce the development time for our MOIA software.”

Responding to news of the deal, Keshani hailed his company as a pioneer of true ride-sharing, pointing to its ride-splitting model that grouped passengers headed the same way.

“Split has been an incredible experience. We have consistently worked to stay at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, and we succeeded in building a first of its kind service,” said Keshani, who will be bought out of the company through the terms of the deal. He declined to provide specifics.

With the acquisition, Split joins the ranks of Sidecar, another defunct ride-hailing app that was popular in the District, which was acquired by General Motors last year.

Today a bevy of onetime ride-hailing apps are owned or invested in by automakers who are looking increasingly to join the tech space. General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft in January 2016, eyeing an eventual self-driving vehicle network. Late last year, Ford announced it was acquiring Chariot as it aims to introduce the San Francisco-based minibus service to cities nationwide.

Bridj, a Boston-based vanpool service that operated in the District, shut down at the end of April after negotiations with a large automaker — reported to have been Toyota — fell through. The company’s founder, Matt George, said in an interview this week that he is shopping the software around to potential buyers.

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