By Douglas Busvine
BERLIN (Reuters) – Transport app FlixMobility reported on Thursday a 37% increase in passenger numbers last year, as Germany’s best-funded tech startup claimed the mantle of the world’s biggest provider of intercity bus services.
FlixMobility, which runs an Uber-like app while partnering with private bus and train companies, carried 62 million passengers in 2019, when its growth rate slowed slightly from the 40% seen in 2018.
The company, launched in 2013, attracted the largest funding round to date by a German startup last July, raising around 500 million euros ($556 million) from investors led by TCV and Permira, valuing it at more than 2 billion euros.
“In just seven years, we have managed to become the largest bus provider in the world, with more than 400,000 daily connections,” said CEO Andre Schwaemmlein, who founded the firm with partners Jochen Engert and Daniel Krauss.
Best known for its green FlixBus intercity coaches, the company last year expanded into Ukraine, also acquiring Turkey’s leading bus provider Kamil Koc and European long-distance coach service Eurolines. It is now present in 30 countries.
FlixMobility launched coach services in the United States in 2018, challenging the veteran Greyhound brand, and now serves 100 destinations from coast to coast.
FlixMobility’s backers include Holtzbrinck Ventures, the European Investment Bank, General Atlantic, Silver Lake and German carmaker Daimler.
Daimler has also teamed up in a mobility venture with BMW, called FREE NOW, that offers a range of services ranging from taxis and ride hailing to car sharing. The FREE NOW platform achieved turnover of 2 billion euros last year.
Although FlixMobility does not report financials, Engert told Reuters last year that it was profitable in its mature markets, making it possible to break even overall as it expanded into new territories.
It has identified India as a potential target market and started recruiting there, a company spokesman said, but no decisions have yet been taken to launch in the country of 1.3 billion people.
The company is expanding its FlixTrain service in Germany and plans to launch rail operations in Sweden this year, the company said in a statement.
Car pooling platform FlixCar went live in France at the end of 2019 – taking on local startup BlaBlaCar, with more launches to follow.
($1 = 0.8987 euros)
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)