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Sustainable travel platform secures £1.2 million funding in race to net zero

Published: Wednesday 08 May 2024

Midlands-based travel demand management platform ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST) has secured £1.2 million in funding, including investment from the West Midlands Co-Investment Fund (WMCO).  

The regional fund, set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the West Midlands Pension Fund, has invested alongside business angels: Giles Fearnley, ex-MD at First Bus, Will Phillipson ex-COO Citymapper, Jeremy Acklam of Venture Innovators; and Ecotricity, the renewable energy company and cornerstone of Green Britain Group, founded by climate change activist turned green-tech entrepreneur, Dale Vince. Its new investors will act as YST’s advisory board. 

WMCO, which is managed by Midven, part of Future Planet Capital, was set up by the WMCA and West Midlands Pension Fund to expand and grow the region’s industries of the future. The fund provides innovative SMEs with equity of up to £1m matched on a 1:1 basis by private co-investment.  

‘You. Smart. Thing.’ addresses sustainable travel solutions for destinations, venues, and live events. It enables them to generate personalised low-carbon travel plans via an intuitive travel assistant interface that suggests alternative travel routes to visitors and details the carbon footprint of each option.  

Attendees of live events often suffer inaccurate travel advice, which causes delays and negatively impacts the visitor experience. This is particularly prevalent for disabled travellers or those in large groups – with 10% of people requesting accessible routes via YST’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games travel assistant deployment. 

Visitor travel accounts for ~73% of the total carbon footprint for live events globally. By capturing data on travel demand, modal choice, routes, and third-party emissions, YST enables venues to enhance logistics and security management, deliver contextually relevant marketing communications, and reduce the carbon footprint of visitor travel. The reporting gives venues clarity of both their travel demand and their third-party ‘scope 3’ emissions. 

For visitors, the service can be tailored to offer bespoke routes and lower carbon modes of transport to specific destinations, venues, events, and performances. The company says this feature is a key aspect of its ability to ‘nudge’ visitors towards net-zero travel. 

Investment into ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ will enable the company to enhance its proprietary "eco-algorithm" - helping local authorities reduce region-wide carbon emissions in line with socio-economic objectives.

The funding will also fuel the company’s growth with key hires in marketing and finance, product management, and software engineering. The sales and marketing team will also be expanded to facilitate international growth and provide 24/7 customer support. 

Empowering guests and venues to make greener decisions around event attendance will help address the UK live events industry’s ambitions to reach net zero by 2050. Venues which use YST have seen an average 30% decrease in CO2 emissions. 

In addition to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ has worked with clients such as the Coventry City of Culture Trust, Transport for Greater Manchester, and the Rugby League World Cup. 
 

Aanisah Begg, Head of Structuring at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “I led on the establishment of West Midlands Co-Investment Fund because SMEs are the lifeblood of our regional economy and it’s clear we must improve their access to finance to support their growth journey. 

"These local businesses will help continue our region’s recovery and I cannot wait to see them succeed. I’m delighted that ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ has become yet another business to benefit from this new fund, and I’m confident this investment will help the business reach more clients and build on the success it has already achieved.” 

The growth of ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ comes after the launch of the WMCO. The fund was launched by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the West Midlands Pension Fund last year to help expand SMEs that offer high-growth potential and the ability to help supercharge the regional economy.

Managed by Midven, part of Future Planet Capital, the fund provides innovative SMEs with equity of up to £1 million matched on a 1:1 basis by private co-investment. 

Huw Sparkes, Investment Manager at Midven, said: "By blending technology with a commitment to sustainability, ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ raises the bar for travel demand management software and takes a bold step towards reducing the carbon footprint associated with visitor travel." 

Chris Thompson, CEO of ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ said: "This investment will propel our mission to revolutionise sustainable travel solutions whilst achieving positive environmental and economic impact. We look forward to leveraging Midven's expertise and support as we continue to scale our operations." 

From L-R: Huw Sparkes, Investment Manager at Midven, Andrew Steele, chief operating officer, Chris Thompson, CEO, and Simon Grieve, Channel Partnerships Director.

From L-R: Huw Sparkes, Investment Manager at Midven, Andrew Steele, chief operating officer, Chris Thompson, CEO, and Simon Grieve, Channel Partnerships Director.

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