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SA tech firm gets £1,165m in seed funding

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WhereIsMyTransport, a transport technology company born in South Africa, has announced an investment of £1,165-million from Goodwell Investments, together with the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm created by eBay’s founder, and Horizon Ventures, as the first closing of a £2-million Seed Round.
The investment has been secured to fund WhereIsMyTransport’s transit API, which launches today. The API offers a new open information platform which, for the first time, collates transit data for formal and informal (such as demand-based and relatively unregulated) services, and combines it with analytics capability and communication tools.
The journey-mapping capability the platform provides is taken for granted in the developed world, but it has the potential to transform transport in emerging cities where monthly commuting costs can be up to 46% of an individual’s monthly income, and where delays and changes to journey routes are common. The company estimates that transport uncertainty in South Africa alone costs the country $104-billion every year.
The transit API has been built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, to leverage Microsoft’s Platform-as-a-Service solutions, and combines data on formal and informal transportation from static and real-time sources. This means that any transportation mode can be mapped and analysed through the API – whether it’s city buses, metro systems or privately owned buses and minibus taxis.
The platform will support the development of journey-planning applications for websites and smartphones, fare estimators, analytics for more informed infrastructure investment and city planning, and messaging capabilities to help optimise journeys affected by delays and cancellations.
At launch, the platform contains formal transport information for South African cities Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, George, and East London. It also contains the data for the new Dar es Salaam BRT system, and the Cairo Metro. Informal transit modes are being added to the platform, starting with the matatu system in Nairobi, Kenya, with this capability to be extended to other cities and agencies over the coming months.
To date, WhereIsMyTransport has added almost 10 000 stops along 40 000km of routes to the platform, which has involved cleaning and plotting half a million data points. The API is designed to be intuitive (including a developer portal that makes it simple to get started), flexible (to accommodate individual developer needs), extensible (forming a sound base for developers to build on ) and scalable (capable of handling data from tens of thousands of agencies). It is a REST API, built in .NET CORE and uses OAuth 2.0 protocol and OpenID Connect.
Devin de Vries, co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport, comments: “The platform that we are launching today is the first open platform for integrated transit data in the emerging world. It creates a foundation for cities and innovators to bring much needed access and information about mobility to millions of people. It’s also just the beginning for us at WhereIsMyTransport as we work to empower people to get where they want to go.
“We are delighted to welcome Omidyar Network to the WhereIsMyTransport family. Their experience and commitment to the social impact of innovation is inspiring and aligns with our own purpose. We also could not be happier that Goodwell Investments has joined us for another round, and now that we have launched our open transit data platform, we look forward to re-opening the round.”
Dave New, solutions architect and co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport, adds: “We’ve focused intensely on every detail of the platform, its architecture, and its documentation to make it seamless and enjoyable to build on. As developers ourselves, we wanted to solve a significant problem, in a beautiful way. This is only the beginning of an incredibly ambitious project to lay a foundation to connect public transport across cities and countries around the world.
“Having spent over a year tirelessly focused on every detail of our platform, we were obsessive about making this platform flexible and useful in the different contexts our users might find themselves in. Although this is a huge moment for us, we’re already looking ahead to what integrated transport data can enable in the future.”