22 February 2019 Courier Weekly

One transport app to rule them all

PLUS: Cashless – Soda brands – Startup hubs – Emojis

One city, one app

As taxi, scooter and cycle companies provide alternatives to public transport in cities, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose the best way to get from A to B.

Transport authorities are starting to unpick this problem – and startups are helping them. In Berlin, tech company Trafi has been developing a platform on behalf of the city’s transport authority that will let users pay for cabs, bikes, scooters, trains and buses on a single app.

Meanwhile, in London, Citymapper has launched a payment card which can be used on the city’s transport network and cycle scheme. The company’s ambition is to create a single transit card that can be used in major cities across the globe.

As Transport for London phases out the Oyster card, we’ll be watching to see if Citymapper’s alternative will take off.

Governments against cashless

As more businesses gear up for a cashless future, some city authorities appear determined to make sure coins and notes stay in circulation.

New Jersey and Philadelphia have now both passed legislation to ban cashless stores, while other US states consider doing the same. But it’s unlikely that government legislation could ever halt the demise of cash – particularly as services emerge to provide the unbanked population with credit cards.

Many small business owners view having tills full of money as an unnecessary risk, making them a more likely target for robbery. We previously spoke to Browns of Brockley about how much time and money it saves by not accepting cash.

More than a drinks business

The latest crop of soda brand launches have underlined the importance of having a strong brand identity in the business of selling fizzy drinks.

Unity Wellness has launched CBD-infused drinks aimed at those seeking optimal mental and physical performance. Recess, which offers a similar product, is explicitly targeting itself at the ‘creative classes’ (more on how the founder aims to do that here). La Croix has built a whole narrativearound being the drink of choice for young professionals.

What these upstarts are doing isn’t really that different to the way Coca-Cola has marketed its drinks for decades – with the 2018 rebrand of Diet Coke being the latest iteration of its mission to appeal to 20-somethings.

Unexpected city news

In the UK, cities outside of London may soon see a surge in flexible office spaces. Property company Savills’ flexible working subsidiary Workthere says that while year-on-year VC investment in the UK is down (-10%), cities such as Newcastle (+285%), Cardiff (+52%) and Bristol (+50%) have made significant gains. Plenty of those growing businesses will need co-working and other flexible office solutions to help their expansion.

As the cost of living and doing business in London remains out of kilter with the rest of the UK, it’s likely that businesses will continue to look outside of the capital city for opportunities.

Over in the US, Savills now ranks New York City – not San Francisco – as the world’s top tech city, based on the attractiveness of its business environment, real estate costs and talent pool. Again, this is likely in large part to do with rising property and living costs – not to mention infrastructure issues in the Bay Area.

When emojis end up in court

New forms of communication are increasingly causing legal headaches.

Emojis have appeared in over 30% of US court cases this year, and judges, jurors and lawyers are being tasked with figuring out the exact meaning behind them.

These playful icons are fraught with political tensions. In recent weeks, there have been debates around the usefulness of a period emoji (which could also be interpreted as bloody tears), and calls to increase the diversity of emojis.

It’s estimated that 92% of the world’s online population uses emojis.


Five things on our radar