GoWithFlow: Scaling ERP platform for sustainable mobility in global transportation markets

CEO Jane Hoffer ©GoWithFlow

Portugal’s CEiiA spin-off leads the way to manage smart transportation systems of cities and corporations to boost fleet performance by reducing CO2 emissions and maintenance costs


Demand for sustainable mobility, including electric vehicles (EV), e-bikes, car-sharing and the whole gamut of related services, will continue to expand rapidly as more commuters switch to eco-friendly transport systems. Many countries, such as the 27 EU members, have earmarked billions-of-dollars to invest in green economy initiatives.

The recent European Green Deal has set overarching targets to achieve net zero-carbon emissions by 2050, with emissions to be cut by 50–55% by 2030. Globally, the smart transportation market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of nearly 19% to reach $225bn by 2024.

The ability to centrally monitor and manage multiple mobility apps and other transport providers is crucial to ensure that public infrastructure is used efficiently to achieve KPIs agreed with local authorities. In 2019, a user-friendly enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for the sustainable mobility sector was launched by Porto-based startup GoWithFlow.

Founded by CEiiA ex-head of sustainable mobility André Dias, GoWithFlow is a spin-off from the CEiiA, Portugal's Center for Innovation and Creative Engineering that developed the sustainable mobility management platform (SMMP). The aim is to help municipalities and companies to collate and compare data to optimize the use of resources.

In January this year, electrical engineer Jane Hoffer was brought in from the US as the startup’s CEO. “The CEiiA's reputation as pioneers in vehicle sharing and electric charging, plus its exposure from participation in many Portuguese and EU programs for sustainability, have ensured that we are known by the relevant people,” Hoffer said in an interview with CompassList in July.

“SMMP is much like an ERP that provides a unified and real-time view of data to enable better planning and therefore savings by integrating across procurement, distribution, HR and others; not just at the fleet level,” she added. “Therefore, we are able to show data from the ground level in EVs and charging stations, at an operational level and also at executive level for planning.”

To date, the startup has received a total of almost €12m through Portugal’s Galp energy group and grants from organizations like the Portugal Carbon Fund, Portugal 2020 Startup investment and EU Horizon 2020 innovation programs. Key customers include Portugal's national water company Águas de Portugal that operates one of the country’s largest corporate fleets and municipalities like Lisbon and Porto, as well as mobility services in the coastal town of Cascais.

Money-saving insights

The SMMP has so far incorporated more than 4,000 charge points used by tens of thousands of vehicles with over 10m kilometers traveled by vehicles tracked by the system. This has cut CO2 emissions by 5,000 tons in the last 12 months, saving over €1m compared to using traditional fleets. The savings were mainly derived from greater fleet efficiency with lower maintenance and fuel costs. Money-saving insights were also obtained from real-time data processing and the mobility ERP system to anticipate demand for vehicles, energy consumption, routes and parking provisions.

“The sustainable mobility platform has three levels of users: the end-user, operations or the backend, and the executive or manager level. The latter has the ability to plan, analyze, control, execute and react as the customer patterns change,” Hoffer said. 

The software can also be integrated into a client’s native system or app, as well as other ERP, HR and CRM platforms. GoWithFlow also wants to expand by partnering with major technology players. "This means that the data we’re gathering is shared with many other systems like ERP so that those in energy management can look at the same information as those in fleet management or procurement,” she explained.

"At the end-user level, whether it’s a charging station or an EV, the platform can be accessed via a multifunctional app on a day-to-day basis. If you are an EV driver, you can find a charging station, start and stop the charge and pay for the transaction,” Hoffer added. “You can also open and unlock a shared vehicle if you’re reserving a vehicle in the fleet, or unlock helmets or the ignition of a scooter or e-bike. Historically, we’ve provided our own white label app as part of rolling out the technology so that it looks like the in-house application of that enterprise.” 

The second level is the back-end user who needs to collate the data for deeper analysis. “Depending on the type of data, it could be an energy manager, a fleet manager, real estate or purchasing personnel,” Hoffer said. An example would be a potential client that is consolidating several corporate locations into one HQ, using data from disparate departments to build a mobility plan to move from leased parking spaces to its own facility. 

“The data collated in real-time and analyzed by GoWithFlow will permit them to see how many charging spaces need to be allocated to EVs and how they can control the queueing system and reservations for those charging stations, amongst many other considerations,” she said.


Helping companies to transition

The executive level is where the planning, analysis and change management will occur. “It’s at that level where we can integrate with other systems like ERPs in organizations too,” Hoffer said. “To look at aggregated data trends and create reports, GoWithFlow provides user dashboards that can be designed for the needs of different executives.” Training is also provided for both the management and line-user levels. The Porto-based team takes care of the data analysis with an account manager to look after each client.

GoWithFlow is not only used for EV fleet management. “Most fleets are not fully electric yet, so we may work with a firm that may only have 10% of their fleets made up of EVs. We can help them through that transformation by identifying which vehicles coming off the lease can be transitioned to an EV based on the route length, payload requirements etc,” Hoffer said.

The SMMP applications are natively built for both iOS and Android and deployed via Oracle Cloud. On the AI and data side, the platform is in the process of being moved to Tableau as its preferred provider. It currently uses an undisclosed preferred partner for the IoT devices.

Target customers include municipalities with a population of around 10,000 or more, companies with their own in-house ERP systems and mid-size to large enterprises with a fleet of over 100 vehicles and/or a turnover of $100m. The company also plans to bid in several public tenders, targeting companies that lease fleets or charging stations.

The business model will be primarily SaaS with pricing based on the type of technology required like energy management or mobility services, number of assets under management and the number of transactions. The company also buys the hardware directly from the manufacturers for each project.

GoWithFlow currently employs just under 50 staff, primarily in engineering and customer support. It is actively recruiting across all areas of the business. “This year, we are focusing primarily on target markets in Iberia. By the beginning of 2021, we intend to establish a beachhead operation in the US because the nation is lagging behind Europe with regard to EVs and charging infrastructure,” Hoffer said. “We believe we can be there early to help educate and develop the EV sector in the US with our expertise."  

A decade of R&D as pioneers

Aerospace engineer André Dias was part of a team of 30 engineers to start creating the SMMP at CEiiA since 2010, the early days of EV technology. The objective was to connect various mobile infrastructure like EVs, charging stations and users to provide real-time insights. The platform also acted as a hub to collect data from the IoT devices used and other transport services like ride-sharing and e-bikes.

“The CEiiA developed the first solution for public charging infrastructure in Portugal to run the charging stations and manage the transactions. This came on top of the design and development of the electronics boards for the charging stations, IoT devices for fleet management and data systems of the stations, the battery level and routes among others,” Hoffer said. 

With ever-increasing interest in sustainable mobility in the EU, and worldwide, it became clear that this technology needed a commercial partner, she added. Portugal's national oil and petrol company Galp was ideal for the technology transfer and acquisition of the CEiiA team including Dias as CTO.

“Long before this company's creation, the technology was already being implemented in vehicles and charging stations under programs from different municipalities and cities to fleet owners across Portugal and even in Brazil on a project basis,” Hoffer said. The groundwork had already been laid and facilitated by impressive funding and existing clients for GoWithFlow from day one of the launch.

Hoffer brings two decades of experience as a founder and CEO of an edtech and a supply chain provider. The latter, Prescient Applied Intelligence, was acquired by the Park City Group in 2009. “I jumped at the offer to develop this company from its Iberian launch pad to make it into a global company," she said. “The role is similar to what I did earlier in my career when I created a supply chain company starting with a set of technologies and building a go-to-market and product strategy and roadmap, sales project management.”

Hoffer  also built the US market for the Porto-based autonomous vehicle data transporter Veniam in 2017 before becoming its global chief business officer. “We have really just come out to the market now for the first time, publicizing ourselves by starting to build the direct sales team as the first part of a go-to-market strategy: Though GoWithFlow the startup is new, our technology has been developed and tested for years,” Hoffer explained. 

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