Alibaba acquires stake in Israeli transportation start-up

Optibus plans to use the finance injection to drive future product innovation and expand into both new and existing markets.

Alibaba Group co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma speaks at The Prime Minister's Israeli Innovation Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel October 25, 2018. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Alibaba Group co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma speaks at The Prime Minister's Israeli Innovation Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel October 25, 2018.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Tel Aviv-based public transit optimization start-up Optibus announced the closure of a $40 million Series B financing round on Wednesday, led by Insight Venture Partners with a strategic investment from Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group.
Optibus, which uses artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms to improve mass transportation operations and rider experiences in more than 300 cities worldwide, plans to use the finance injection to drive future product innovation and expand into both new and existing markets.
Existing investors, including Verizon Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, New Era Capital and Egyptian-born British businessman Sir Ronald Cohen, also participated in the funding round.
“Every city on the globe runs a multi-million to multi-billion dollar mass transit service, yet the operations rely on outdated software and manual practices to plan, optimize, and run transportation,” said Amos Haggiag, co-founder and CEO of Optibus.
“This wastes resources and delivers poor passenger service. On the other hand, rapid innovations in urban mobility are pushing transportation providers to modernize, and Optibus creates the technology infrastructure that can ensure better performance from the passenger’s point of view.”
The Optibus platform creates an operational plan and schedule that orchestrates the movements of every vehicle and driver in a city-wide transportation ecosystem, choosing the best options available to transit operators and agencies, and ensuring better passenger service with lower operating costs.
Employees of Tel Aviv-based public transit optimization start-up Optibus. / OPTIBUSEmployees of Tel Aviv-based public transit optimization start-up Optibus. / OPTIBUS
The company counts some of the world’s largest transportation providers among its customers, including Keolis, First Group, Transdev and RATP Dev.
Since announcing the closure of $12 million in funding in November 2017, Optibus has expanded its presence in North America and Europe. The company has also witnessed an increase of 400% in sales growth.
“Dynamic transportation planning and operation will play a major role in enabling the future of transportation,” said Ross Devor, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners.
“Deploying autonomous or electric vehicles into large fleets or integrating new modes of mobility into existing service are essential tasks that require a unique technology stack. The Optibus platform can handle those complexities at scale, and we’re looking forward to working with the Optibus team to leverage the momentum and help bring real innovation to the market.”
Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group, has visited Israel twice this year. In addition to Optibus, his company has invested in several Israeli start-ups since 2016, including cloud-connected dashcam developer Nexar, advanced GPU data warehouse providers SQream Technologies, augmented reality companies Lumus and Infinity Augmented Reality, and e-commerce search engine firm Twiggle.