Access is the new mobility

The MAN Impact Accelerator, powered by MAN Truck & Bus and Yunus Social Business, brings together social entrepreneurs from Europe, South Africa and India who tackle social and environmental challenges through innovative solutions in transport, logistics and mobility.

During the 8-month program, the social businesses travel to mobility hotspots like Mumbai, Cape Town, Munich, Paris and San Francisco. There, they connect with fellow entrepreneurs, get access to a pool of 300+ mentors from MAN, YSB and their joint networks.

Daniel Nowack, MAN Impact Accelerator Lead and Head of Business Development at Yunus Social Business, explained us how the accelerator encourage social changes and shared his insights on future mobility in emerging economies.

An edited version of this interview was first released in Future Mobility World by Openers.com. Download the published version: STATE_OF_FUTURE_MOBILITY-MAN_Impact_ITV (1)

Access is the new Mobility

Daniel Nowack thank you for taking the time for us. MAN and Yunus Social Business recently joined forces to launch the MAN Impact Accelerator, a program encouraging social startups to solve mobility challenges. What is the idea behind this collaboration?

The world faces tremendous challenges in transport, logistics and mobility in the years to come. We will see urban populations surpassing 6 billion people by 2045. Already today, urban areas generate 75% of global emissions. In social terms, the poor are cut off from global markets and opportunities as they lack access to mobility or pay a poverty premium for such services. Therefore, access to mobility is one of the key drivers to alleviate poverty.

We can only solve those problems through new partnerships and innovative, sustainable solutions. At Yunus Social Business, we have run over 20 accelerators with hundreds of social business entrepreneurs in various sectors and industries that tackle these issues. Many of those social businesses struggle with a lack of resources, know-how and network to scale their ventures.

That is why MAN Truck & Bus, specifically its CEO Joachim Drees, is dedicated to not only fund the program but also to provide mentors from its staff, give access to key resources and open up its global network. The selected startups will get to scale their businesses and sharpen their impact on the poor or the environment – be it access to mobility, access to markets or innovative electric mobility.

You received around 80 applications and had the difficult task to only select the eight best innovative concepts. What made the difference?

It is great to see that the program resonates strongly with the startup community.

During the selection, we focused on which of the social businesses we can help the most. Yes, strength of the team, dedication to impact and traction played a role. But in the end, it came down to where we can add the most value – through MAN Truck & Bus, Yunus Social Business or any of the other partners.

The 6-month program will kick-off in January 2018 bringing the selected startups to Munich, Mumbai, Cape Town and San Francisco. Why is it important for the founding teams to explore those four mobility ecosystems?

Yes, it is a key element of the program. The world of for-profit startups has become truly global. It is a community where talking about global expansion and scale has become the standard, almost a requirement.

Social entrepreneurs, on the other hand, often are hyper-focused on their local markets and get very little input from other peers across the world. We have founding teams in the program who never got the chance to travel outside of their country!

So we want them to think beyond their current boundaries, tap the brains of entrepreneurs across the world and learn about other solutions that are similar to theirs or solve a similar problem. We also encourage them to think big. Many of them have incredible solutions that can be easily applied elsewhere. The program lets them explore options to scale their social businesses, and therefore their impact.

Ultimately, we want them to become agents of change and bring back the excitement about social business to their home countries.

Cities like Cape Town or Mumbai are suffering from severe traffic congestion to completely rethink their infrastructure and promote shared mobility. How do you envision the future of mobility in those cities and which actors do you see as catalyst for future mobility solutions?

The sheer size of the challenges we face makes it an imperative that we employ a range of solutions and form new partnerships to tackle the problems. That includes shared mobility, AI, autonomous cars, electric mobility, real-time data, new infrastructure solutions in the vertical space, etc. We will see incredible technological advancements and breakthroughs in many of those areas.

The bigger challenge will be how can we make sure that we do not exclude a major part of our population from the new solutions because they are simply not affordable. How can we make sure that the solutions do not only benefit the privileged few? So it comes down to how we can write the social fiction behind the science fiction.

We believe that the ultimate catalysts for solving these challenges – not just in mobility – are entrepreneurs. They are the creative, visionary minds, the problem-solvers, who see the world how it should be and build what is missing. It is paramount that we support them along their journey so their solutions can impact millions of people.

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