What is Helbiz?
Helbiz is an international transportation company, specializing in ride-sharing rentals. It’s headquarters is in New York City, with three additional keystone offices in London, Milan, and Serbia. They’ll be using they’re own cryptocurrency, HBZ, to incorporate with their products. Here’s the team’s description of HBZ:
“HBZ is a cryptocurrency and blockchain based transportation ecosystem to seamlessly offer transportation globally from scooters and cars to tolls and international flights through a partner network with ease, full transparency and data protection.”
In early 2018, when ICOs were still plentiful and trendy, Helbiz promised to bring crypto to the transportation industry. The company raised about $38.6 million during the sale. Today, the market cap for HBZ is roughly $400,000. So, what happened? What progress has been made? And what’s coming up?
The hype surrounding this project quickly faded for three primary reasons: investor impatience, unanticipated business delays, and FUD. Initially this project was touted as being primarily geared toward car-sharing. It turned out that setting up an international car-sharing business was difficult in more ways than the team expected. Frustration from investors built up quickly and this was reflected in the price. This strategy changed later in 2018 to initially launch E-scooters, a much simpler product.
The team just recently launched scooter rentals in Milan, Italy. More cities are close to launch. And the team is currently testing other products.
Is Helbiz legit?
Yes. The CEO, Salvatore Palella, has a proven track record and is relatively well known and very visible. He created and ran several successful businesses. Most notably, he started a vending machine company called Witamine, which grew to have over 1,000 employees. He sold that and started Helbiz not long after. Also, considering visibility, he is engaged to Sports Illustrated model, Samantha Hoopes.
The company has invested in buying physical product, leasing offices, and has over 80 employees currently. Additionally, there’s been an abundance of favorable news coverage from independent reputable sources including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Nasdaq.
Helbiz team visiting Nasdaq. Feb 2019.
What products are being offered and what’s upcoming?
Helbiz launched E-scooter rentals several months ago in Milan. There are plans to expand availability to other cities throughout Europe, Singapore, and the US.
This is the car-sharing product. A pilot is currently running in Hong Kong with a test fleet. Unlike many other car-sharing services, the customer doesn’t actually need a key to access and start the vehicle. Anyone wanting to participate as a supplier (someone who rents out their vehicle), is given an easy-to-install device to attach to their car. This allows the customer to find the car they want, pay to rent, unlock, and start the car, all from the app. It’s seamless and negates the inconvenience of having to meet with the owner to obtain the keys.
Helbiz is currently experimenting with drone taxis in Antigua Barbuda. This is a fairly new product/service in the transportation industry.
This was initially considered as Helbiz’s primary product, aside from car-sharing. However, the team’s plans changed and decided to focus on E-scooters. Bike rentals are still in the company’s plans, but when is TBD.
Like several other projects in the crypto space, Helbiz is aiming to make their token useful for making payments in everyday life They’re expecting to release an HBZ-Visa card later in 2019.
The app has been updated several times over the past few months, when it was first released. It was just updated again on March 11, 2019. As of now, it allows you to make payments via credit card, locate scooters using GPS mapping, and refer friends. In the latest update, the ability to purchase and use HBZ tokens was added. There are also plans to add external payment options, making it similar to Apple Pay. Once the car and drone taxi segments of the business are ready, they will be incorporated as well.
How is cryptocurrency incorporated into the product?
In order to rent any of the vehicles, customers have to utilize the Helbiz app. Currently customers can pay directly via credit card. Additionally, it integrates the HBZ token and allows users to buy HBZ tokens directly from an exchange through the app. To incentivize customers to use the tokens, Helbiz offers a 50% discount on all rides paid for with HBZ.
Helbiz has built its own exchange, Babylonia, which is set up to directly tie into the app. Crypto-clueless customers will be effectively buying tokens on the exchange without even realizing. As long as the business is successful and grows, there will be constantly growing demand for HBZ.
The team has plans to move to its own blockchain in the foreseeable future. They expect this to allow them to expand on their capabilities and products.
According to an article published by CNBC in July 2018, Helbiz’s two biggest competitors, Lime and Bird, have a combined value of $3.1 billion. Additionally, a US-based blockchain E-scooter startup, Spin, was raising $125 million to launch. It’s estimated that the E-scooter industry generates more than $1 million per day in revenue in the US alone.
I did a fair bit of research for this but wasn’t able to find any concrete numbers. However, all sources indicated a global valuation in the range of $2-$5 billion currently and the outlook is very positive.
Since this is in its infancy, there is little data available at this time.
*The team has promised a top five exchange relatively soon.
Challenges for Helbiz and HBZ
Helbiz has entered a space with established competitors for its two main products (E-scooters and cars). This presents a direct obstacle, as Helbiz will have to fight for market share.
The company is offering physical products, which is fairly unique in terms of crypto. Since the public is involved, there’s heightened risks requiring insurance, licenses, and permits. Getting all of this figured out in multiple countries and cities can and will take time. Meanwhile, developing software, purchasing product, and testing their products is far more time consuming than your standard software product.
Cars and drone taxis are slick and cool. But scooters, the only live product currently, just aren’t sexy. Many potential HBZ investors see “scooter”, laugh, and move on, without recognizing the long term potential.
HBZ isn’t being marketed like a traditional cryptocurrency. In fact, the company is focusing the majority of its resources on marketing the product to the general public. This is the right move for the business, but recognition from the crypto community is suffering. This is more of a short term issue.
Currently the company only has live product in Milan, Italy. A large portion of recent ads are oriented toward Italian customers. This should be a short term issue, as the team plans to expand to other countries soon.
The potential for Helbiz was quickly realized and then quickly forgotten. But, ultimately, it appears that the team is working hard and the business is growing. The team has made it a priority to advertise to the public in their local markets and are adapting their business strategy as needed.
This is unlike the majority of crypto projects, in that it isn’t purely software-based and it will seamlessly incorporate token purchases from users.
Team Members To Note
Salvatore Palella, CEO
Carlos Beltran, Lead Developer
Helbiz Site: helbiz.com
Helbiz Twitter: @helbizofficial
Token site: hbzcoin.com
HBZ Twitter: @HBZcoin
HBZ Token Specs
Token Type: ERC-20
Total Supply: 1,005,250,000
Circulating Supply: 782,301,957
Market Cap: $400,000 (approx.)
Plinko got into crypto in 2017. He spent some time working in banking before moving into tech and currently works as a software analyst. He’s a casual investor and usually takes an FA-heavy approach to investing. You can find him on Twitter here: @cryptoplinko
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