Picture: Populus

Populus, a San Francisco-based transportation data startup is taking advantage of a hot opportunity: curbs and congestion.  

Populus has continued to ride the micromobility wave and expand into other areas such as commercial fleets, ride-hail vehicles and other new mobility forms like autonomous vehicles.

Its software-as-a-service product, which is now used by more than 100 cities across the U.S. and Israel, collects data on shared fleets like scooters, e-bikes and car-sharing.  

That data is then shared with cities to help planners and regulators understand and manage how streets are used. Cities also can use the Populus API to share information such as restrictions on motorized vehicles, preferred scooter parking areas and information on bike lanes, with mapping platforms and other third parties. 

Clewlow contends the next big, and present-day growth opportunity is with Populus’s curb management feature, which gives cities data on how curbs are used so they can set dynamic pricing and free up congestion. That opportunity is being driven by rising demand for same-day and next-day delivery. 

The company will use an $11 million venture capital raised in a Series A round to scale its existing product as well as its curb management software. The money will also be used to make key strategic hires, said Clewlow, noting that Populus hopes to double its current headcount of 25 people over the next year. 

The round was co-led by Zero Infinity Partners and Climactic with participation from Comcast Ventures and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures. 

The data is particularly important for cities trying to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Populus says its curb management software can steer fleet operators to park in areas that reduce conflict. At the same time, smarter policies backed by Populus’ curb data can incentivize delivery operators to use smaller, more carbon efficient modes of transportation. 

In the future, Populus would like to focus on congestion pricing, which cities like New York are implementing to disincentivise driving in city centers. 

While Populus is mostly based in North America, the startup has reached as far as Tel Aviv, and is pursuing a number of pilots in major European cities, with an eye toward expansion.