Traffic lights, like businesses, are mostly about timing. If they don’t sync up, you’re not getting anywhere quickly.
Today, as his 13-year-old company announces CDN$15 million in new investment, Kurtis McBride appears to have a long string of green lights ahead of him.
Miovision, the traffic-tech company McBride co-founded in 2005 to automate vehicle counts at intersections, is poised for substantial growth thanks to a confluence of factors that he might not have foreseen back then.
“When we first started out, we were selling mobility products to governments using wireless networks,” McBride said, adding that some early would-be customers and investors didn’t see the potential in that kind of market. “But all of a sudden we wake up and you’ve got smart cities, you’ve got the Internet of Things (IoT), you’ve got artificial intelligence, you’ve got gov-tech, mobility as a service.
“All of these macro trends are converging and we kind of woke up at the nexus of all of them, with 10 years under our belts,” McBride said.
As a result, Miovision may have the inside track in the emerging race to build, in software terms, what McBride calls the “fundamental architecture for the 21st-century city.”
“If I look out into the five- to 10-year horizon, we see a huge opportunity for us to go out and build that smart-city architecture layer” upon which cities of the future will function, as autonomous vehicles and other trends reshape urban mobility, he said. “My instinct is that there is a race; if it’s not on already, there’s certainly the horses lining up in the gates.”
Helping Miovision to spring out of those gates will be the $15 million in funding announced today, which includes new investors BDC Capital and HarbourVest Partners, along with Miovision’s largest existing shareholder, MacKinnon, Bennett & Co. (MKB), and McRock Capital. The investment, in the form of a convertible note, will give Miovision time to work on increasing its valuation in preparation for raising a large venture-capital round, McBride said.
The new funding will allow the company to expand distribution channels for its TrafficLink product, a software platform municipalities use in a way that that McBride likens to a “smartphone for intersections.” Data collected by TrafficLink allows city governments to optimize signals for better traffic flow, give priority to emergency and transit vehicles and do better traffic planning. The investment will also enable Miovision engineers to develop new use cases for TrafficLink, or apps for that intersection smartphone.
“If you start to think of a city as a data platform now, the application layer that you can build on top of that data platform is pretty exciting,” McBride said. “I think the way that we experience not just mobility services in cities, but just city services in general, is going to go through a pretty exciting transformation in the next 10 years as more and more services can be delivered on top of the data platform.”
Miovision, which raised CDN$30 million in 2015 when it had 75 employees, now employs 150 at its new location in Kitchener’s sprawling Catalyst137 facility, an IoT-themed campus that McBride helped to spearhead. Miovision’s new space has room for up to 300, which McBride expects to reach within the next couple of years.
“We’ll add them as fast as we can find good people,” he said.
Miovision’s smart intersection technology has been installed by more than 100 state transportation departments and municipal agencies in North America, while its AI-based video traffic data collection product has been used in over 17,000 municipalities globally, across 65 countries.
McBride, who makes a point of trying to raise money from Canadian investors, was pleased that three of the four involved in today’s announcement are based in Canada, while HarbourVest has operations around the world, including in Toronto.