Mexico City-based Kolors wants to destroy intercity bus service in Latin America

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Kolors, a Mexico City startup, says its platform, which connects intercity bus riders with bus drivers, is like “if Uber and Southwest Airlines had a baby.”

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Like Uber and other taxi platforms, Kolors does not own its own vehicle, but works with small and medium-sized bus operators that already operate regular services. As with Southwest and other airlines, passengers are coddled by a bus attendant, a Kolors employee who checks passengers in, accepts cash payments when needed, and sells snacks and drinks.

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Similar products are emerging in emerging markets to address what Kolors CEO and founder Rodrigo Martinez calls a legacy industry. In Africa and the Middle East tripz as well as Swvl use the same model for both intra-city and inter-city bus trips, except for the bus conductor. Part of the drive to digitalize the bus industry is because the technology already exists. But as GDP rises in emerging markets, consumer expectations for higher quality products also rise, making bus transportation, the lifeblood of countries like Mexico, an ideal industry to destroy.

“People want more, they demand more for services,” Martinez told TechCrunch. “The new passenger on the bus is millennials and centennials who want better service than the incumbent operators can provide. Companies like Greyhound have been around for over a hundred years and this bought by Flixbus, a nine-year-old startup. It’s all about seeing what technology and data-driven optimization can do for services.”

Kolors Bus Employee Selling Snacks

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During each trip, accompanying Kolors buses check passengers in and offer snacks and drinks. Image credit: Colors

Colors estimates that the intercity bus industry is worth over $100 billion, with potential of $20 billion in Latin America alone. Clearly, major mobility investors are also convinced of the potential of this undervalued industry because the startup just closed a $20 million Series A, bringing its total funding to $26 million. The round was led by UP.Partners with participation from Toyota Ventures, Maniv Mobility, K5 Global and Mazapil, as well as existing investors. Kolors will use the funds to expand its presence in Mexico and parts of the US, and to expand to other Latin American countries, likely starting with Chile.

Most of this funding will go towards improving the company’s technical base, a “smart bus platform” based on a combination of airline and taxi technology to optimize routes, booking, scheduling, pricing, marketing, sales and customer service. , the company said in a statement.

The platform also collects data on what products passengers buy from flight attendants while on board. Martinez says Kolors will also sell “ancillary products and services” as a means of generating various revenue streams, much like an airline would.

According to Martinez, Kolors’ focus is on the customer experience and the touch of luxury. Kolors only works with bus operators who drive tourist or luxury buses with free Wi-Fi. Higher-end buses will feature seats that can fully recline for overnight travel, which is really non-negotiable if you’re on a 30-hour bus ride from Tijuana to Mexico City.

“A bus employee helps us not only provide the best experience for our passengers, but also ensure the quality of every Kolors ride,” Martinez said. “Because, after all, these are not our buses, we don’t hire bus drivers because they are hired by their bus company. But having an escort allows us to make sure every Kolors experience is the same or very similar, no matter who the partner is or which bus it is.”


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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