Fontinalis Closes New $100M Fund Supporting Mobility Startups

When Fontinalis Partners launched its first venture fund in 2009 to invest in early-stage mobility startups, many in the VC world didn’t quite know what mobility was. Defined by Fontinalis as “the efficient movement of goods, people, and services across all modes of transportation,” mobility has come to encompass ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber, autonomous vehicle technologies, and other next-generation transportation products and services that are set to transform the auto industry.

Today, the Detroit and Boston-based Fontinalis announced it has closed a second fund worth $100 million. This new fund, which brings Fontinalis’s total committed capital to $165 million, will continue the firm’s focus of investing in cutting-edge mobility technologies.

“When we first launched, we saw the vision of an increasingly urbanized world,” said Chris Stallman, a principal at Fontinalis. “We saw that people were moving around in different ways and the industry was changing. At first, people looked at us a little funny because there was not much VC investment in the industry.”

What a difference seven years makes. Today, Fontinalis has 20 companies in its portfolio, which includes industry leaders like Inrix, Zagster, and Lyft, as well as smaller startups like Lunar Labs and TransLoc.

“With the success of companies like Uber and Lyft, we’ve seen a lot of really smart entrepreneurs moving into mobility,” Stallman said. “We’re really excited about the acceleration of the market.”

Fontinalis was founded by Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and a group of global experts in financial services, mobility, and telecommunications. The firm scored the capital for its first fund from a variety of large institutions and family offices similarly interested in exploring the growing multi-modal transportation sector.

Stallman said he’s fired up about all of the Fontinalis portfolio companies, but he singled out a few that he thinks are especially worth watching: Telogis, a fleet management system that was recently acquired by Verizon; Turo, a peer-to-peer car-sharing service; Nutonomy, whose team is led by MIT scientists working on software to enable autonomous vehicles; and SmartKargo, creator of enterprise software for air cargo operations. Fontinalis also supports the Techstars Mobility program in Detroit.

Stallman said the metro Detroit region has “woken up to the opportunity here,” with auto companies doing a better job of collaborating with Silicon Valley and other tech hubs around the country. “The auto industry is rethinking how they do business to be more collaborative,” he added. “Fontinalis can serve as a great conduit to motherships here in Detroit.”

In 2016, he said, we can expect to see Fontinalis deploy more capital and work with its portfolio companies to get their products to market faster. Stallman said it’s been gratifying to see the thesis that gave birth to the firm—that mobility was a sector perched on the edge of explosive growth—come to fruition.

“We’re looking for great partnerships and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities ahead for the mobility sector,” he said.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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