A French talent returns from Canada to create Drivata in Marseille

success story
A French talent returns from Canada to create Drivata in Marseille
23 April 2020 / Start your business

A solution in mobility and AI thought in Toronto, born in Marseille

In July 2019, Marseille organized an economic mission to Canada, with which it has close business ties. In the business megalopolis of Toronto, Thomas Engler, a French expatriate with a degree in finance and a specialist in B2B digital platforms, met with Provence Promotion. The encounter proved decisive. This serial entrepreneur believed that North America was a few steps ahead in the realm of AI-backed mobility solutions, but he dreamed of conquering the European market by developing a cloud-based solution for vehicle fleet optimization. Provence Promotion pointed him to ZEBOX, the CMA CGM incubation and acceleration program in Marseille. Drivata, which had been conceived in Toronto, was born in February 2020. The app will hit the market in late April.

Drivata, which is both a platform and an app for fleet optimization, is about to be launched by Thomas Engler and Fréderic Buhr. The two men, who have known each other for 20 years, choose to deploy their technology in Europe although they did not know exactly where to set up shop.

"Very early on, we envisioned a European company because the mobility market is mature in North America," explains Thomas Engler.

From matchmaking to supporting the move

In the summer of 2019, Thomas Engler had a decisive meeting with Provence Promotion, which was on a prospecting trip to Canada with a delegation from the City of Marseille. "In September, Provence Promotion invited me to discover the ecosystem and local decision makers. I met with the Chamber of Commerce, attorneys and Aix-Marseille University and visited offices," noted Thomas Engler. After that, things happened fast.

He crossed the Atlantic and in February 2020 he founded Drivata in Marseille. He joined ZEBOX, the business accelerator for innovative solutions and start-ups run by CMA CGM at Euroméditerranée ‒ near the port and La Joliette business district. At ZEBOX, partners such as BNP Arval, fleet managers and Ceva (the logistics and transportation subsidiary of the CMA CGM Group) are gamely participating in the roll-out of the beta version of the decision-making solution.

A launch delayed, but already scheduled

Plans have been delayed because of the pandemic, but are expected to bear fruit quickly with a market launch as soon as confinement ends. "The app will be available in late April for Android and in late May for iOS," Thomas Engler announced. It will offer different kinds of services, from quick driving diagnostics to fleet or trip optimization, using no more than a mobile phone, eliminating the need for on-board hardware or consoles.

The company was awarded a grant for €25,000 under the French Tech program. "By the end of 2020, we expect to hire about 12 engineers specialized in vehicle algorithms," declared the business leader. Drivata is planning for 100 or so clients, including 10 major groups, by the end of the year.

On the strength of the sales pitch advanced by Provence Promotion, several Canadian companies have already expanded to Provence, including Mont-Mars, Panaxium, Philomec and Dialog Insight.

Would you like to come back to France to set up your business?
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