Rugby legend says he likes being involved in projects which aim to enhance people’s lives
Former Irish rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll and two business partners have invested €400,000 in Irish e-scooter start-up Luna.
Luna uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to improve e-scooter safety.
“I had been looking at the micromobility space for a while,” said O’Driscoll, who is also an investor in e-scooter company Zipp.
“The guys here came to my attention, as did what they were providing — and ultimately the two went hand in hand.
"With every new mode of transport there is first and foremost a nervousness around safety. And when I saw the tech Luna provided, it answered issues before they arise.”
The technology can, for example, identify heavily pedestrianised areas — which could lead to a reduction in accidents. This may provide assurance to city authorities, many of whom are currently assessing e-scooter schemes.
Luna is embarking on a global roll-out of its technology, with projects under discussion in Dublin, New York, Los Angeles, London, Rome, Brussels and elsewhere.
“Some of the data has shown that 60pc of accidents happen on the footpath,” said O’Driscoll. Luna’s technology will alert scheme operators or councils when that is happening, allowing them to take appropriate action.
O’Driscoll said he has two partners joining him in the investment and that he would seek a seat on the board of the company.
“I bring a slightly different skillset to an environment which is quite tech heavy,” he added.
"In any good board environment, you’d bring in different skillsets — understanding how to operate a team well, and thinking sometimes slightly out of the box.”
O’Driscoll said that he likes being involved in projects which can enhance people’s lives — and he believes e-scooters offer sustainable solutions for transport.
“It’s helping people with the ‘last mile’ problem in commuter areas,” he said.
He said he had looked at lots of potential investments, but the ‘stars aligned’ with Luna founders Andrew Fleury, Ronan Furlong and Phil Corrie.
Furlong said: "What got us into this sector was looking at transport in urban environments and the complete lack of sustainability we are all facing now.”
He said that over 60pc of car trips are under 5km. “While e-scooters offer a solution, Luna recognises that safety is a key concern.”
“We’re doing it for the purposes of making the industry more economically, financially and municipally sustainable. Which will then in turn allow us to achieve the climate aims that are associated with micromobility in the first place.”
Fleury, co-founder and chief executive, when asked how to categorise Luna, described it as a “keep scooters off the sidewalk company”.
Furlong added that the company’s technology was the equivalent of the seatbelt or airbag for cars.
“Ultimately, it will becomes the de facto standard — and that’s where we would like to see Luna in a couple of years.”
Luna is working with several e-scooter firms, including a pilot in the UK with a company called Voi, one of Europe’s largest operators. It also has a strategic partnership with Zipp.
Regarding future investments in start-ups, O’Driscoll said that did not have any set timeline for future investments. However, he added that there are a lot of good ideas in the market.
“I think it’s about being patient and waiting for the right thing,” he said. “You’ve got to identify who the frontrunners are and — given the week that’s in it — try to back the right horses.
“If it doesn’t happen in three years, so be it — but three opportunities might happen at the same time. It’s about weighing up all your options and deciphering whether it’s for you or not.”
But to make an investment come together, he said, there has to be a combination of the right idea and the right people.
“If you can add a little bit of value yourself, and a maybe a little bit of finance... there’s nothing like a bit of skin in the game to sharpen your attention and drive it on from your own point of view.”
O’Driscoll is also involved in a fitness platform which has just launched in the UK. He said ideas which were beneficial to people in the areas of health and sustainability appealed to him.
Luna was highlighted last year as a significant safety solution in a report on ‘Safe Micromobility’ by the International Transport Forum (ITF), a 62-country intergovernmental organisation, which is part of the OECD.