SeaBubbles, the startup that wants to be the Uber of water taxis, was in Paris this week for the Viva Tech conference to show off its prototype and woo regulators and investors. It also released a slickly produced concept video that shows what it would be like to ride in one of the company’s speedy, egg-shaped vessels.
Set to some generic indie rock tune, the video depicts a pair of dapper Parisian business types discussing digital spreadsheets while skimming over the surface of the Seine River in one of SeaBubbles’ hydrofoil-equipped crafts. It’s the same kind of futuristic, frictionless transportation concept that’s being peddled by a variety of startups, from the hyperloop to “flying cars.” It may never come to fruition, but damn if it isn’t fun to dream about.
So far, SeaBubbles has found no shortage of investors that buy into its vision of sleek, Uber-esque travel over the waves. Last month, founders Alain Thebault and Anders Bringdal said they were aiming to raise €20–30 million to implement their vision. This week, Bringdal told Bloomberg that SeaBubbles has already raised €14 million, and was now eyeing €100 million “before the summer.” (Considering summer starts next week, that could prove difficult.)
With that kind of money, SeaBubbles would have no problem achieving its goal of setting up an experimental “pop-up” tour in Paris later this year. “It’s a dock, four SeaBubbles, and it’s open [to the public] for testing to see how it goes,” Bringdal said. Additional pop-ups in the Middle East and the US are also being planned, he added.
Today, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a ride in one of SeaBubbles’ prototype vessels.
The prototype is about 14 feet long and a little over 7 feet wide. It operates on a 20 kilowatt-hour battery and a 2×10 kilowatt motor. The vessel lifts onto its foils at 5 knots, and can achieve a top speed of 14 knots (or about 16 mph).
But there are a number of hurdles for SeaBubbles to overcome. Convincing cities to sign-off on an incredibly low-capacity transportation service — one SeaBubble can carry a maximum of eight passengers, while a municipal ferry can carry almost 200 — seems like one major argument against SeaBubbles. But cities love glossy tech startups promising cool solutions to their transportation woes. It beats actually investing in public transportation.