AA Canadian app developer focused on removing mobility barriers for people with disabilities and seniors is launching its first commercial deployment in West Michigan.
Based in Montreal MOVE — which has developed a mobile app that lets users book accessible transportation on demand — previously partnered with a southeast Michigan transit service, but chose Grand Rapids to start business operations in Michigan.
“If we can drop anchor in Grand Rapids, we’re going to give Grand Rapids all of our love and attention and try to build this community in the most thoughtful way possible,” said MUVE co-founder and president Peter Grande. .
Grande and his team tapped local entrepreneur Thomas Sikkema as the company’s community team leader for Michigan.
Sikkema brings a unique perspective to the role. Not only is he the founder and CEO of a wheelchair and ambulatory transport company based in Grandville Ride Your Way LLCbut nearly a decade ago he also battled a rare type of brain cancer.
During this fight against cancer, Sikkema experienced firsthand the mobility issues inherent in the healthcare system.
“Thomas is very impressive. … For us, culture is hugely important – the culture of accessibility was something that we really emphasized,” Grande said. “I would rather have someone who I can teach the market to but (who) has the empathy already built in who already knows what the other side is going through.”
On the Muve
Users in Grand Rapids and beyond can download the MUVE app as the company strives to create a two-way market in the region that involves users with a wide range of accessibility needs and the transportation services that can answer it.
While the app is live, Sikkema said users won’t be able to start booking rides through it until the end of the month or early June.
MUVE is working on onboard transportation services so users can book through the app. The app allows the user to specify their accessibility and support needs.
Unlike traditional medical transportation services, MUVE connects users to modes of transportation to take them anywhere – not just doctor visits or other healthcare destinations. And, according to Sikkema, it fills a crucial void left by public transport and popular ride-sharing services.
“You look at typical ride-sharing providers like Uber and Lyft, they have a super easy platform to plan a ride, but they fall short in a few different categories,” said Sikkema, who is also a registered nurse. “Customer service and then it’s obviously not wheelchair accessible. You also don’t get the community building component like with what we do.
The app also provides a tagging feature where users can enter accessibility information for area businesses and community destinations.
Grande and Sikkema said the app is designed to overcome the two main barriers to mobility that stand in the way of older people and people with disabilities: accessibility and cost.
“Cost and price is always a barrier, so we’re really aiming to find the efficiencies that can lower those costs,” Grande said. “It’s expensive to have a disability. Often they don’t move because of the cost and that defeats the purpose.
Providing access to transport via a mobile app can be convenient, but the duo also acknowledged that the learning curve associated with it can be a hindrance.
“There will always be a learning curve no matter what type of software you launch,” Sikkema said. “MUVE has created a very user-friendly platform. … The planning platform is also quite easy to use.
“What we’re really focusing on now is creating an educational component behind it to really empower people and give them confidence that the app is easy to use and they’ll be able to do whatever they want to do,” he added.
MUVE’s international debut in Michigan was intentional after the state played a role in helping the company grow and develop its idea.
Founded in 2017, MUVE was recognized as a startup to watch at the 2018 National Shared Mobility Summit, where representatives from Michigan were in attendance.
This led MUVE to participate in the Michigan Mobility Challenge, a 2018 grant initiative aimed at closing key mobility gaps for seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans statewide. MUVE was one of 13 companies selected to receive a grant.
MUVE also partnered with Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE) last year to create an app that books online reservations for door-to-door bus services. The app also provides real-time tracking of fixed-route vehicles and electronic payment capability.
MUVE and WAVE received a $125,000 grant from the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform in September 2021 to deploy their technology.
“These grants secure a foundation for mobility businesses across the state that builds on our reputation as a world leader in testing and deploying future mobility solutions, but also creates a pathway to growth and future jobs. right here in Michigan,” Governor Gretchen said. Whitmer said last year in a statement announcing the funding.
Now, MUVE is continuing its efforts to expand statewide, starting with Grand Rapids.
“We’ve always had our eye on Michigan,” Grande said. “We felt there was always a head start in the mobility space.”