Xee shows off French prowess in connected cars
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Xee (screenshot)

Nestled in the northern French startup-happy ville of Lille, Xee is hoping to become the European smart car app of choice

It’s happened to the best of us. Our headlights stay on all night and drain the battery. We are going to be on time to work but realize too late we need to detour for fuel. We’re lost in the parking lot and spend 10 minutes looking for our cars.

One founder imagined a world where a single app could integrate his car’s diagnostics, location, and security. It’s the vision of Xee CEO Yvan Gravier, the flagship product of French startup Eliocity.

Xee's solution alerts emergency contacts in the event of an emergency (video snapshot)

Xee’s solution alerts emergency contacts in the event of an emergency (video snapshot)

The app remotely controls your car anywhere and anytime. Owners receive push notifications for unlocked doors, near-empty gas tanks, unlocked brakes, GPS positioning: you name it. In the event of a breakdown, the app will also send text messages to emergency contacts.

But their plans are much more expansive than that. As they say on their site, today it’s safety and monitoring, but “tomorrow, eco-driving and monitored car sharing.”

The company has won several recognitions, including sweeping the innovation categories at the northern France tech event “Arènes de l’Innovation” in Nord Pas-de-Calais, but Xee is hardly alone in the industry. The three biggest competitors they’ll face as they expand are Mojio, Zubie and Automatic. Mojio brought in $8 million in Series A in March and is a jewel in Vancouver’s startup ecosystem crown. South Carolina-based Zubie has raised just short of $20 million total while Automatic last scored a $24 million Series B funding round in June. There are plenty of others though, like Dallas-based Vinli and German app High Mobility.

Xee’s app works with most models after the year 2000, with some exceptions on certain features depending on the make and model. It’s a limitation its competitors face as well, which can only be worked around so much. Just like its competition, they’re trying to build an open network for app development.

The young company’s ambition is to create the first open data ecosystem for connected vehicles. They’ve participated in several hackathons, hoping to help jumpstart their smart car ecosystem with several new applications based on Xee’s technology. If that sounds a bit like how Salesforce is encouraging other companies to build their products on Salesforce’s software, you might be on to something. Most recently, the two were co-sponsors of Mobile Banking Factory alongside Uber, Orange, Crédit Agricole, PSA Peugeot Citroën, and Zenpark.

They already have a working agreement with Italian accessory and repair conglomerate Norauto to provide 100,000 patented XeeConnect boxes to the company.

Gravier tells Geektime, “We started with France and now do business with European clients and keep on expanding on this market.” His company’s strategy is primarily focused on the European market, so American companies need not fret as potential rivals — for now.

But R&D needs to keep up. For Eliocity’s Xee suite of apps, that means ensuring the apps are fine-tuned and abundant. Part of their strategy is partnering with other startups to add apps to the company’s automotive app store, while making sure Xee’s API is easy to work with to allow that to happen.

Lille, the quiet tech hub lighting up northern France

They are a product of the Via-ID smart vehicle accelerator in Lille, France along the French-Belgian border. They are joined by seven other companies spanning the sharing economy and connected cars. Paris-centered, ride-hitching app Heetch, peer-to-peer car rental marketplace Drivy, urban e-commerce site Altermove, e-bike fleet operator Green On, e-bike marketplace La Bicyclette Electrique, after-market bike-sharing company and portmanteau champion Smoove, and car-hiring service for the unlicensed MovingCar.

Lille itself has been an off-the-beat-in-path tech hub for a few years. In 2012, local working and networking space EuraTechnologies was already home to over 100 startups. The region’s other centers highlight Lille’s prowess in IT and digital design, such as design incubator La Plaine Images, design campus La Serre Numérique and audiovisual research hub Arenberg. It also hosts the northern French arm of the national computer science research foundation Inria, where they have a declared focus on IoT, patient modeling and human/machine interaction.

That combination makes it “a very dynamic place for innovation,” says Gravier, perfectly suited for the needs of the young company. “With many startups, a strong university background and a retail-based industry background as well as automotive and digital tech activity,” they’ve been able to find strong connections and get Xee to market in June 2015.

Eliocity was founded in late 2011 by Stephane Derville and is now run by CEO Yvan Gravier. They maintain their headquarters in Lille, France and employ 30 people. They’ve already raised €10 million through Series A, with their accelerator Via-ID holding the majority of the equity in the company.

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