Headed by Indian American CEO, Silicon Valley’s newest tech bus is an electric ferry in the Bay

Sampriti Bhattacharyya, co-founder and CEO of Navier. PHOTO: Linkedin.com @sampriti-bhattacharyya

January 17, 2024 — The tech buses that shuttle employees from their homes in San Francisco to offices in Silicon Valley have become a fixture of Bay Area culture. Now, a startup wants to offer a similar service on the water.

Navier, a 4-year-old company, is working on a water taxi service for its electric boats that could ferry people across the San Francisco Bay to their jobs in the city. Its first customer will be payments processor Stripe Inc.

The boats are small, electric-powered and designed to move on hydrofoils above the surface of the water. Seating just six people at a time, the startup’s first journeys will take a handful of Stripe employees from Larkspur, California – about 9 miles, or 14 kilometers, north of San Francisco – to a dock near the financial technology company’s offices in South San Francisco.

Navier will start its pilot program with Stripe in March, with one boat set to make one round trip per day. Navier Chief Executive Officer Sampriti Bhattacharyya hopes the partnership will serve as a case study for improving commute times in congested coastal cities, where “46% of the world lives.” The challenge is that the use of high-speed boats is still an underutilized and expensive form of transportation, she said.“The two key problems we address are the operational cost and ride quality. How we do that is electric and hydrofoil” technology, she said Wednesday in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Though it’s early days for the company, Navier has already hosted some high-profile patrons as passengers. Elon Musk and the musician Grimes have both taken the boat for a spin. And the startup’s investors include high-wattage names such as Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Android co-founder Rich Miner as well as the singer Will.i.am. The company has so far raised $12 million in seed funding.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Navier in their novel, zero-emission approach to water transportation,” said Pam Van Stavern, Stripe’s head of global real estate and workplace.

Navier, based in the Bay Area suburb of Alameda, isn’t the only startup working on electric boat technology. Other companies vying for investor dollars include the Los Angeles-based Arc Boat Co., which raised $70 million last year.

Eventually, Navier aims to build larger boats, and is working on a model that can seat up to 30 passengers. The company also wants to expand its routes to include Bay Area cities Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Sausalito.

As it grows, the startup will work to add more corporate customers to its pilot water-taxi program, including expansion to cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle and, eventually, looking outside the US, Bhattacharyya said.

Over the last year, Bhattacharyya has focused on talking to government officials and transportation agencies in coastal cities like Boston, New York City and San Francisco. Navier spent last year doing test runs and demonstrations around the country, helping the startup understand how people could actually use its boats. “It’s important to be on the ground,” Bhattacharyya said.



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