EV fleet management start-up Synop paves its way to $10 million starting round


When it comes to moving the transportation industry to EVs, commercial fleets are probably one of the least pending fruits. More often than not, they have consistent routes, reserved off-hours parking, and cost a lot less to drive and maintain.

But for many commercial operators, EVs are still a wild card. Gagan Dhillon and Andrew Blejde co-founded Synop to minimize the unknowns and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in commercial fleets. In an exclusive partnership with TechCrunch, the company today announced a $10 million seed round led by Obvious Ventures and joined by Wireframe Ventures, Congruent and Better Ventures.

“The electrification of transportation is a huge undertaking, especially for companies with large fleets,” said Andrew Beebe, director of Obvious Ventures. “Synop addresses the biggest, hidden infrastructure barriers for businesses looking to seamlessly make and manage that transition.”

Fleet managers, Dhillon and Blejde found, have many questions to answer before switching to EVs. “How do you extend the life of this vehicle, of this property? And how do you operationalize the day-to-day practice of that asset? Where should it be? What time should he charge? How long does it take to charge front and back?” said Dhillon. “That’s all orchestrated through the Synop platform.”

One of the company’s first customers is Highland, a Beverly, Massachusetts-based electric school bus fleet, which raised a $253 million Series A round in early 2021. The company offers bus fleets through a subscription model that includes charging infrastructure, operational electricity and maintenance. Synop has partnered with Highland to optimize loading and routing.

But it won’t just be school buses on Synop’s platform. Dhillon and Blejde design their software to work with virtually any vehicle type and manufacturer. “We want to build something that is vehicle class agnostic, so from class 2 to 8 on the commercial vehicle side,” Dhillon said. “We also want to build something that is use case agnostic. You can bring an electric semi to Synop for use in drayage – we have people bringing electric garbage trucks, which is really surprising.”

The company is also working on a feature to manage vehicle-to-grid or V2G connections. EVs have long been seen as a potential asset for grid operators, which they may have to pay dearly to gain access. Grid-connected EV batteries can help stabilize the flow of electricity in the event of equipment failure or power line failure, giving grid operators time to respond with more sustainable solutions. They can also help to absorb peaks in demand. All this gives fleet managers the opportunity to monetize their assets when they are not in use.

But no one who owns an EV, especially fleet managers, doesn’t want to wake up to find their vehicle’s battery is dead when they need it most. “Our software will help you as a fleet manager to optimize when you need to push [electricity] back [to the grid] because you don’t want to discharge your battery at 4 a.m. and then have no charge status for a route you should be walking at 7 a.m.,” Dhillon said.

Blejde said Synop collects and analyzes data to optimize the use of electric vehicles in different fleets. But it also keeps a customer’s data separate if they request it.

Synop can also help fleet managers decide which routes are ripe for electrification. “Give me 100 of your routes, and then let’s figure out the road map to electrify them,” Blejde said. “We record the data, we look at the route, we can give a confidence interval for how electric it is, and then give that answer to customers [to] get their vehicles on board and help them get them operational.”

The goal, Dhillon said, is to help electrify and manage commercial fleets so that operators can realize all the potential cost savings that electrification can provide.

“Most of today’s competition is building a very vertical approach where they just want to go into it with their products and don’t support interoperability,” he said. “Ultimately, we feel like the big opportunity in this space is that someone is creating some sort of this neutral software layer for commercial electric vehicles and chargers.”

“We’re trying to position ourselves as you know, for lack of a better term, the plumbing of this industry,” Dhillon said.