Citymapper claims that it has quietly raised money from new investors, amid reports that it is looking for a buyer.
Omid Ashtari, Citymapper's president and head of business, told CNBC that the company has "raised a round of capital" from external investors but he refused to be drawn on the amount, who the new investors are, or when the round was raised.
"We can't share specifics about our new investors at this time," he said.
Ashtari's comments came after two former Citymapper employees told CNBC that the start-up was forced to turn to existing investors for capital last year after failing to bring on new investors for a series C round in 2018.
Citymapper denied this was the case.
"They had some more money in from existing investors but not a formal round," said one former employee, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of the issue.
Another former employee, who wanted to remain anonymous for the same reasons, said: "It was mentioned in a team meeting last year that money had been raised from existing investors, in response to a question about why we weren't doing another big funding round."
The urban navigation app, founded by former Google employee Azmat Yusuf in London in 2011, was planning to raise money on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in April but it decided to postpone due to the coronavirus, according to the same former employee."Azmat was aware of the fact that asking consumers for money in the midst of a pandemic and a recession was not a good look," they said.
Citymapper's app provides transportation options for 42 cities worldwide including London, New York City, Moscow Boston, Seattle, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong and Melbourne. The app consistently appears in the top 10 free navigation apps in the App Store and the Google Play store.
In 2018, Citymapper was hoping to raise between $10 million and $25 million in the series C round, according to a London-based venture capitalist with knowledge of the round who wished to remain anonymous because the talks were confidential. "I don't think anyone wanted to invest in them because they have no business model," they said.
Another VC said: "I don't think there was any interest in the C."
It's unclear exactly how much Citymapper raised from its existing investors last year but the figure could be in the order of several million pounds.
Documents filed on Companies House, the U.K. business register, show that Citymapper issued hundreds of new shares to investors across March, May, and August last year.
Citymapper raised a $10 million series A round led by Balderton Capital in 2014 and a $40 million series B round led by Index Ventures and Balderton in 2016. At the time of the series B, it was valued at around $325 million, according to reports.
Balderton and Index declined to comment.
Citymapper has not had a clear and obvious revenue stream for much of its life. However, it has experimented with several products over the last few years including a "smart" bus service and a "Citymapper Pass" that can be used to access transport across London.
The bus service — known as Smartbus, then SmartRide, then Ride — was launched in 2017 and terminated in 2019, while the Citymapper Pass lives on.
Citymapper's most recent company accounts show that it has racked up losses in excess of £20 million.
"The company intends to raise additional funds to continue its growth and enable the company to meet its liabilities as they fall due, and given the history of past fundraising the directors are confident that this additional fund raising can be successfully achieved," its accounts for 2018 said.
Citymapper was exploring a sale earlier this year, according to a Sky News report that said it had engaged advisors from Raine, the New York-based merchant bank.
"They missed the window to sell," said a tech investor that didn't want to be named because they're friends with some of Citymapper's investors.