Crisis and opportunity in the fast moving mobility business
Once the poster child for all ambitious startups, Uber took a serious blow in June when Travis Kalanick was forced to step down as CEO. The resignation followed allegations that the company was discriminatory and manipulative towards its own staff. Things took another turn for the worse in September, when Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber’s private hire license. TfL, which regulates London’s transport, cited public safety and security implications as justification. Uber challenged the rejection, but current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also wrote an open apology to the people of London. There are certainly those who would like to see Uber fall, but more than 830,000 people have signed a petition in support of the company. One of the biggest concerns is the number of drivers who would be out of job – 40,000, in fact. Either way, there’s no shortage of companies gearing up to take the wheel. But who are they?
Uber’s rival from the very beginning, Lyft (originally called Zimride) was founded in 2007 and reincorporated in 2012 under its current name. Lyft has grown to become a force to be reckoned with, offering services in around 300 cities across the world. The California company was built with the aim of creating a peer to peer transport system that would make cities safer and better connected. Within days of the TfL’s announcement, the regulatory body released details of a meeting with Lyft executives. . . Interesting.
Taxify was formed in 2013 in Estonia and operates in 18 countries in Europe and Africa. In August 2017, they entered into a partnership with Chinese ride sharing company DiDi Chuxing, who also invested an undisclosed amount into Taxify’s growth. The company is now attempting a French invasion, taking on UberX in Paris. They’ve got a good chance of making their mark due to competitive affordability. Taxify is 10 per cent cheaper for customers on average, and takes a cut of 15 per cent from employees. Uber, on the other hand, takes 25 per cent.
Israeli founded taxi app Via first began operating in New York City in 2013, allowing users to share rides with others to make city travel more affordable and reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. This April, the carpool app applied for an operating license in London but is still waiting for the verdict due to rigorous safety and security tests. The company has recently raised $200 million from investors including Daimler, and is now looking to expand into Europe. The company is also in the process of hiring managers in Berlin and Rome.
Hailo, a free app for ordering black cabs, merged with German ride hailing service mytaxi last year to become Europe’s largest taxi app. The company has 10 million users who can order, rate, and pay drivers within the app. Mytaxi supports the established taxi infrastructure in London by working with licensed black cab drivers – unlike Uber, which works with unlicensed employees. In response to the uncertainty over Uber’s fate, mytaxi quickly offered a 50 per cent discount to customers from 5pm on Fridays to 11.59pm on Sundays, until the beginning of November.
Gett was originally called GetTaxi and was launched in 2011. The global ride sharing app now operates in over 100 European cities and is used by more than 7,000 worldwide corporations. Last month, Gett and Citymapper teamed up to launch a new taxi-bus service for London commuters. Users pay a flat rate of £3 to travel on set routes, no matter where they get on and off. There are currently four routes in operation on weekdays from 7am to 10am and 5pm to 8pm. Eventually this service could be used in other global cities, but London’s existing black cab infrastructure provides the perfect testing ground. Like mytaxi (and every other taxi company out there), Gett is keen to establish a strong presence during the Uber license debacle.
Kabbee is a price comparison and booking app for minicabs, comparing quotes from 70 leading London fleets. The service is available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Users can choose whether to pay by card, cash, or prepaid account. Unsurprisingly, Kabbee CEO and founder Justin Peters has written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan to reiterate the dangers of allowing one single, private company to exercise a monopoly over transport.
Although these companies may be making Uber nervous, the Silicon Valley startup is not dead yet. The company has taken tangible steps to reconciliate with TfL and Londoners in general, and has support from major political figures including the British Prime Minister. Even if Uber does eventually lose its license, its global presence is still staggering. Either way, the loss of a major city would be considerably damaging. On the bright side, at least Londoners won’t have to look far to catch a ride.