GetTaxi Grabs $20M from Access Industries, Catches a Ride to New York
An Israeli startup is bringing its Web and mobile app to the United States to help people who are tired of waving, whistling, and dancing around to hail cabs in busy cities. GetTaxi announced today it raised $20 million, largely a follow-on investment from Access Industries, to help put its app to work in New York and other metropolises. The app, already in use in Israel, Russia, and Britain, lets people find and pay for taxis with their smartphones. For passengers with no time to spare, the app could streamline the way they get around town.
GetTaxi, co-founded in 2010 in Israel by Shahar Waiser and Roi More, has thus far raised $30 in total funding. Jing Wang Herman, CEO of GetTaxi USA, heads up the recently established New York-based U.S. headquarters for the company. The service—available in 15 cities outside the U.S.—was introduced in Britain in 2011 and then in Russia earlier this year. “The plan is to establish a global grid,” Herman says. Once the service is in place in the U.S., local users can hire taxis with the app even when overseas. “You can go to London, Moscow, or Israel and be able to use your New York phone and app to book and pay for a taxi.” If users pay for rides through the app, they also do not have to worry about converting currency, she says.
Individuals and businesses that use GetTaxi can put the word out through the app on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices when they need rides. Herman says businesses largely use the company’s Web portal to book taxis. Participating taxi and livery car drivers in the vicinity receive alerts on a GPS-like device that directs them to their fares. The rider receives a confirmation message and estimated pick-up time after the driver takes the job. Passengers can pay with cash, but the GetTaxi service allows the fare to be paid with credit cards assigned to the app and also with Google Wallet.
The service is free for individual passengers to use. GetTaxi draws some of its revenue from dispatch fees paid by the drivers and car fleets that use its platform. Herman says the terms of such arrangements vary by city. In addition to picking up their own passengers, taxi drivers can use the service to put the word out to other nearby drivers if they see large crowds waiting for rides.
Enterprise users pay GetTaxi a per-ride fee for the service, which offers reports on mileage and costs to businesses. Herman says arranging taxis through GetTaxi can also save companies money over hiring other car services. The company has some 400 enterprise customers such as Disney and Google that use GetTaxi overseas to cut down on the hassle of tracking their employees’ work-related taxi expenses. “When you get into a car, it is completely paid for,” Herman says. “You don’t have to keep the receipts to get reimbursed later.”
GetTaxi does have some competition. The CabSense app from Sense Networks analyzes GPS data from taxis provided by the city to help users find prime spots on the street to catch taxis. Other competitors in this sector include Weeels, an app that lets users hire cabs and find others to share rides with, and ride-sharing portal CabCorner.com. Herman believes GetTaxi’s breadth of services sets it apart from its rivals.
With its New York team growing, GetTaxi USA expects to launch its service in the city in the coming months, but Herman would not specify when. The company plans to submit a proposal in response to a request put out by the city’s administration for an official app for hailing taxis. Submissions are due later this month.
Regardless of the results of the RFP, Herman says GetTaxi USA plans to move forward, bringing its service to the American market, initially focusing on midsize to large cities. In addition to New York’s yellow taxis, which do not find fares through a central dispatcher, GetTaxi USA also wants to work with the city’s outer-borough taxis, which may go into service this year outside of Manhattan to pick up passengers from streets and via dispatcher.
Herman says she can relate to the challenge of getting a ride in New York, especially in areas where taxis are less frequent. A city resident for 12 years, she graduated from New York University and worked in investment banking prior to joining GetTaxi. “I lived in Brooklyn for seven years,” she says. “Even in Park Slope, I couldn’t get a yellow taxi. I had to walk eight blocks north to Flatbush to wait for a taxi back to Manhattan.”