Moscow, Meet GetTaxi. GetTaxi, Moscow.
Today, the Israeli-based taxi service GetTaxi launched in Moscow. The company had previously launched in 13 cities in Israel, in addition to London last summer. This most recent launch in Moscow means that GetTaxi now has access to 60% of the available taxi market in Europe between London and Moscow alone. GetTaxi is well on its way of reaching its eventual goal to launch in every major European city.
For those not familiar with GetTaxi, the company takes away the traditional hassles of becoming a taxi driver, while also making the process of getting a car easier for passengers. GetTaxi takes the traditional taxi model of independently owned cars, a dispatcher, and a single phone number, and replaces it with a smartphone app and a custom built dispatch solution.
The way they do this is by providing military-grade hardware to drivers, integrating GPS directions, credit card processing, and passenger information. As opposed to services like Uber, GetTaxi provides the hardware to keep their platform separate from the drivers' smartphones. This means that you'll be getting your car from a real taxi service, not from an adapted Angry Birds machine.
The real question, though, is whether or not this model works. And if the last year is any indication, the answer is yes. In fact, the company has seen close to 200,000 taxi rides ordered, with a 99% success rate in pairing passengers with drivers. This rate above the industry standard in the taxi market, helping to improve the trust between the passenger and the dispatch service.
With a success rate that is only growing, other startups would seize the moment and launch worldwide. However, GetTaxi can't do that, because their typical launch MO is different from services like Uber. GetTaxi hits the ground running in a targeted city and prepares for 60-90 days. They sign up drivers, get the appropriate licenses, and put a local customer service team on the ground. Then, they do a full launch in the city.
This methodical approach does not mean that they are moving slowly, though. Remember, the company is less than one year old. Instead, the company irons out the details of how to launch in a given city, so that in the future it can move faster. Future cities? Yes, future cities.
While GetTaxi originally had the "smaller" goal of covering all of Europe, they are now aiming slightly higher, with the eventual goal of being the worldwide leader in the taxi market. That means having a planned rollout in the United States (shooting for late 2012, early 2013), building partnerships in smaller countries, and franchising out to other companies in areas like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and the Asia-Pacific region.
GetTaxi isn't without its challenges though, and whether it can scale from a multi-region business to a worldwide business remains to be seen. The first major challenge the company will face is the over-regulated taxi market in the United States. With companies like Uber even being forced to change their name, watching how GetTaxi navigates the thousands of sets of taxi-related laws will be interesting, to say the least.
The other major challenge that GetTaxi will face is scaling on a global level. It is one thing to launch in a few cities in Europe but something else entirely to be in every city, in every country, worldwide. That requires an infrastructure that no other taxi company has, and also requires good relations with hundreds of local governments and local taxi services. You can be sure that as GetTaxi grows, other taxi companies will start to try to block their entrance into new markets.
And this explains why the company entered Moscow when it did. In a city that has as many taxi providers as New York has hipsters, GetTaxi provides much-needed relief for passengers. The taxi market in Moscow is very lightly regulated, and what laws do exist are not well enforced. So this means that GetTaxi provides a standard level of customer service for passengers, and a reliable method of acquiring customers for drivers. As far as Muscovites are concerned, GetTaxi is the aspirin to their taxi-enduced headache.
While these are huge problems for them to face in the long-term, for now GetTaxi is just excited about launching in Moscow. Today, GetTaxi's VP of Marketing expressed enthusiasm at the prospect that people immediately started to use GetTaxi in Moscow. Now to make that scale to hundreds of millions of people.