Minicabster

London’s Private Taxi Marketplace Apps Move Up A Gear As Kabbee Gets Backed By Octopus, And Just-Eat CEO Invests In Minicabster

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Hailo, the taxi-booking app with a whopping $50 million+ in funding from the likes of Atomico, Accel, Union Square Ventures, and Richard Branson, has been grabbing most of the headlines in London. The service lets you book a fully licensed taxi in various major cities in the U.S. and Europe.

But, as in other cities in the UK, private taxi firms — known as “minicabs” — offer a cheaper, unmetered, alternative to the iconic black cab. Legally these taxi firms can’t be ‘hailed’ from the street and are therefore predisposed to being booked in advance via the telephone (or an app!). Now throw in a marketplace element that lets you get an instant quote from a range of competing minicab firms, along with user reviews and ratings.

That describes the proposition of minicab marketplace apps Kabbee, and Minicabster, both of which are announcing new funding. The private taxi-booking app space in the UK is definitely moving up a gear.

Kabbee has raised a £3.8m Series A funding round led by Octopus Investments (previous backers of property search engine Zoopla, Graze.com, SwiftKey and Secret Escapes). Notably, Simon Nixon, the founder of MoneySupermarket.com, also joins the round — adding a significant amount of marketplace experience to the startup’s investor list. According to CrunchBase, this brings total funding to around $9 million (circa £5.6m).

The additional funding will be used by Kabbee to accelerate growth, including beyond London, and consolidate what it claims is its position as the UK capital city’s most popular minicab app, as well as to further develop its technology and build awareness of the Kabbee brand.

Kabbee’s existing backers include Samos Investments (Betfair, Ocado, Goal.com), Pentland (Speedo, JD Sports, Hunter), Redbus (LOVEFiLM, Lionsgate), Tim Levene (Managing Partner at Augmentum Capital) and Ed Wray (co-Founder of Betfair).

Meanwhile, Minicabster, which currently operates in London, Manchester and Birmingham, has raised £2 million in funding (the round actually closed back in August) from a number of angel investors including David Buttress, CEO of takeout marketplace Just-Eat, Daniel McPherson, founder of Launcha, and Tom Singh, founder of New Look.

I’m also told that Buttress was instrumental in the conception of Minicabster, having first been pitched the idea by co-founder Brooke Pursey at a barbecue shortly before Anycabs, as it was known then, was founded two years ago.

So, just like Kabbee, Minicabster has significant marketplace experience in its investor ranks. In a sense, both startups are applying the Just-Eat model to the minicab space, while issues over trust and safety are also shared.

Comparing the two offerings like-for-like, Kabbee has apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry 10, and lets users instantly compare quotes from 60 leading London fleets and then book and pay by cash, card or pre-paid account. It launched in June 2011 and claims over 250,000 app downloads to date.

Minicabster has apps for iOS and Android, and claims 200,000 “users”, which I’m taking as app downloads.

Another direct competitor is CompareMyFare.