When it comes to the emergent world of on-demand transportation, Lyft and Uber have been capturing the lion’s share of headlines of late, seemingly deadlocked in a race to become the clear “market leader” in a hot space that’s rife with competition. Of course, with startups like Hailo and SideCar and riding the same rising tide, there are more than a few startups looking to throw their name in the hat.
However, another European on-demand car service is finding investors more than willing to bet on its own fast-growing business, as it, too, follows Hailo into the U.S. market. Already operating in over 20 cities across the U.K., Russia and Israel, GetTaxi opened its doors for the first time in the U.S. in August, looking to take on Uber and others by providing New York City passengers with a low-cost black car alternative (or “G-Cars”).
As part of its expansion into the U.S., and in effort to differentiate itself from the pack, GetTaxi has taken on a new look since August. For starters, it’s rebranded its U.S. branch and is now operating under the brand Gett at Gett.com. Secondly, although NYC has cleared the way for “e-hail” taxi services after fighting them tooth-and-nail, Gett has decided to opt against offering a taxi service in NYC and go full-in on black car.
According to co-founder and CEO Jing Wang Herman, it became apparent that, in spite of the efforts of services like Hailo, yellow cab-like on-demand services in New York City just don’t make sense. At least not yet. The proliferation of yellow cabs in the Big Apple has meant that too many drivers found that passengers weren’t showing up because they were able to find a ride on the street first.
So, after opting against launching a cab service in NYC, Gett has decided to take on Uber and many others operating “black car” businesses by focusing on offering pricing that’s both predictable and affordable. The company is trying to offer a payment structure, Herman says, which makes sense for both drivers and passengers, while establishing Gett as a more affordable option when compared to some of its better established competitors.
In addition, Gett offers flat fares between neighborhoods regardless of time spent in the car or distance traveled, and avoids the lure of surge pricing, a model oft-employed by Uber. The company also launched a “future booking feature,” which allows riders to not only order a black car on-demand for immediate pick-up, but schedule a future ride as well — up to two weeks ahead of time.
Furthermore, Gett is not only finding success catering to corporate clients (with 1,500 corporate clients in 20 cities, including Google and Morgan Stanley), but the company is hoping that by further expanding beyond the traditional on-demand transportation model, it can tap into another parallel area of demand. And add an additional revenue stream to support its black car service in the U.S.
Herman tells us that Gett believes that, by slowly adding a delivery service on top of its existing operation, it could have an ace up its sleeve. The startup began to test an on-demand delivery service over the holidays (beginning in mid-November) by offering to pick up toy donations from any address within New York City on-demand or pre-scheduled through its mobile app, in partnership with Toys for Tots.
With its charitable toy delivery promotion having found traction, the company says that it will be looking to significantly expand its on-demand delivery service in the coming year, with its network of drivers providing the foundation for the new extension of its model.
As to its success in NYC, Herman tells TechCrunch that it has attracted over 100,000 customers in New York City alone since launching, adding to its million-plus users around the world. The Gett CEO also claims that, thanks to its enterprise accounts in other countries, the company now has the highest margins of all transportation apps. She claims that Gett is now operating between 20 to 30 percent margins compared to Hailo at 10 percent and Uber at 20 percent, though we’re still waiting for verification on this from competing services.
Furthermore, Gett appears to now be rivaling Lyft in the revenue department, as the CEO says that the company achieved a gross revenue run rate of more than $100 million in December. Furthermore, she says that the business is now “profitable in its first 20 cities” — even though Gett’s current total of $42 million in funding remains half of what Lyft has claimed from Andreessen Horowitz and others at $82.5 million.
The CEO tells TechCrunch that she sees New York City as the key area of opportunity for the company’s growth going forward and will be going “all in on NYC next year.” Demand has been doubling every month since launch, she says, and the company will soon have 1,000 cars operating on the streets — which she expects to significantly increase in early 2014. With Lyft currently absent in the NYC market and Sidecar having shut down, the CEO says that she wants to turn the perceived Lyft vs. Uber battle in the U.S. into a more focused battle between Gett and Uber in New York City.
To do so, Gett launched a new version of its app for iOS this week (and updated Android and Blackberry as well), bringing a slick, redesigned interface to its mobile experience, including, among other things, a new interactive mapping feature.
The company has also remodeled the app’s search functionality to offer better results and faster navigation, particularly when it comes to contextual results. In particular, the new app makes it much easier to search for points of interest nearby, for airports by terminal, as well as for hotels and restaurants.
The app is also now compatible with iOS 7 and the latest iterations of Android and, Shelly Palmer at the very least, thinks that the new app makes Uber look like “sticks and crossbows.” (Whatever that means.)
It’s still early for on-demand transportation companies, in New York City especially, and it’s not clear whether Gett’s impending delivery service will be an intelligent extension to its business or a distracting gamble. However, judging by current growth across its first 20 markets, Gett might soon be making a case for the addition of its name to the race for dominance in the on-demand transportation market.