What is it about taxi startups launching in time for LeWeb? Then again, you can’t beat a captive audience. And so it is that Taxibeat, the hail-a-cab smartphone app and taxi driver marketplace, has launched in Paris this week, just in time to help ferry a bunch of geeks to the LeWeb conference and countless after-parties.
For Taxibeat it represents a fairly aggressive international roll-out strategy over the last four months. Having first launched in the startup’s native Athens, Greece, in May 2011, it’s recently expanded to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; Oslo, Norway; and Bucharest, Romania. As of today, the company can add the City of Light to that list.
Taxibeat’s smartphone app, available on iOS and Android, enables users to locate nearby taxis, hail the driver of their choice and rate them once the ride is over. It’s targeting independent taxi drivers and those associated with taxi firms. Passengers using the free app get a much greater choice of taxi ride, right down to the individual driver, guided by user ratings and other information displayed, such as current distance and what amenities are available in the taxi — Wi-Fi anyone? So, if you want to pick the 5-star rated driver that has on-board WiFi and is pet friendly, Taxibeat lets you do just that.
For taxi drivers using the system, there are no setup fees or monthly subscriptions. Instead, Taxibeat charges a small commission on the business it brings, with no extra charge passed on to passengers.
However, what’s most disruptive (and interesting) about Taxibeat is the effect the company claims its marketplace is having on the quality of service that taxi drivers offer. Under the incumbent model of hailing a taxi from the street or being assigned one by a taxi firm, there is little incentive to compete individually on service. An open and efficient marketplace, where drivers are held accountable, changes that.
“Things get interesting when you consider the emergent behaviors we observe in our first cities. By turning taxi hailing into a marketplace, we’ve witnessed dramatic improvement in quality of service, resulting in satisfied passengers and proud taxi drivers: drivers asking people if the temperature in the car is right, or what kind of music they’d like to hear, and going out of their way to assist in every way they can,” says Taxibeat marketing director Alexandra Sigala.
This is what potentially differentiates Taxibeat from other, though not all, taxi-hailing applications. Competitors include Hailo, Gettaxi, and Mytaxi, and there’s Uber, of course.
“Our approach is different on the fundamentals; they modernize the traditional radio-taxi service by skipping the tedious phone-call to the operator. We replace that model with a direct passenger-to-driver marketplace. We provide the platform (hailing app, reputation system, etc.) and let market dynamics do the rest. In more ways than one, we are more Airbnb than Hailo,” says Sigala.
Taxibeat was founded by Nick Drandakis (CEO), Nick Damilakis (senior iPhone developer), Kostis Sakkas (web services developer) and Michael Sfictos (design, UI/UX). Including investment in local subsidiaries, the company has raised just over €1M, and is currently working toward a €4-5M Series A round.
For LeWeb attendees or anybody else hanging out in Paris, Taxibeat is giving away free rides. Simply send an email to email@example.com. The rides are up to 15EUR (in case the value of the ride is more, the passenger pays the difference) and can be used until December 20th.