Easy Taxi And Tappsi Merge To Try To Run Uber Off The Road In LatAm

Rocket Internet-backed Easy Taxi is joining forces with Colombian taxi app startup Tappsi in a merger the pair will be hoping helps them keep accelerating ahead of Uber, which only has a limited presence in the region.

Easy Taxi started 2011 in Brazil and is now present in more than 420 cities globally, with its main focus being cities in LatAm — including operating in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It reaches further into South American than Uber currently does.

In July last year Easy Taxi raised a $40 million Series D to fuel some regional expansion, including in LatAm and Asia, but by December it had rethought the Asian push — retrenching in the face of Uber’s accelerating Asian expansion. So it’s clearly doubling down on LatAm now.

Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt London earlier this month, Rocket Internet co-founder Oliver Samwer was asked about the challenge posed by Uber, and he said: “You always should choose your battlefield. I think to basically compete with a company like Uber, exactly in the same countries, exactly in the same model, would be probably very challenging.”

Evidently Samwer reckons LatAm is a battlefield where Uber can be beaten at its own game.

Of course Uber is not short of funding to keep expanding its market footprint in its rapacious drive for growth — most recently raking in a $2.1 billion Series G round, for example. So Easy Taxi merging with Colombia’s Tappsi is a strategic bid to try to ward off any stronger regional Uber advance.

Buckling up as a single consolidated player with local expertise arguably makes the region less attractive to a big outsider like Uber — or so the pair will be hoping, touting their now combined 90 per cent marketshare in Colombia, for instance.

Tappsi, which launched in Bogota in 2012, also names safety first in a list of the top requirements of users in Latin American markets. By contrast Uber’s primary brand focus has always been about convenience. And the company has had to deal with multiple safety-related problems, including being banned in New Delhi last year after an Uber driver was accused of rape.

It’s certainly fair to say that safety concerns may well out-weight convenience for taxi app users in certain markets. Interestingly, safety is also one of the factors London’s Hailo also talks up to try to differentiate its black cab only taxi hailing app vs Uber’s rival private hire vehicle service. So there’s something of a theme emerging among Uber competitors.

The Easy Taxi/Tappsi merger will combine two of the top three taxi app players in the LatAm region, the pair said today, noting that their shared user base now exceeds 25 million downloads, and the number of drivers collectively hits half a million. Combined the two complete more than 8 million rides a month, they added.

“This merger allows the companies to share and coordinate the best practices and continuously improve their service levels,” said Tappsi CEO Juan Salcedo in a statement. “Some of the benefits include reliable and customer-focused trainings for drivers to provide a higher-level experience of getting a cab and reinforcing safety initiatives across sector.”

Both apps will continue to operate independently, post-merger, retaining separate teams and businesses, they added.