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Cabify nets $100M to take on Uber in Latin America, reportedly raising $400M more

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One more regional on-demand transport startup is raising a big round of funding to fortify itself for the next phase of competition against the likes of Uber and incumbent taxi firms. Cabify, the ride-sharing startup that operates in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, has raised just under $100 million in new funding ($99,999,994 to be exact), according to a Form D SEC filing for Maxi Mobility, as the company is officially called.

The money is reportedly part of a total of $500 million that the company hopes to raise in a Series D round.

Juan de Antonio, Cabify’s cofounder and CEO, declined to comment on the filing or its bigger fundraising effort when we contacted him. “Nothing to comment. We are always raising capital. We will make an official announcement when we have something to share,” he said in an email to me.

However, about a month ago, he and other Cabify executives were quoted in an article in Brazilian publication Estadao about how the company is raising $200 million specifically to expand nationwide in Brazil — which gives a clue to where this funding is going and also to underscore that the $100 million from the Form D appears to be just one tranche of it.

“We see more opportunities in Brazil and Latin America than in Europe,” de Antonio told the publication. Cabify, which competes against Uber, 99 and Easy Taxi in Brazil, currently has around a 40 percent share of the market in Sao Paolo, one of the seven cities where it already has operations in Brazil. It’s live in 12 countries.

For its part, Cabify last raised $120 million at a $320 million valuation almost exactly a year ago. It has raised about $243 million to date.

Cabify’s new funding was first spotted by Spanish blog Kippel01 before getting picked up in English by Tech.eu. Sources cited by Kippel01 say it’s part of a larger, $500 million Series D that the company is trying to raise.

We’re asking around to see if we can confirm that larger total ourselves, but in the meantime, here is what the SEC filing tells us:

— Others listed on the filing, in addition to De Antonio, are AngelList COO Kevin Laws, Seaya Ventures’ founder and managing partner Beatriz Gonazlez, and Rakuten’s investing arm’s managing partner in Europe Oskar Mielczarek. These three firms were all previous investors in Cabify.

— While Kippel01 claims all three are in this round, that may not be correct. The Form D notes that the $100 million comes from only one investor. We’ve contacted Seaya and have not yet had a response, while Rakuten, which led the last $120 million round, directed all questions to Cabify. We’re also reaching out to AngelList when California wakes up to see if we can get any clarification from them.

Uber rivals seize the day

The new funding comes on the heels of other regional leaders closing in on large funding rounds.

Last week, we reported that Indonesian Uber rival Go-Jek raised a $1.2 billion round at a $3 billion valuation. Grab, Uber’s biggest rival in Southeast Asia, is reportedly raising $1.5 billion. And there’s also been some regional consolidation. Last month, Gett acquired Juno for $200 million to double down on growth in the U.S..

In Latin America specifically, Cabify’s rival 99 in January raised $100 million from China’s Didi; and Rocket Internet’s EasyTaxi has all but retreated from Asia to focus all of its resources and efforts on Latin America.

For these regional companies, there is a window of opportunity right now: their biggest app-based rival, Uber — currently valued at $60 billion and active in hundreds of markets with a variety of services — has been facing a huge wave of negative publicity on the back of multiple reports about how it runs its business and the behavior of its executives.

Many outraged by the revelations have been encouraging consumers to #deleteuber, and it’s been working. So in cities where Uber was already facing a lot of competition from local players, those rivals are now seizing the moment to try to grow at a time when consumers may be considering Uber alternatives more than ever before.

Aside from this, there is evidence that Uber may not have the appetite for long-term, expensive competition in every single market, especially those where it’s been outpaced by local rivals. Case in point is China, where Didi bought out Uber’s business in the country last year. That is another opportunity that local companies (and their investors) are sizing up.

Cabify is also tapping into another interesting trend, which exists in other areas like e-commerce and fintech. By putting a lot of focus on emerging markets, the company is hoping to ride the rising tide of a growing middle class with increasing amounts of disposable income (and smartphones) to spend on things like taxis.

But for the moment, the numbers are all still relatively small.

Taking just one of its established cities, Sao Paolo in Brazil, today the total amount of spend across all app-based transport services is estimated at just 1.5 million Brazilian reals, or $470,000. As a point of comparison, Uber globally in 2016 saw gross bookings of $20 billion. Focusing on specific regions rather than going for a larger economies of sale has a price.

Fighting fires

For Cabify, the decision to target newer markets in Latin America may not only be about going after emerging economies with a lower saturation of competition, but also because of other issues in some of its more mature markets.

Earlier this month, nine Cabify cars were set on fire in the Spanish city of Seville. A Cabify spokesperson said that the police is still investigating who might have been behind the act, but also pointed out that it’s been threatened before with such actions by rivals and their supporters, who have been “talking about doing this kind of stuff for years.”

The cars that were torched had been vehicles licensed to operate in another city, not Seville. Cabify tells me that they were brought to Seville (legally) as part of an effort to lay on more vehicles to meet increased demand temporarily during a city-wide festival.

The incident underscores the fact that in Spain, not all has gone smoothly for app-based transportation companies. In March, taxi drivers in Madrid and Barcelona went on strike to protest the emergence of the new wave of private transport companies like Cabify and Uber.

Uber itself has been locked in a legal case that started as a dispute with taxi unions in Barcelona and has now been escalated to the European Courts. It led to Uber suspending services in Spain temporarily, although some are back up and running again as the case continues.