London start-up SplitCab has launched into the fast-developing taxi booking mobile app market, promising to bring a new social paradigm to the sector.
The app enables users to organise shared taxi rides and at launch is offering 1,800 cars from nine mini-cab firms for London airport transfers.
The company is based in the capital’s vibrant Shoreditch Tech Hub, but the technology development has been carried out in Portobello and India.
Founder, Davide Machado, said despite the rise of the likes of Uber, Hailo and Kabbee, there was space for a new entrant in a hugely fragmented London market.
“London is an expensive city to live in. If you can spend £10 for a taxi ride to the airport rather than £40, a significant percentage of the market will use it,” he said.
“I’m born and raised in this city and I have worked in the travel industry my entire life. I want to do the best for my city while making some money and promoting the companies we work with. We need a London solution.”
Machado said there was no reason why SplitCab could not work in collaboration with rival taxi booking apps to plug gaps where they do not have coverage.
At launch, SplitCab is offering a flat fee for London airport transfers (excluding Southend) starting from £10 and based on which London zone they emanate from.
Customers can opt to book a conventional private transfer or save money by agreeing to a share with another SplitCab member, in which case no more than two other customers will be picked up en route.
Eventually the app will use intelligent algorithms so that a user will book a ride for an initial price and can be asked if they want to accept an additional customer(s), to bring the price down.
Customers will be able to make their decision based on customer profiles and data that will be made available to users of the app.
“We are not offering that from the start because we need a lot of users to make that work. We will roll out live pricing when we have enough users,” said Machado.
Trips to major venues like Twickenham and Wembley are also planned, and later this year point to point journeys will be available to any location in London.
Machado said the focus will be on London initially but other cities could eventually be targeted – SplitCab’s parent company City Transfers already runs shuttles and operates private cars in Madrid, Paris and Rome.
Although SplitCab has encountered some resistance from cab firms, Machado says it will increase the market as it offers an affordable alternative to other forms of transport like Heathrow Express.
“We are reducing the number of cars on the roads, but we are taking market share from other modes of transport,” he said.
Splitcab only works with established officially licensed minicab operators with security checked drivers whose details are viewable on the app. The service can offer female drivers and can be used to create all-female taxi shares.
City Transfers started offering private shared transfers six years ago to the inbound sector, working with the likes of BA Holidays, Expedia, Kuoni, Air Canada and Viator.
Machado said: “When we launched we were worried it would affect our conventional private transfer market but actually it’s a different type of client – those who are looking for savings and are more than happy to share.”
Machado first decided to develop the technology to help his father’s private cab business which he has run for 30 years.SplitCab has been chosen as an exhibitor at next week’s Travel Technology Europe show at the Olympia exhibition centre in London.
As a “Disrupt” exhibitor it will enter a competition in which it will make a Dragon’s Den-style pitch in front of judges, the winner offered free mentoring, PR support and a stand at TTE 2016.