Investor Nat Rothschild has funded a new taxi app in London that goes live today. However, unlike ride sharing app Uber, it actually has the blessing of London’s black cab drivers.
Maaxi is an iPhone and Android app that lets users order a black cab ride, which is then shared with others travelling on a similar route.
Rothschild, who is the heir to his family’s multi-billion dollar fortune, provided seed funding for Maaxi.
Uber has a similar carpooling service called UberPool that matches passengers who are requesting a ride along a similar route. The riders are locked in from the start of the journey. But Maaxi uses a different system. The app looks at where passengers want to go, before assigning them to a cab with other customers, and will pick up more riders along the way. The model is more efficient because it squeezes more passengers into one car and could therefore be cheaper than Uber.
In an interview with Business Insider, Rothschild explained what makes Maaxi special:
I have a place in California where UberPool is already working. It’s used if you live in Hollywood and you want to go to Venice Beach for dinner, it’s a 25-mile ride. Or you want to go across town, they will pick them up along the way and split the fare if it’s equidistant. It’s an incredibly primitive version of what Maaxi is…What Maaxi does in conjunction with its mapping software is it’s like you see rides coming up at a live pace, literally as if you’re sitting on a bus stop looking at which busses are about to arrive.
“The technology is quite sophisticated because unlike anything that exists out there,” Maaxi cofounder Gabi Campos, who was formerly the CEO of online gambling site PokerStars, said. “It’s what we’re calling ‘door to door public transport.'”
Unlike Uber, Maaxi has the support of Transport for London and the city’s black cab drivers, many whom feel Uber is taking their business and skirting the law to continue operating. Taxi drivers even held protests in the city to try and force TfL to crack down on Uber.
The Rothschild family is one of the world’s wealthiest dynasties, and has spent hundreds of years advising kings and queens on their investments. Nat Rothschild himself manages various funds with assets in the tens of billions, and is renowned for his shrewd understanding of the investment market. That makes his backing a real seal of approval for Maaxi.
Rothschild says that he immediately understood what Maaxi is, and liked the idea:
I don’t mean this in an arrogant way: I have a good network. This idea came to me through a mutual friend. Gabi and I have a mutual friend and he introduced us and I took one look at the proposition but more importantly Gabi’s background and he’s a proven businessman, a proven entrepreneur, incredible pedigree. The idea is extraordinary and it was a case of implementation.
Maaxi isn’t the only app trying to shake up public transport. In addition to Uber, there’s also French ride-sharing app BlaBlaCar, Hailo, and Gett. But Rothschild feels that Maaxi is different enough to stand out:
I don’t think you can compare Maaxi to any of these other apps that you refer to. It’s a very, very different proposition to anything else that I’m aware of. Uber is a minicab company, it’s a very simple technology. This is an enormously complicated system for aggregating groups of passengers and moving them around seamlessly at an extremely attractive price point. I just think it’s not something that has been done or even attempted before.
Another reason why Maaxi may go down well with Londoners is the fact that it was actually built in London, unlike other taxi apps.
“It’s an entirely London-based, London-bred piece of technology,” Rothschild said. “This was done in England in a tech warehouse. It’s pretty remarkable to have watched it, and I’m very proud to have been associated with it. It’s a great idea. Obviously now it’s the implementation, but the idea is bulletproof.”