- Estonian ride-hailing company Taxify is a younger competitor to Uber which has grown quickly by focusing on eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.
- The company launched in London as its first Western European market in September but was quickly shut down by the local regulator Transport for London over licensing questions.
- Taxify has hired former Gett CMO Rich Pleeth to oversee its new London licensing application and to help its European expansion.
- Pleeth is helping the firm raise new funds to fuel its international growth.
Taxify, an Estonian cab-hailing company that rivals Uber, has demoted its UK boss and is in the process of raising new funds as it tries to revive its operations in London.
Finn Geraghty, who joined Taxify as its UK operations manager, is no longer a director at the company as of early November. He remains employed at the firm. His demotion follows Taxify halting its operations in London over licensing issues.
Taxify has hired Rich Pleeth, who used to work as chief marketing officer at Gett, to oversee its expansion into Western Europe and to kickstart its abortive attempts at a London licence.
After his stint at Gett, Pleeth founded his own social startup, Sup, which closed last October after failing to raise new funding.
He joined Taxify on October 31 and told Business Insider in a call that he was working with a legal and policy team to ensure the firm’s latest licensing application is watertight. The changes mean Pleeth is overseeing the UK business for now, though Taxify eventually plans to hire a UK general manager.
Pleeth said he is also leading a fundraising round for Taxify, though he declined to give details of a timeframe or amount.
“We are not desperate at all for the money,” he said, adding that the firm wanted to cash to fuel its growth.
The company already has a large foreign backer in Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ridehailing company, though it has never disclosed the investment amount.
Prior to Didi, Taxify raised €2 million (£1.8 million) from outside investors and focused almost exclusively in non-Western European markets such as South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Taxify tried to launch in London in September and failed
Taxify ran into trouble with its initial foray into a Western European market — London. Founder Markus Villig launched the firm in a blaze of media on September 4. The major sell was that Taxify was, for the time being, cheaper than Uber and also took less commission from drivers. But three days later, Taxify halted its services in the city after the transport regulator, Transport for London, raised questions over its licensing arrangements and operations.
It was a humbling setback, particularly for a company that set itself up as the main (ethical) alternative to the aggressive and successful Uber.
After joining Taxify, Pleeth launched an internal investigation over Taxify’s licensing arrangements.
Part of the issue was the way Taxify went about its operations. The firm initially applied for a private hire operator licence, much like any other minicab firm. The process took months, so Taxify took a shortcut. It acquired a local minicab firm called City Drive Services, which already held an operator’s licence, then began dispatching its drivers. TfL began investigating whether drivers were correctly licensed, then demanded that Taxify halt its services.
Pleeth said there would be no such shortcuts with Taxify’s third attempt. “We’re working with a policy team and with lawyers on how we can put in a perfect application with lots of supplementary information,” he said.
Taxify will submit its application within the next month and will include more compliance and safety information — such as the fact passengers will be able to hit a “panic button” inside the app if they run into trouble, and that Taxify only takes on drivers who already hold a private hire licence, rather than soliciting new drivers.
The app, which faced huge criticism from London’s black cab drivers, will also offer rides in black taxis if it relaunches in London.
“We don’t just deserve to have a licence, we need to show TfL that we are fantastic in terms of safety, in terms of drivers, getting them on board and paying them,” said Pleeth. “We want to make sure we are best in class for TfL.”
Eventually, he added, the plan is to expand into other UK cities.
The London episode hasn’t stopped Taxify’s expansion into Europe. Shortly after halting in the UK, the company launched in Paris, though a local taxi union almost instantly declared war on the firm and has lodged a legal complaint.
Uber faces its own problems in the UK. TfL revoked its licence to operate in London, which the firm is currently challenging in court. It has just lost a legal appeal over whether its drivers are self-employed or workers. And its longtime UK head, Jo Betram, quit the company amid the chaos.