What It's Like Using Hailo, The Instant Taxi-Hailing App That Just Raised $30 Million

This past week I visited London and got to know the startup scene there.

One of the most promising new tech companies to come out of Europe is Hailo, an iPhone app that lets you hail a nearby cab in real time.

The best part: you can pay with a pre-loaded credit card so you don’t have to have cash on you to hitch a ride.

Hailo is almost identical to Uber, a San Francisco-based black car service. Uber works well in California, and it now operates in multiple cities, letting app users hail black cars and cabs from their phones.

While Uber has launched in London, Hailo is a much better experience there. When I fired up the Uber app from my East London hotel, the nearest car was 16 minutes away. The nearest Hailo was two minutes away and the car arrived in less than that time.

Hailo has had so much success abroad, U.S.-based investors are helping it launch in the states. In February, notable New York investment firm Union Square Ventures led a $30 million investment in Hailo. VC Fred Wilson said it was an “I told you so” investment — Hailo had done everything it said it would do in 2012 and more.

Hailo isn’t yet available in New York, so we were eager to try it abroad. It worked like magic, although cab drivers we spoke to were irritated with the app for little things, such as the cash cut and inaccurate passenger locations on maps. One said he tried to use it as little as possible. 

Hailo launched in 2010, and it will soon be live in nearly a dozen cities throughout Europe and the U.S.

Here's where you can currently use Hailo to find a cab. It's coming to New York City soon.

It takes just a few taps on the screen to hail a cab. Here's how it works.

First, you set up your account (email, number, etc).

You have the option to either pay with cash or store your credit card information so the drivers can automatically get paid.

You can also schedule an automatic tip for each ride (10%, 20% etc).

You can specify what kind of cabs you need too, like one that's wheelchair accessible.

With Hailo, you can either find a cab near your current location, set your location and find a cab near there, or you can find a fixed ride to the nearest airport.

When we opened the app, it showed the nearest cab was one minute away. The nearest Uber, for comparison, was 16 minutes away.

You then choose which method of payment you'll be using.

At the end of the ride, you'll receive a mobile receipt and an emailed receipt.

If you leave an item in the cab, you can report the lost item and Hailo will help you get it back.

Hailo was a godsend in London, ensuring we got to every meeting on time. But in other parts of the world, nothing can beat Uber. So if you're state-side, check out:

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